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The Causes of Dog and Cat Dandruff

What Causes Flaky Skin in Pets

By Gina Carey. November 06, 2012 | See Comments

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The Causes of Dog and Cat Dandruff

Dandruff in pets can be triggered by climate, bathing routine, or other causes. Find out what's causing your dog or cat's flaky skin.

Dog and cat dandruff naturally occurs as their bodies produce new skin cells to replace dead ones. While pets are constantly shedding old skin cells, a buildup of dander and flaky skin can signal any number of underlying problems that cause cats and dogs discomfort. In order to relieve the itching and pain associated with dandruff and flaky skin, you’ll have to figure out what’s causing the excessive dandruff.

So what are the most common culprits of dandruff and flaky skin in pets? Diet, grooming, and climate are a few causes that you can typically reverse with a little extra care. But medical issues such as skin infections or dermatitis may also be causing flaky skin. Read on to learn how these issues create dandruff in pets.

Grooming

All pets need a bath at some point. But both under-grooming and over-grooming your pet can cause dandruff. Pet owners must develop a bathing routine on a case-by-case basis as different breeds will have different needs and sensitivities. The type of shampoo pet owners use can also affect dandruff buildup or skin sensitivity, so switching to a new brand may be necessary.

Brushing pet hair will exfoliate the skin, so pet owners must also determine the frequency of brushing needed.  While cats generally self-groom, long haired cats will need extra assistance. And double-coated fur can trap dead skin underneath it, so pet owners must take extra care to brush pets with such coats.

Climate

Like humans, pet skin is affected by weather conditions that cause dry skin. Dogs and cats living in climates with dry weather or harsh winters or in homes with dry heat and little moisture may develop dryer skin and dandruff.

Diet

Nutritional deficiencies can manifest in dryer, flaky skin, especially when a pet's diet lacks omega-3 fatty acids or other essential fatty acids. Processed foods that do not have a well-balanced range of vitamins, minerals, oils, and amino acids may result in dandruff.

Medical Conditions

Grooming, climate, and diet are the most common causes of dandruff in pets. In some cases, though, dandruff shows up as a symptom to other medical issues, including:

  • Bacterial or fungal skin infections
  • Parasitic infections and mange from ringworm, mites, walking dandruff, or fleas
  • Seborrhea, a skin disorder which causes a red, itchy rash
  • Impetigo, or staph infection (especially in puppies)
  • Cushing's Disease
  • Thyroid conditions and hypothyroidism
  • Allergies


When pets experience chronic flaky skin along with other symptoms, pet parents should contact their veterinarians to test for medical issues that may be harmful to a pet's health and wellness.

This information is for informational purposes only and is not meant as a substitute for the professional advice of, or diagnosis or treatment by, your veterinarian with respect to your pet. It has, however, been verified by a licensed veterinarian for accuracy.

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