Written by Dr. Elizabette Cohen, Veterinarian, Radio Personality & Pet Owner.
Dandruff or seborrhea sicca, as it is technically called, is the excessive shedding of dead skin cells. In other words, dandruff in pets is dry skin. It looks like white flakes on your dog or cat and, obviously, it is most noticeable against dark-colored coats. Pets that suffer from dry skin are very itchy. When they itch, they scratch and scratching can lead to skin infections. By scratching the surface of the skin, your pet is breaking down the natural protection that the skin provides. There are seven layers of the skin and the scratching can break all of them. You may see scratch marks, redness, and even bleeding. The bacteria on top of the skin get underneath from the scratching and are the cause of infection and more itch. Left untreated, dry skin leads to more dry skin and more itching. It becomes a vicious cycle! Many times itch is even more uncomfortable than pain and it can wake your pet up from a deep sleep.
One of the first things you can do to provide your pet with instant relief is to give a bath with a medicated shampoo and conditioner. When your hands are dry and itchy and you apply a soothing cream, it gives you immediate relief. That is what the bath does; it can instantly help soothe your pet. You may want to choose a shampoo that has aloe or oatmeal in it, or get one that is specific for dandruff.
To help prevent dandruff in the first place, you can add a fatty acid supplement to your pet’s diet. Omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acid supplements given daily will help prevent dandruff. Omega-3 fatty acid supplements are found in fish oil and also help lubricate the joints to help your pet move more easily.
Adding a humidifier to the home will also help, especially during the winter months. Home heating can especially dry out your pet’s skin.
Pets that don’t drink enough water can also suffer from dehydration, in addition to dry skin. We are all approximately 70% water and our pets are no different. It is very important that our pets drink plenty of water everyday to stay well hydrated and healthy. Pets that are in a constant state of dehydration are prone to kidney disease and many other illnesses. If your pet doesn’t drink enough water, you can add water to his or her food. Getting a water fountain can also help. The sounds of water splashing can be enticing and encourage drinking.
There are lubricating sprays that can be applied to your pet’s skin immediately after a good combing. Combing is preferred over brushing so that you can remove the dead hair from your pet. This will help air get to the skin for a healthier coat. A flea comb is best since its teeth are very close together and ensures the removal of more dead hair. It is always better to remove the dead hair than wait for it to come out naturally all over your home. Daily combing will help you keep your home cleaner. The lubricating spray can then be applied to help moisten the coat and help relieve the dry skin.
Treating dandruff or better yet, preventing it in the first place will help you keep your pet, “Healthy and Happy.”