Dandruff in Dogs: Symptoms, Causes, Treatment and Prevention. Yes, dogs (and cats, too) can get dandruff! Usually a sign of your pet's skin being dry, here's how you can treat and prevent dandruff entirely.

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Otherwise known as Seborrhea, dandruff in canines is characterized by dry, flaky skin, and often oily skin, however, in serious cases, it can also lead to hair loss. Here's a beginner's guide to Seborrhea, its symptoms, causes, treatment and prevention.

Depending on the breed of the dog, dandruff can present itself as either oily clumps of dead skin or dry flaky skin which can lead to excessive shedding and irritation.

Dandruff, or Seborrhea, often present themselves through many variants including, but not limited to Cheyletiellosis and Atopic dermatitis. This condition either manifest as oily lumps of dead skin which stick to the fur of breeds like Labradors, Spaniels, and Basset Hounds, or as dry skin flakes that dot the coats of Dobermans, German Shepherds, and Dachshunds.

This condition is sometimes accompanied by excessive shedding and itching. Seborrhea can be a primary cause or a secondary symptom of a more serious condition. While primary Seborrhea is an extremely rare genetic condition, secondary Seborrhea, which is much more common is often a symptom of a serious skin disease, hormonal imbalance, allergies, or parasitic infections. Environmental factors like dry air and extreme temperatures, grooming habits, diet etc., can also play a part in triggering this condition.

Consulting a vet at the onset of any signs of Seborrhea is highly recommended in order to diagnose the exact cause, in order to arrest and treat any underlying conditions. For instance, Cheyletiellosis, a highly contagious mite infection can easily get mistaken for an innocuous case of dandruff. The Cheyletiella mite, that lives in the keratin level of their host, often carry scales of dead skin, earning them the name โ€˜walking dandruffโ€™. A simple skin scrape can help your vet diagnose this parasitic condition, which is easily treated with a course of insecticides. However, if left unchecked it can cause severe dry skin and irritation. In addition to the Cheyletiella mite, other parasites like Sarcoptic mange and Demodex mange can also present dandruff-like symptoms, though these infections are much more severe. While the Sarcoptic mange or canine scabies is characterized by irritation, hair loss and pimples, the Demodex causes dry skin, scaling and lesions around the eyes and face. All of these can be topically treated with medicated anti-parasite shapes and powders.

Dandruff is also one of the most common symptoms of allergies that dogs exhibit. A host of food intolerances, reactions to insect saliva and bites, and environmental irritants like pollen and dander, can present themselves as dandruff. This form of dandruff, diagnosed as Atopic dermatitis is often accompanied by other symptoms like skin inflammation and discolouration. Consulting with your vet can help narrow down the most likely allergens and help form a plan of action accordingly. While knowledge of your dogโ€™s genetic history is key to ruling out any hereditary possibilities, a detailed blood screen along with an allergy panel helps determine your dogโ€™s degree of intolerance to pests, foods, and environmental irritants.

After a diagnosis, it is important to supplement medication with a balanced diet plan and grooming routine. Though Atopic dermatitis never goes into complete remission, regularly bathing your dog in cold water along with anti-itching shampoos can help relieve discomfort. It is pertinent to only use vet-grade products to bathe and groom your dog to avoid further irritation. Additionally, your vet can also recommend corticosteroids and daily antihistamines to tackle environmental irritants. In more chronic cases, such as hypersensitivity, or atopy, hyposensitization therapy can also be recommended, where small doses of irritants are directly injected into the bloodstream to promote the growth of antibodies and create resistance to allergies. It is important to consult your vet regarding the best course of action, as treatment is entirely dependent on the degree of allergic responses and your dogโ€™s reaction to medication. Many vets have taken to prescribing homoeopathic regimes to counter allergies. Though homoeopathy takes much longer to come into effect than allopathy, it is a much less invasive course of treatment and has proved to be beneficial in the long run.

