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How To Get Rid Of Dog Dandruff: Your Complete At Home Guide To Quick Home Remedies - PawSafe

How To Get Rid Of Dog Dandruff: Your Complete At Home Guide To Quick Home Remedies

Photo of Tamsin De La Harpe

Written by Tamsin De La Harpe

how to get rid of dog dandruff

When our canine companions start to scratch incessantly, it’s not just a little nuisance—for them, it can be a constant and irritating battle against dry skin. Dandruff in dogs is more than just an aesthetic issue; it’s a health concern that requires prompt attention and proper care. From the white flakes speckling their coat to the underlying skin issues that cause such discomfort, dry and flaky can be a sign of various skin conditions, including seborrhea. 

As pet owners, witnessing our four-legged friends in such distress can leave us feeling helpless, but there are fast, effective solutions that can be administered right at home.

In this comprehensive guide, we will delve into the best-proven remedies for treating your dog’s dandruff, ensuring you can provide relief for your pet swiftly and naturally. We’ll explore both simple home remedies and insights into more persistent dry skin issues, drawing from reliable sources like Dr. Catherine A. Outerbridge, DVM, and the BSAVA Manual of Canine and Feline Dermatology, Stay tuned to discover how to tackle dog dandruff and restore the comfort and joy of your pooch with ease and assurance.

You also want to check your dog for underlying health issues that can cause flaky, dry skin in dogs. But before we go through a step by step guide to getting your pup’s skin healthy again, let’s first go over what scaling skin is and what causes it.

Understanding the Flakes: What is Dandruff in Dogs?

Before we can dive into the remedies, it’s crucial to understand what we’re dealing with. Dandruff in dogs, clinically known as seborrhea, is more than just a seasonal bout of dry skin—it’s a complex condition that can have your dog feeling itchy, irritable, and uncomfortable. 

This dermatological concern manifests as flaky skin, and in some cases, it’s accompanied by an oily or waxy feel to the coat. It’s essentially a symptom of an abnormality in the process of skin-cell production; either the skin cells are proliferating too rapidly, or they’re not shedding as they should.

Seborrhea can broadly be divided into two types: primary and secondary. Primary seborrhea is often genetic, while secondary seborrhea can be a result of a variety of underlying health issues. To better understand the intricacies of seborrhea in dogs, MSD Veterinary Manual provides an in-depth look at this condition, highlighting its causes and symptoms.

Common Causes of Canine Dandruff:

  • Genetic Predisposition: Some breeds are more inclined towards developing seborrhea.
  • Allergies: Dogs, like humans, can have allergic reactions to food, environmental factors, or products that come into contact with their skin.
  • Parasites: Fleas, ticks, and mites can cause severe skin irritation and flaky skin.
  • Hormonal Imbalances: Conditions like hypothyroidism can disrupt the skin’s natural balance.
  • Dietary Deficiencies: Lack of certain nutrients, like omega-3 fatty acids, can lead to skin problems.
  • Environmental Factors: Low humidity, excessive bathing, and the use of harsh grooming products can strip the skin of its natural oils.
  • Underlying Health Issues: Infections, autoimmune diseases, and organ dysfunction are all possible contributors to seborrhea.

Recognizing the underlying cause of dry skin is the first step toward choosing the right remedy. Each cause requires a tailored approach to ensure the well-being of your furry friend. With a clear understanding of what may be triggering your pet’s dandruff, we can now explore the various home and medical remedies available to help soothe your pet’s skin and get them back to their happy, healthy selves.

Treating Canine Dandruff: A Step-by-Step Approach

canine dandruff

Dealing with your dog’s dandruff can be a multi-step process that requires patience and attentiveness. Here’s a step-by-step guide to addressing and managing this skin condition in your canine companion.

Step 1: Consult Your Veterinarian

The first and most critical step in treating doggy dandruff is to consult with a veterinarian. This is essential to rule out or diagnose any underlying health issues that could be affecting your dog’s skin health. Conditions such as Cushing’s disease,  hypothyroidism, diabetes, allergies, or immune disorders may manifest through skin symptoms, including skin flakes. 

