Why Does My Puppy Have Dandruff?

About 11 years ago I had quite a heated difference of opinion with my vet about puppy dandruff.

Of all the things to get angry about, puppy dandruff doesn’t seem to be high on that list.

We had just had a litter of seven beautiful Golden Retriever puppies and so we took them in to see the vet for a check up.

And by the way, if you have never had a litter of puppies then you won’t know the joyous chaos that taking a litter of puppies to the vet involves.

From making sure that they are all safe and happy whilst in the car to making sure that you don’t lose one of them whilst during the appointment, the whole experience was plain nuts.

So why did I fall out with the vet?

Well, the puppies were there for a check up and to receive their first injection. 

And everything was fine- the puppies were all healthy and strong but the vet was concerned that a couple of the puppies had too much dandruff- concerned enough to want to take samples, send them off for testing and not vaccinate them until the results were back. 

And I disagreed with him and said that he was worrying unduly and should go ahead with the vaccinations.

I don’t make a habit of arguing with vets but the reason that I did on this occasion was because I had noticed the dandruff a few days before and I had discussed it with the very experienced breeder that we had used. 

The breeder said that dandruff in very young (golden retriever) puppies was common and it was related to the high protein content in their diet. 

So it is funny that all these years later I have decided to write an article about it.

And don’t worry- the article goes into much more depth than my conversation with the vet did!

Is it common for puppies to have dandruff?

It is not uncommon for puppies to have dandruff, in fact, many puppies are prone to dry skin and flaking, and you would be more likely to notice this in puppies with dark fur because the whitish-looking skin flakes are more visible on dark fur. A number of factors are responsible for the appearance of dandruff on puppies. 

The first cause of dandruff is probably dry skin, this is true for dogs of all ages, not just puppies.

However, puppies who are less than 4 months tend to be more prone to dry skin because their sebaceous glands (which are the oil-producing glands on the skin) tend to produce less oils than the dogs actually need. 

The lubricating ability of the sebaceous glands increases as the glands mature, but in the meantime, some puppies can have dry skin flakes due to insufficient lubrication.

The white skin flakes called dander are dead skin cells that dry up and become flaky. Dandruff on puppies can also be as a result of an unfriendly weather condition, very dry air or warm temperatures can interfere with a dog’s normal skin condition and cause extreme dry skin. 

While dandruff is not uncommon for puppies, it also doesn’t entail severe itchiness, hair loss or intense discomfort.

If you notice that your puppy has a severe case of dandruff and has become very uncomfortable with hair loss and itchiness, please consult a vet because it may be that your pup has a serious canine skin infection. 

Why does my puppy have dandruff?

There are several reasons why a puppy will have dandruff. While the first and most simple reason is due to insufficient natural oils, other external factors like a heated environment can affect a dog’s skin and result in severe skin flaking and dandruff.

But in some cases, dandruff can be due to an underlying health condition or a skin infection, especially if it’s causing significant hair loss and severe itchiness.

Here are some of the reasons why a puppy will have dandruff;

Skin infections

Dandruff can also be the result of a bacterial or fungal skin infection.

Some parasitic infestations can have symptoms like dry and flaky skin, greasy patches, skin irritation and itchiness. Small parasitic insects like fleas, lice and cheyletiella mite will infect dogs to live in their fur, sucking their blood and laying eggs.

The activities of these parasites can trigger skin reactions like dandruff.

When Cheyletiella mites lay tiny eggs in a dog’s fur, the eggs look like whitish skin flakes, this looks very much like dandruff and is called “walking dandruff.” 

Environmental factors 

It’s normal for dogs to shed their fur every once in a while, but their environment is either very warm or cold, this can have some unpleasant effect on the condition of their skin.

Dry air with low humidity can trigger certain changes in the skin condition of dogs, leading to extreme dry skin and flaking which is basically what dandruff is about.

Particularly warm environment can also have a similar effect on a dog’s skin.

In other words, dry air and very warm temperatures can dry out a dog’s skin and cause flaking and itchiness. 

Poor diet

A dog’s diet greatly affects the condition of their skin and coat.

If a dog isn’t getting the right nutrients including minerals, vitamins, healthy fats and enough water, then their skin will suffer. And the result is usually a dull coat with whitish-looking scales or dandruff.

It’s very important for a dog’s diet to include a healthy amount of high-quality proteins because they are directly responsible for healthy skin and fur. 

Vitamin A is also an essential part of a dog’s diet since it helps to regulate the production of sebum and healthy growth of skin cells.

In addition to proteins and vitamin A, essential fatty acids like omega 3 and 6 are also very essential for a healthy dog skin. 