While medical intervention is necessary to treat the underlying causes of dandruff, actively monitoring your dogโ€™s health is key to its well-being. Though topical ointments can relieve dry skin and irritation to a great degree, nothing can substitute regular grooming and a healthy diet. In order to stimulate hair follicles, it is crucial to use a hard brush and provide adequate pressure while grooming. Regular grooming not only promotes a healthy coat but also induces a sense of well-being.

Along with regular grooming, a carefully monitored diet ensures that your canineโ€™s nutritional requirements are met and prevents excessive weight gain. Canine obesity not only triggers dandruff but also leads to a host of other, more severe, and often lethal medical complications. Pre-prepared pet food already accommodates the dietary needs of your pet, though individual requirements might mandate extra supplements. Including omega rich meats like fish, or supplementing daily meals with Salmon oil goes a long way in ensuring a healthy coat and skin.

Further, there are additional measures that can be taken to relieve irritation and itchiness at the onset of seasonal allergies. There are special oils and sprays designed to lock in moisture, medicated sprays to help relieve itchiness, and anti-dandruff dog shampoos which can minimize the symptoms of Atopic dermatitis. Coconut oil massages before baths can prevent dry skin induced by frequent bathing, while a healthy fat-rich diet can improve the quality of fur. Finally, extreme itching and irritation brought on by dermatitis might also lead to a condition called Lick Granuloma, where constant licking creates wounds that penetrate several layers of skin. Contrary to popular belief, canine saliva instead of healing wounds, hosts a plethora of bacteria which infects small pockets in these wounds. What begins as small lesions, eventually become large, infested, patches.

A regime of antibiotics, anti-inflammatory, and topical antibacterial creams are then prescribed. In extreme cases, additional surgical intervention might also be needed, where infected tissue is surgically removed. While an Elizabethan collar or cast might temporarily allow a Granuloma to heal, the canine might resume licking when they are removed. Constant irritation leads to habitual licking. Carefully monitoring your dog is thus crucial to warding off further discomfort.

How Should You Treat Doggy Dandruff?

Seeing your dog deal with dandruff problems is understandably stressful. Not just because it makes a big mess all around the house, but also because it could mean that thereโ€™s something wrong with his skin. There are lots of different things that can cause dandruff. Like parasites, allergies, food sensitivities, or even an underlying medical condition.Just like in humans, doggy dandruff is never just that. And so it should never be seen as a normal occurrence. When you spot dandruff on your dog, book an appointment with your vet at your earliest convenience. Your vet is the only person who can efficiently identify the cause of this problem.Signs of dandruff include the presence of white flakes around the base of your dogโ€™s tail and on his back. Dandruff also causes an oily coat. It shouldnโ€™t be too hard to identify and once you do, itโ€™s time to take action.

Here are a few ideas:

  1. Groom and bathe him on a regular basis.Grooming your dog is one of the most important parts of keeping his coat dandruff free and healthy. Once your vet examines your dog, he may recommend certain shampoos that you can use while giving him his bath. Mud baths are famous for getting rid of dandruff. They exfoliate dry and dead skin, leaving your doggo with a clean and glossy coat.
  2. Change his diet.Diet changes can do a lot for your dog. Especially if the cause of dandruff is food sensitivities or allergies. You can sit down with your vet to come up with a new and improved diet plan for your dog to beat the dandruff situation.
  3. Keep his environment stress-free.Stress is one of the major causes of dandruff both in humans and animals alike. If your dog had recently gone through an especially stressful situation, thereโ€™s a good chance that thatโ€™s the reason behind the dandruff outbreak. It might be a good idea to give him some peace by creating a stress-free environment. Entertain him to keep the pressure off by playing games like fetch and going for long, relaxing walks. If that doesnโ€™t seem to do it, call in the professionals. A dog behaviorist or trainer could help.
  4. Give him a good brushing every day.Add brushing to his daily routine. Brushing helps with keeping your dogโ€™s coat healthy. It even removes dead skin and increases the healthy oils on his coat.
  5. Supplements could help.Make sure you talk to your vet about this before you go through with it. There are a few skin conditions that could be treated by simply adding some supplements to your petโ€™s diet. Fatty oils like Omega-3 can help decrease dandruff by increasing the oils on his skin.
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