Without addressing these underlying health issues, you won’t be able to treat the skin flakes effectively. Also, take note of any other symptoms that may be related, such as excessive shedding — something Cocker Spaniels are known for, as outlined in this informative article on shedding, or a smelly ear, which can indicate an infection as discussed here.

Step 2: Treat for Internal Parasites

Internal parasites can disrupt your dog’s overall health, including their skin condition. Treating your dog for internal parasites is an important step in ensuring their skin is healthy. This is because these parasites can be sucking up all your dog’s vital nutrients, leaving too little for proper skin health. Your vet can guide you on the best deworming protocol and preventive measures.

Step 3: Assess and Adjust Your Dog’s Nutrition

After ruling out medical concerns, the next step is to examine your dog’s diet, as proper nutrition plays a pivotal role in skin health. While Dr. Catherine A. Outerbridge, DVM, points out that nutritional deficiencies are rare in dogs on a balanced, quality diet, certain deficiencies can still cause scaling or flaking. These include:

Protein: Ensuring your dog gets enough high-quality protein is essential for maintaining healthy skin and a shiny coat.
Essential Fatty Acids: Omega-3 and Omega-6 fatty acids are vital for skin health. A quality green-lipped mussel extract supplement has been shown in studies to be particularly beneficial. These fatty acids help maintain the skin’s barrier and reduce inflammation.
Zinc: This mineral plays a role in skin regeneration and repair. Some breeds, like Huskies, are prone to type 1 zinc deficiency that needs supplements, but many large breeds are prone to type 2 zinc deficiencies that may cause your dog’s dry skin and other dry skin.
Vitamin A: Necessary for skin repair, but be cautious of vitamin A toxicity.
Vitamin B: B vitamins are involved in the growth and repair of skin cells.

Natural sources of these nutrients can be included in your dog’s diet, but it’s important to be mindful of the right balance. For instance, while cod liver oil, sweet potatoes, and liver organ meat are good sources of vitamin A, too much can lead to vitamin A toxicity, which can have severe health implications. Similarly, supplements should be given judiciously and preferably under the guidance of your vet.

By following these initial steps, you’ll set a strong foundation for addressing your dog’s flaking skin. In the next sections, we’ll explore the specifics of home remedies and external treatments that can further alleviate your dog’s skin issues and promote a healthy, dandruff-free coat.

Step 4: Bathing with Anti-Dandruff Shampoo for Dogs

Before reaching for home remedies, it’s essential to start the treatment process with a proper bath using a specialized anti-dandruff shampoo for dogs. This initial step can significantly impact your dog’s skin health and is vital for managing dry skin problems.

Choosing the Right Shampoo:

Canine-formulated: Always select a shampoo specifically formulated for dogs, as their skin pH differs from humans.
Active Ingredients: Look for shampoos containing ingredients known to combat dandruff, such as salicylic acid, sulfur, zinc, or selenium. Natural soothing agents like oatmeal and aloe vera can also be beneficial.
Moisturizing Properties: To aid in healing dry skin, choose a shampoo with moisturizing properties.

Once you have bathed your dog with the appropriate shampoo and established a bathing routine that maintains their skin’s natural oil balance, you can then consider additional remedies, such as the previously mentioned natural rosemary conditioner, to further soothe and treat your dog’s seborrheic dermatitis.

Step 5: Oatmeal Baths for Soothing Relief

Another option for bathing your dog is an oatmeal bath. Oatmeal baths can provide soothing relief for dogs with flaky skin. The colloidal properties of oatmeal can help to moisturize and soothe itchy skin.

DIY Oatmeal Bath: Grind plain oatmeal into a fine powder and dissolve it in warm bathwater.
Commercial Oatmeal Baths: Alternatively, use a commercially available colloidal oatmeal bath product designed for dogs.

Step 6: Use A Homemade Rosemary Conditioner

Nature provides a bounty of remedies, and when it comes to treating seborrheic dermatitis (the cause of dry and flaky skin) in dogs, rosemary is a herbal hero. Cited in studies such as those from Southern Illinois University and a 2021 article published by Ingenta Connect, rosemary has been shown to be beneficial in managing this skin condition. 

