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Doggy Dandruff: A Symptom, Not a Diagnosis

“Properly trained, a man can be dog’s best friend.” If man is to heed Corey Ford’s words, he needs to become educated about his dog’s dandruff, technically known as seborrhea. If you’re already a dog owner, you may have witnessed this condition in your pet. Just as in humans, dandruff in dogs produces a buildup of white flakes. It can be dry, oily, or a combination. Las Vegas veterinary dermatologist, Dr. Kimberly Coyner, weighs in on this topic. She explains the causes of seborrhea and advises ways to identify and cope.

Foremost, Dr. Coyner tells me that dandruff in dogs is not a diagnosis, but rather a symptom of an underlying condition. There are several potential causes and contributing factors. If the pet owner is diligent, mild doggy dandruff can be easily rectified.

Causes

According to Dr. Coyner, dog dandruff roots from a variety of origins. Poor diet and acid deficiency are known culprits. Low humidity in the environment is significant. Skin infections (bacterial or yeast), parasites (especially cheyletiella or demodex mites), or allergies (food or pollen/dust) can be to blame. The dog might have a hormonal disease such as Cushing’s or a metabolic (liver, kidney, intestinal) disorder. Certain types of skin cancer (cutaneous lymphoma) could be the basis of the dog’s seborrhea.

Supplements

In mild cases of seborrhea, supplementation with a daily balanced omega 3 or omega 6 complement is helpful. For her patrons at the Dermatology Clinic for Animals in Las Vegas Coyner recommends, for example, Virbac’s EFA caps ($7.95 per 60 count bottle). They reduce inflammation and promote a healthy coat.

Diet

Dr. Coyner urges dog owners to switch to high quality dog food when encountering dandruff in pets. The formula should be enriched with fatty acids. She suggests choices such as Science Diet for Sensitive Skin ($13.97 for 4.5 pounds) which has a higher concentration of vitamins C and E, thus promoting a healthier immune system. Royal Canin Skin Support ($21.99 for 6 pounds) is also formulated to manage allergic skin disorders.

Bathing

Bathing frequency is going to depend on the type of dandruff the dog has and the underlying conditions. Conditioning shampoos and crème rinses can be effective in combating dog dandruff. Dr. Coyner mentions Virbac’s Epi-Soothe shampoo ($6.99 for 8 oz.) and crème rinse/conditioner ($9.85 for 8 oz.). She also believes in Hylyt shampoo ($9.95 for 12 oz.) and conditioner ($7.75 for 8 oz.). If poor nutrition is to blame, even frequent bathing is not going to help. The dog just isn’t getting the correct nutrients to the skin and hair coat. On the other hand, some dogs with oily seborrhea can benefit from twice weekly bathing to reduce greasy buildup.3

Potential Dangers

Dr. Coyner warns that in severe cases of dog dandruff, or in older dogs, a trip to the vet is in order. The same is true when symptoms include itching, hair loss, odor, or systemic signs such as weight loss or diarrhea. The veterinarian will need to identify and treat underlying causes of the dandruff. Depending on the case, potential diagnostics may include skin scrapings, blood testing, or even skin biopsy. Appropriate treatment is then prescribed.

It is better to listen to doctor’s advice in such matters because he is the boss and if it is coming from someone like Dr. Coyner, then his word is considered law as he is one of the best veterinarians on the planet because you won’t need to run here and there for finding a solution.

Jaime
Jaime London is a writer, contributor, editor and a photographer. He started his career as an editorial assistant in a publishing company in Chicago in 2009.