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You may have noticed recently that your puppy has the dreaded dandruff, an affliction common in many breeds. Fear not, it is curable, but if you don’t have a good plan of action, then this could be a battle you’ll be having for many years to come.

We’re here to help and give you a good plan of attack so you can win this battle against your puppy’s dandruff and/or dry skin and ensure they have a shimmering, gorgeous cote of hair!

Causes of Dandruff in Puppies

When dealing with dandruff and dry skin conditions, the number one thing to do is to see if you can find the root cause of the problem. If you can remove the cause, then there’ll be no need for treatments.

And if you never manage to find the root cause you might end up using treatments (sometimes costly ones) for many years to come.

It’s absolutely in your best interest to discover what is the underlying issue that is causing your puppy to have dry skin and dandruff.

And while a Veterinarian can help you with this, it will be more a case of trial and error in removing certain things from their diet or environment.

Treating Puppy Dandruff

Puppy dandruff can be caused by allergies, diet, hormonal issues, fungal infections, environment conditions, and chemical sensitivities.

To treat puppy dandruff, look for the cause of the problem. This can be done by changing their diet, shampoo, household cleaning products, and other environmental factors.

This can be a lengthy process as the exact cause can sometimes be difficult to discover.

It’s best to begin this process by eliminating the easiest possible causes.

Try changing their food intake to a nutrient-rich diet with essential fatty acids or swapping their shampoo for an oatmeal-based shampoo.

If the root cause can’t be discovered easily, as it could also be due to more than one of the above causes, then you will need to look at using medications or dermatitis-specific shampoos and diets.

There are also other contributing factors that could cause your puppy dandruff and dry skin which we will go into in more depth in this article.

Be sure to also read our article on Puppy Itching here if your puppy is struggling with this.

Breeds That Suffer from Dandruff, Dermatitis and Other Skin Conditions

Skin conditions affect many breeds but are most common in some more than others. This is because some breeds have a stronger disposition to allergies than others.

The following breeds are more susceptible to skin conditions:

  • Bull Terriers
  • Boxers
  • Staffordshire Bull Terriers
  • Jack Russell Terriers
  • West Highland White Terriers
  • Cavalier King Charles Spaniels
  • Pugs
  • Boston Terriers
  • Bulldogs
  • Cairn Terriers
  • Airedale Terriers
  • White Hair Fox Terriers
  • Soft-coated Wheaten Terriers
  • Scottish Terriers
  • Basset Hounds
  • Bichon Frise
  • Chinese Share-Pei
  • Cocker Spaniels
  • Dalmatians
  • English Setters
  • English Springer Spaniels
  • French Bulldogs
  • Golden Retrievers
  • Hungarian Vizsla
  • Irish Setters
  • Labrador Retrievers
  • Lhasa Apso
  • Maltese
  • Rhodesian Ridgebacks

Before Doing Anything

Start by thoroughly inspecting your puppy’s skin and coat. This will give you a better understanding of what you’re dealing with.

Your puppy’s skin should be light pink with good elasticity. It should be without dryness, irritations, redness, or cracking.

If their skin is too oily, then this will be causing your puppy’s dandruff. With dry skin, the skin will flake off. With dandruff, too much oil on the skin causes the skin cells to build up and fall off.

Does your pup’s skin smell bad? If so, it’s probably too oily as they have an imbalance of sebum.

Once you have a good understanding of what you have, you will be better prepared to tackle the issue.

Allergies Causing Skin Problems

Unlike humans, dogs present differently when it comes to allergies. While we tend to have nasal issues, dogs are more likely to present with skin irritations.

Some breeds have a disposition to allergies, which normally begins to occur from 1-to-3 years of age, however they can start as early as 6-months of age.

This is because it can take some time for repeated exposure to turn from something harmless into an allergen.

This makes it tricky to diagnose, because one thing you thought was okay for your puppy suddenly turns out to be the culprit of their dermatitis and dandruff.

This can be a trial and error process to root out what is causing the allergy.

If needed, your Veterinarian can test for allergies and together you can create a plan to overcome them. They will most likely order a blood test and check for antigen induced antibodies.