However, it’s crucial to note that while rosemary is beneficial, concentrated rosemary essential oil should not be used directly on dogs due to its potency and potential toxicity.

Instead, I recommend creating a homemade rosemary conditioner using fresh rosemary. This natural remedy leverages the herb’s beneficial properties without the risks associated with essential oils. Note that I prefer to use shea butter for this conditioner, rather than coconut oil or olive oil, and I will explain why below.

Creating Your Own Rosemary Conditioner:

1. Choose Your Base Oil: Olive oil, coconut oil, or shea butter are excellent carriers that nourish the skin and coat.
2. Prepare the Rosemary: Take a handful of fresh rosemary sprigs and rinse them thoroughly.
3. Infuse the Oil: Melt the shea butter in a double boiler, add the fresh rosemary, let it infuse while on low heat for several hours, strain, and let the mixture solidify again.
4. Shampoo Your Dog: Start by washing your dog with a canine anti-dandruff shampoo or an oatmeal wash that’s formulated specifically for dogs. Look for ingredients like zinc, oatmeal, and aloe vera, which can help soothe and moisturize dry skin. Never use human shampoo, as it can disturb your dog’s skin pH and exacerbate skin issues.

Applying the Conditioner:

1. After Bathing: Once your dog is clean and still slightly damp, it’s time to apply the rosemary conditioner.
2. Massage Gently: Apply the conditioner to your dog’s skin and coat. Massage gently to ensure it reaches the skin and covers the affected areas.
3. Wait: Allow the conditioner to sit for about 15 minutes. During this time, prevent your dog from licking the area to avoid ingestion.
4. Rinse Thoroughly: Rinse your dog thoroughly with lukewarm water to remove all traces of the conditioner.

Alternative: Neem Oil

For pet owners looking for an alternativ-e-archive, neem oil can be a safe and effective option. It’s known for its anti-inflammatory, antiseptic, and moisturizing properties. However, like rosemary, it’s crucial to use it in a safe concentration and formulation suitable for dogs.

Caution: Essential Oils to Avoid

While exploring natural remedies, it’s vital to avoid certain essential oils that can be toxic to dogs. This includes tea tree oil and clove oil, among others. When in doubt, consult your veterinarian before using any new treatment on your pet’s skin.

By integrating this natural, herbal approach into your dog’s grooming routine, you can manage flaky skin issues safely and effectively. Remember that regular care and observation are key in keeping your dog’s skin healthy and your furry friend happy.

Step 7: Regular Grooming and Skin Massage

Consistent grooming is key to maintaining your dog’s coat and skin health. Brushing removes dead skin and hair, distributes natural skin oils, and can alert you to any skin changes or issues.

Brush Regularly: Depending on your dog’s breed and coat type, brushing may be needed daily or weekly.
Massage: While grooming, gently massage your dog’s skin to improve blood circulation, which can help with the health and vitality of skin cells.

Step 8: Addressing Weight Issues and Increasing Exercise

Obesity can be a contributing factor to skin problems in dogs. A study from the National Institutes of Health highlights the link between obesity and increased risk of skin disorders.

Weight Management: If your dog is overweight, work on a weight management plan with your vet.
Regular Exercise: Increase your dog’s exercise routine to help shed excess weight and improve overall health.

Step 9: Control Indoor Air Quality

Dry air and environmental allergens can contribute to skin irritation and seborrhea.

Use a Humidifier: In dry weather conditions or climates, use a humidifier to add moisture to the air, which can help prevent your dog’s skin from drying out.
Air Purifiers: To tackle environmental allergens like pollen, smoke, and dust mites, consider using an air purifier in your home.

By incorporating these steps into your dog’s regular care routine, you can create a comprehensive approach to managing and treating flaky skin. These measures not only address the immediate symptoms but also contribute to the overall well-being of your dog, promoting a healthy lifestyle that is conducive to maintaining good skin health.

Can You Use Apple Cider Vinegar to Deal with Dandruff in Dogs?