Health Conditions

Some health conditions can have skin-related symptoms and manifest in the form of skin flaking and dandruff.

For instance, hypothyroidism which is basically under-active thyroid glands can affect the normal skin condition of a dog with symptoms like skin scaling and dandruff. 

How do you get rid of puppy dandruff?

While diet, weather, infections and other health conditions are all factors that can contribute to the appearance of skin scales and dandruff on a dog.

The primary and most basic cause of dandruff is either very dry skin or very oily skin, therefore the very first step towards treating dandruff is usually by improving your dog’s grooming and improving their diet to include all essential nutrients.

If your puppy has dandruff, here are some steps you should take to get rid of dandruff. 

More baths with special shampoos

There are dog shampoos which are specifically made for moisturizing the dog’s skin and improving the condition of their fur.

A moisturizing shampoo will help a dog with dandruff to soothe irritation caused by excessive dry skin and generally moisturized the skin to prevent the appearance of dry skin flakes.

Get a dog special shampoo for your puppy and make sure you follow the instructions on how to use it.

Brushing

Brushing is a good way of helping to evenly distribute the natural oils produced by your dog’s skin. Brushing your dog’s fur can stimulate blood supply to the skin which encourages the production of natural skin oils.

To help with your dog’s dandruff, make sure you spend some time daily to thoroughly brush his fur with a dog brush that’s suitable for your dog’s fur type.

Improve your dog’s diet

To help with dandruff, make sure you pay more attention to the contents of your dog food. To maintain a healthy skin and fur, your dog need a healthy amount of easily digestible and high-quality proteins and vitamin A. 

Also ensure that you include a healthy dose of omega 3 and 6 fatty acids in your dog’s meal.

If you’re not sure these fatty acids are included in your food, you can use pet supplements to ensure your dog is getting what his body needs to stay healthy and maintain a shiny coat that’s free of dandruff.

Consult with your vet

A severe case of dandruff should not be managed at home because it may be the physical manifestation of an underling health condition.

If your pup is very uncomfortable with intense itching, dandruff and hair loss, please don’t assume that you can manage it.

Visit your veterinarian for a medical examination to find out your pet’s condition made be rooted in an allergy, a parasitic infection, atopic dermatitis or other medical conditions. 

How can I prevent puppy dandruff?

Preventing puppy dandruff can be similar to treating the condition, things like regular grooming and better diet should be taken very seriously. 

Here are some tips to help you prevent puppy dandruff:

  • Give your puppy a regular daily brushing down of the fur
  • Improve your pet’s diet by including foods rich in nutrients that are essential of healthy skin and coat
  • You can also include pet supplements to ensure that your pet is getting all essential nutrients like fish oil, cod liver oil, etc.
  • Give your dog weekly baths with a special moisturizing shampoo
  • Always ensure that your puppy is in a comfortable environment, your pup’s sleeping area should neither be too dry nor too cold
  • Finally, you can talk to your vet for recommendations of how to improve your dog’s skin and hair.

Home remedies for puppy dandruff

If your puppy doesn’t have any infections or medical conditions can that may be causing his dandruff, then you can easily address the problem making some lifestyle changes for your puppy.

You can use these 5 home remedies for your puppy’s dandruff.

  1. Omega-3 & 6 fatty acids: these fatty acids are essential for helping your puppy maintain a healthy skin and shiny coat. Ensure your dog’s diet contains these fatty acids. 
  2. Sunflower or safflower oil: adding small quantities (about a teaspoon) of fresh sunflower or safflower oils to your puppy’s diet will help in the maintenance of healthy skin and flawless coat.
  3. Use moisturizing oils: grooming your puppy with some moisturizing oils will help prevent dry skin especially if the natural oils are insufficient.
  4. Oatmeal bath: adding ground oat to your dog’s bath water can help with skin allergies and dry skin flakes. Oatmeal mask or shampoo is a known remedy for itchiness and dry skin in dogs
  5. Aloe Vera gel: aloe vera gel has the ability to soothe the dry and flaking skin of a dog, it helps prevent itchiness and dandruff. The moisturizing ability of aloe vera gel makes it excellent for preventing and treating dry skin flakes.

Conclusion

Dandruff in dogs, also referred to as seborrhea, can be caused by extremely dry or oily skin. It can also be the result of a canine skin infection of a symptom of an underlying medical condition. While puppy dandruff is not uncommon, it’s also not normal for a puppy to have dandruff. 

It’s essentially a sign that there is a problem either with their diet, allergies, weather, environment or skin condition. You can help a puppy with dandruff by improving their diet and ensuring better grooming with special shampoos and moisturizing oils. However, a puppy with a severe case of dandruff with intense itching and hair loss needs to be examined by a veterinarian.