They may also do a skin test where they inject antigens into a shaved portion of the dog’s skin. The antigen causing the allergies can then be identified.

Possible symptoms of an allergy in your puppy:

  • Licking lips
  • Diarrhea
  • Sneezing
  • Swelling in facial features such as eyelids
  • Chewing feet and other parts of body
  • Scratching at their body and ears
  • Dryness of skin
  • Redness of skin
  • Red bumps on skin
  • Thickening of skin
  • Crusty skin
  • Oily skin
  • What Causes Allergies?
  • Here is a list of possible causes for your puppy’s allergies:
  • Food
  • Parasites such as Mites and Fleas
  • Shampoos and Conditioners
  • Bacterial Flora
  • Yeast Organisms
  • Chemicals (e.g. cleaning products)
  • Bacterial Hypersensitivity (Normal skin bacteria becomes the allergen)
  • Plants in your garden or at the park
  • Pollen (seasonal allergies)

TIP: Does your puppy have inflamed lips? If they’re using a plastic bowl to eat from consider changing to a metal bowl, as the plastic can cause an allergy.

You might also be interested in reading our post, Dog Freckles on Belly: Q&A

Treatment for Dandruff, Dry Skin, and Dermatitis


The first thing you can try is a diet change. There are some specific dermatitis brands out there that can be considered.

Avoid puppy foods that have either Dairy, Wheat, or Beef as these have been found to be among the highest causes of allergies in dogs.

Two quality puppy food brands are Wellness Complete Health Puppy Food, and Blue Buffalo Life Protection Puppy. You can buy these from Amazon too, but we shop with Chewy as they offer 24/7 support and we’ve found them to have great customer service.


Sometimes finding a shampoo that suits your puppy’s skin can be trial and error. If your pup’s skin is dry, then one shampoo would be better for them than one that is better for oily skin.

Try Fresh n Clean Oatmeal & Baking Soda Shampoo. If you have no luck with that one, you can get a dermatitis specific emollient shampoo from your vet.

Another possible option to try is Johnson and Johnson Baby Shampoo.

Coconut Oil

If you find your puppy’s skin to be dry, try rubbing coconut oil over their body ten-minutes before their bath. This may help to retain moisture.

TIP: If your puppy suffers from dry skin, don’t use the hairdryer to dry them off after their bath, only towel dry.


Your puppy shouldn’t be bathed more or less than they require. Over bathing them can lead to removing the natural oils that are required to keep their skin healthy.

Likewise, if your puppy’s skin is oily, then it’s recommended to bathe them more frequently.

A good rule is if their skin is dry, bathe them every 1-to-3 months. If your puppy has oily skin, bathe them every 1-to-2 weeks.

Water Temperature

If you are washing your puppy in water that’s too hot, their skin can become dry or have a reaction that will lead to scaling.

Test the water on your wrist and ensure it’s lukewarm.


Give your puppy a good brush regularly which can help to distribute their natural oils around their body.


Consider adding an Omega-3 Fatty Acids supplement to your puppy’s food. If you are adding supplements to your puppy’s food, it’s recommended that you run it past your vet beforehand.

Weight Imbalance

If your puppy is overweight, they can have extra skin around their body causing more folds. These folds can be hot spots for skin conditions.

If they are overweight and have a skin condition, it’s worth talking to your vet about Hypothyroidism, which could be causing both to occur.

Hormonal Issues

As stated, hypothyroidism could be causing your puppy to have a skin condition, however this condition is more likely in older dogs, usually after the age of 5, so it will be unlikely.

Humidity and Temperature

If you live in a dry, low humidity environment, or keep your house warm year-round, consider washing your puppy less regularly. Their skin requires a certain level of oils to remain healthy and this will be harder to maintain if you wash them too often in this climate.

If you live in a high humidity environment, however, washing your puppy more regularly to ensure their skin isn’t too oily is a good idea.

Water Quality

Always give your puppy a quality supply of water, one that’s free of pollutants. A good spring or filtered water is better than tap water.