An apple cider vinegar solution that is a common home treatment for dog dandruff

Apple Cider Vinegar (ACV) is often touted as a cure-all for many conditions in humans and pets alike. However, when it comes to treating seborrhea in dogs, there is no substantial research that confirms its effectiveness for either humans or canines. While ACV is known to have some antifungal and antimicrobial properties, which could theoretically help with skin conditions, the evidence supporting its use on dogs’ skin, specifically for dandruff, is largely anecdotal.

Furthermore, a dog’s skin pH is more neutral than a human’s, and using ACV, which is acidic, can disrupt this delicate balance. Disrupting the pH can lead to skin irritation or even create an environment prone to infections. Therefore, it is essential to be cautious and avoid using ACV without veterinary guidance.

In comparison, neem oil is recognized for its antifungal and antimicrobial properties and has been shown to be safe for dogs when used appropriately. There is more evidence to support the use of neem oil in treating skin conditions in dogs, making it a preferable option.

In summary, while ACV may offer some benefits, it is crucial to prioritize treatments with a stronger evidence base and known safety profile for pets. Neem oil stands out as a safer and more researched alternativ-e-archive for addressing seborrhea and maintaining healthy skin in dogs.

Can Coconut Oil Be Used to Treat Dandruff in Dogs?

Coconut oil is another popular natural remedy and cure-all for various conditions in both humans and pets due to its moisturizing and purported antimicrobial properties. However, when it comes to managing seborrhea, particularly in dogs, caution is advised.

One of the concerns with using oils like coconut oil for dandruff treatment is that they contain saturated fatty acids, which can potentially serve as nutrients for the yeast Malassezia. This yeast is often associated with seborrheic dermatitis, a common cause of skin flaking. In such cases, applying coconut oil to a dog’s skin could exacerbate the condition rather than alleviate it, promoting further yeast growth, leading to increased flakiness, itching, and possibly even hair loss.

Furthermore, excessive use of coconut oil can make the coat excessively oily and may attract dirt, which could complicate skin issues. It’s also essential to note that any topical treatment, including coconut oil, can be ingested by dogs during grooming, and too much coconut oil in a dog’s diet can lead to digestive upset and diarrhea.

Given these considerations, we do not recommend the use of coconut oil for treating seborrhea fin dogs without professional veterinary advice. A vet can provide guidance on safe and effective treatments for dandruff that are tailored to your dog’s specific needs and condition. It’s always best to rely on evidence-based treatments and to proceed with caution when it comes to the health of your pet.

Final Thoughts

In conclusion, treating dog dandruff at home involves a multi-faceted approach that begins with veterinary guidance to rule out underlying health issues. Implementing a routine of proper bathing, regular grooming, and careful dietary management forms the cornerstone of dandruff treatment. Additionally, creating a skin-friendly environment with humidifiers and air purifiers can mitigate skin dryness and irritation. While natural remedies can be appealing, it is crucial to choose those with a solid evidence base, such as neem oil, and to avoid those that could potentially harm, like misused coconut oil or apple cider vinegar. With patience and persistence, these steps can lead to a happier, healthier dog with a lustrous, dandruff-free coat.

Meet Your Experts

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Tamsin De La Harpe


Tamsin de la Harpe has nearly two decades of experience with dogs in rescue, training, and behavior modification with fearful and aggressive dogs. She has worked closely with veterinarians and various kennels, building up extensive medical knowledge and an understanding of canine health and physiology. She also spent two years in the animal sciences as a canine nutrition researcher, focusing on longevity and holistic healthcare for our four-legged companions. Tamsin currently keeps a busy homestead with an assortment of rescue dogs and three Bullmastiffs.

Tamsin de la Harpe has nearly two decades of experience with dogs in rescue, training, and behavior modification with fearful and aggressive dogs. She has worked closely with veterinarians and various kennels, building up extensive medical knowledge and an understanding of canine health and physiology. She also spent two years in the animal sciences as a canine nutrition researcher, focusing on longevity and holistic healthcare for our four-legged companions. Tamsin currently keeps a busy homestead with an assortment of rescue dogs and three Bullmastiffs.