Why Does My Pet Have Dandruff?

Even our furry friends can suffer from scaly skin-flakes.


If you’ve ever assumed dandruff was a purely human problem, you assumed wrong. Anything that has skin has a chance of that skin drying out and flaking off, even if that skin is surrounded by a fur coat — and that includes pets.

Animals shed skin particles regularly, but they’re usually so small we can’t see them, and so light they basically float through the air. Collectively, they’re called dander, and are a major reason why people with allergies feel miserable around your pets. But if the dander gets large enough to be visible as dandruff, that’s not normal.

There are a variety of reasons why pets can develop dandruff, all handily explained over at VetDERM, a clinic that specializes in animal dermatology. In short, though, the causes we share in common include a poor diet; living in a low-humidity environment; and allergic reactions to things like dust, pollen, or certain foods. Additionally, some dog breeds are simply genetically prone to having dandruff.

Your pets can also suffer from dandruff in other forms, and luckily for us, we humans rarely have to deal with one of the major causes of pet dandruff: Cheyletiella mites, also known as “walking dandruff.” Per VetDERM, “These tiny, white parasites lay eggs in the skin and coat and feed on your pet’s dead skin cells,” making their lives an itchy hell in the process. 

There’s also the possibility that your pet could be suffering a hormone imbalance like hyperthyroidism, but dandruff from this is usually accompanied by other symptoms, such as sudden shedding, weight gain, or lethargy, so if you notice any of these, whisk your goodest boi to the vet right away.

According to the American Kennel Club, the simplest way to treat pet dandruff is by brushing their fur daily to evenly distribute their natural skin oils. You cannot help by using human anti-dandruff shampoo on your pets, however — it could contain ingredients that are too harsh for their skin.

Again, if this doesn’t do the trick, or if your dog or cat shows any other unusual behavior or symptoms alongside the skin-flaking, it’s best to head right to your veterinarian so they can figure out the best treatment. Remember, pets don’t like having dandruff any more than you do.