Dog Got Dandruff?
Dandruff on a dog is not just "one of those things." It could mean something's wrong.
If you see excessive dandruff on your dog's body, he's not unkempt. Rather, something has gone awry.
"This is not about observing mild dandruff on a black dog - any white flecks on black hair are probably going to show, " says Tufts veterinary dermatologist Ramon Almela, DVM. "The stress of visiting the vet can also trigger transient dandruff production, which is nothing to be concerned about," Dr. Almela says. But if you otherwise see dandruff scales on your pet, something about his health is off.
Why skin sloughing goes wrong
There are three main reasons dandruff develops
Genetic propensity. A number of genetic "defects" can interfere with the process of cell sloughing. For instance, certain proteins that regulate the life of cells are deficient or don't work properly, and the result is abnormal renewal of the epidermis layer of the skin... Breeds predisposed include Golden retrievers, Jack Russell terriers, Norfolk terriers, and King Charles cavalier spaniels. People tend to notice a problem within the first few months of a dog's life. It often starts on the abdomen (where there is less hair making dandruff easier to see), but occurs all over the trunk.
Dietary Imbalance. The process of proper skin turnover is actually very demanding from a nutritional point of view...It requires a lot of good-quality protein and essential fatty acids. If something is missing or out of balance with other nutrients, dandruff can ensue. In breeds with especially fast growth - great Danes, Doberman pinschers, Rhodesian ridgebacks - a zinc deficiency could interfere with proper skin cell turnover. This might especially be the case if a dog is fed a home-cooked diet that has not been developed by a board-certified veterinary nutritionist. The skin cells tend to remain in big sheets or plates that are easily seen with the naked eye.
Underlying disease. A number of diseases might cause accelerated renewing, a situation in which the cells of the epidermis renew too quickly before maturing completely...The most common underlying disease that would cause dandruff is inflammatory skin disease...The inflammation can come from an allergy (such as a flea allergy) or a reaction to mites, for example...
Identifying the culprit
A veterinarian will check for inflammation on the skin or lesions - breaks in the skin's normally smooth surface...Once the inflammation is tended to, the dandruff will disappear.
If the skin is not inflamed, the next step is to consider whether there might be a nutrient deficiency or imbalance. Switching the diet, or sometimes adding fat to a home-cooked diet under the supervision of a board-certified veterinary nutritionist, should resolve the dandruff issue if a poor diet is causing the problem.
If it turns out the dandruff is the result of a genetic disorder, you won't be able to take away the problem. But with a veterinary dermatologist's oversight you can increase bathing (to as much as once a week) to remove the scales or perhaps use a medicated dog shampoo...In some dogs, polyunsaturated fatty acids applied to the skin can help, Dr. Almela says. Assiduous brushing can prove useful, too. Rest assured that if the problem is genetic, the dandruff, while unsightly, will not hurt the dog. It's only when the dandruff comes from an underlying disease or nutrition problem that you have to take action.