Dandruff on dogs: what you should do

Dandruff is not something we generally associate with pets and if you do notice it, perhaps you’ve felt silly bringing it up with your vet. But you should. Dandruff-like debris could be the sign of a condition that goes beyond simple cosmetics. And if it is ordinary dandruff,  there are things you can do at home to help banish the frustrating flakes.

Dandruff details

Dandruff is a common condition in which flakes of dead skin become noticeable in a dog’s coat. Just like some dogs will shed according to the seasons, some dogs also tend to show seasonal dandruff patterns that possibly relate to changing weather conditions (such as temperature or humidity). It can also appear when a pet is overdue for grooming or brushing and when it could benefit from a fatty acid supplement.

It may be crust

Sometimes, what looks like dandruff is actually crust. Crusts are formed by dried serum (the clear liquid you’d find inside of a blister) or pus on the skin’s surface and are often the result of a pustule that has burst open.

So which is it?

To determine whether your dog has dandruff or crusts, your veterinarian will perform a quick check of your dog’s underlying skin to check for things like pustules and lesions and to look at the colour  to make sure it hasn’t changed. If it’s crusts, your vet may perform further tests to determine the cause of your dog’s skin issues and will develop a treatment plan based on the findings.

What to do at home

If your vet determines that your dog has simple dandruff ,  she may recommend the following at-home remedies:

> Bathing your dog with an oatmeal-based shampoo in lukewarm water to gently remove the dandruff without drying out the dog’s skin. How often you bathe your dog will depend on the product and your vet’s recommendation (and perhaps how well your dog tolerates baths).

> Supplementing with fatty acids (such as omega-3 and omega-6) in the form of a liquid or powder that you add to your pet’s food, chews or even a special food to help improve your dog’s skin and hair coat quality. Generally speaking, providing fatty acid supplementation by mouth instead of by rubbing it on your dog’s skin is more effective (and a lot less messy!).

But most importantly: don’t dismiss dandruff as a silly cosmetic issue. It’s important to determine the underline cause to keep your dog healthy.