Human Chemicals

Different chemicals that are found in household cleaners can also contribute to allergies in your puppy. Take care in choosing mild cleaning chemicals in your laundry detergents, softeners, carpet cleaners, bathroom cleaners, kitchen cleaners, and other such products.

Other Possible Causes of Puppy Dandruff and Dermatitis

Primary Seborrheic Dermatitis

Primary Seborrheic is a dog skin disorder that is most likely genetic. It presents itself with dryness, oiliness, flaky, scaly, itchy, or red skin and can cause hair loss if left untreated.

If you have access to your breeder, ask them if your pup’s parents have skin conditions with a bad smell.

There are two kinds of this ailment, one being dry skin and the other being oily, though they aren’t mutually exclusive, and your puppy could and most likely would have a combination of both.

Seborrhea is usually more prominent along the back and in folds of the skin, where there are more sebaceous glands present.

The condition causes these glands to create an imbalance of sebum (a greasy lubrication substance).

One way to tell if your puppy has Seborrhea is to smell their skin. The oily substance of the sebum has a distinctive unpleasant smell.

Unfortunately, if your puppy does have Primary Seborrhea, then it will be an ongoing issue that you will need to work through with your Veterinarian.

However, many of the treatments for puppy related dandruff below can help you in this.

The best way to know if your puppy has Seborrhea is to have some tests done by your Vet.

They will likely take a skin biopsy, hair samples, undertake a skin culture, and hormone tests.

Secondary Seborrheic Dermatitis

Seborrhea can also be a symptom of another underlying issue, rather than being the issue itself.

Your puppy could have an imbalance coming from their sebaceous glands due to a number of reasons, all of which are included in the headings making up the rest of this list.

The main difference between Primary and Secondary Seborrhea is that after addressing factors such as Allergies, Weight Imbalance, Diet, Hormonal Issues, Parasites, Fungal Infections, Environmental Conditions, and Chemical Exposure, and the condition still persists, then the cause is the Seborrhea itself. Meaning Primary Seborrheic Dermatitis.

You might be thinking, where do I even begin to fix this problem?! But fear not, it’s not all doom and gloom. Your pup’s dermatitis might be something as simple as a diet change or a change in shampoo.

I just want to give you all the information so you can make an informed decision about what you’re dealing with and the best way forward.

Cheyletiella Mites

Thankfully, these mites are relatively rare these days due to the use of mite control. But that doesn’t mean they’re not still around.

They can be difficult to see as they will blend in well with the dandruff and dry flakes they cause.

If your puppy is sneezing and scratching a lot then take a closer look at your pup’s dermatitis and look for some of the white flakes moving around. They will be very small and difficult to see.

If you do find these mites present, then you will need to visit the Vet. They will subscribe you one of the treatments available, such as a medicated shampoo.

Beware, humans can catch these mites and you’ll need to do a thorough clean of the carpets, bedding, and anything else your pet has been in contact with.

There may be concurrent infestations of the mite as their eggs can re-hatch restarting the process.

Fungal Infections – Yeast Dermatitis or Malassezia Dermatitis

This yeast infection is caused by the fungus Malassezia Pachydermatis and is extremely common in dogs. Usually your puppy’s immune system will stave off this fungus, or at least keep it in check.

If your puppy has a compromised immune system, or the infection has not been treated and becomes a chronic issue, then the yeast infection can spread and cause dermatitis.

Yeast infections like a moist area to grow, so if your puppy has oily skin then it will more likely flourish.

The ears are a moist area which is why puppies with floppy ears can have reoccurring issues with yeast infections.

It’s important that you check your puppy’s skin for oiliness and treat as necessary.

Regular baths, nutritious meals, and quality shampoos can help keep down yeast infections.

Final Word

There are quite a few aspects to consider when it comes to your puppy’s skin and coat.

The important thing to keep in mind is having a balanced approach, ensuring their skin is neither too dry nor too oily.

Work to remove possible allergens from their diet and environment, then add in more sensitive options.

If you find that you’re losing the battle to dandruff and dry skin, then it’s time to go to your Veterinarian and get some help.