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Health & Wellness

Dogs can get dandruff, too — here's how to help

Because dry, flaky skin isn’t human-exclusive

Dandruff is a skin condition that we humans are all too familiar with. Sometimes itchy or mild, it’s a common ailment characterized by the skin on the scalp flaking or turning red.

While not typically too serious (mostly just uncomfortable), it’s still an important issue to treat to ensure healthy skin and hair. And the same is true of our furry family members, whose skin is also prone to flaking and redness.

While thankfully not as common in dogs as it is in humans, dandruff can occur, and when it does, these are the signs to look for and what you can do to treat it.

What are the signs of dog dandruff? 

As something many of us are woefully familiar with on our skin, dandruff can be fairly easy to spot  — and that goes for dogs, too. According to Dr. Andrew Armani, chief medical officer with Veterinary Innovative Partners out of Virginia, symptoms are very similar to those in humans, including dry white flakes that you notice at the base of the fur coat. 

“Dandruff is relatively uncommon in dogs unless it's a rare condition called seborrhea sicca,” Dr. Armani says. “Generally and interestingly, we often notice it at the vet hospital because when animals get nervous, they start to shed more, which also releases dandruff.” 

RELATED: What causes hair loss in dogs?

What causes dog dandruff?  

As Dr. Armani points out, various symptoms can trigger an outbreak of dandruff in dogs, including dry skinstress (as evidenced by his earlier comment about anxious dogs in vet hospitals) and even over-bathing with the wrong kind of shampoo — like a stripping shampoo that removes all of the normal, healthy oils from the dog's skin.

Usually mild and fleeting, Dr. Armani says that dandruff only merits treatment if it's excessive, but it's generally not something that he sees as a common concern with dogs.

What can you do to treat dog dandruff?  

If, on a rare occasion, dandruff does become excessive and merits intervention, there are some easy at-home remedies you can employ to help ease any itching or discomfort and get your dog's fur coat back to its healthy flake-free sheen in no time. 

"You can add fish oil supplements to their diet or other sources of good omega-3-and-6 fatty acids," Dr. Armani says. Conversely, and contrary to some opinions, he notes that adding olive or coconut oil doesn't seem to have much beneficial effect in treating dandruff. Before testing out new supplements or diet changes, check with your vet to see if it's the right move for your dog.

"There are prescription shampoos for dogs that can help with dandruff as well," he says, highlighting the importance of a good bathing routine, including not overdoing it. "Also, try not to bathe your dogs more than twice weekly unless prescribed by a vet. And when you do bathe, use a moisturizing, hypoallergenic, or even baby shampoo." Your vet can direct you to the right product.

The Dig, Fetch's expert-backed editorial, answers all of the questions you forget to ask your vet or are too embarrassed to ask at the dog park. We help make sure you and your best friend have more good days, but we’re there on bad days, too.

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