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brown and white pointer puppy

Why does my puppy have dandruff?

Dandruff is everywhere these days. We’re inundated with advertisements claiming to bring an end to flaky, itchy scalps. But did you know that puppies can get dandruff too? 

You might have noticed them scratching, or maybe you’ve spotted some white flakes on their coat? There are lots of reasons why your pup might have dandruff; let’s look at the different causes of doggy dandruff and what you can do to return your dog’s coat to its glossy glory. 

What causes dog dandruff? 

A dog’s skin cells, like ours, are constantly dying and being replaced by new cells. Dogs will groom themselves to get rid of the old, dead skin cells as they shed, keeping their coat in top condition.  

Puppies are more likely to develop dandruff than older dogs. This is because a puppy’s sebaceous glands, which produce an oil that helps to keep their coat looking slick and shiny, are still developing. These glands become more developed as your pup gets older, which often will bring an end to their dandruff issues. 

Brushing your puppy will help to spread the natural oils in their coat, which will often result in a shinier coat and could go some way to combatting dandruff. 

However, there are lots of reasons why your puppy might have dandruff aside from underdeveloped glands. 

golden labrador puppy sitting on grass

Health conditions that lead to dog dandruff

Skin infections

Skin infections can cause dry and itchy skin, which naturally leads to the development of dandruff. Dandruff could mean that your pup has ringworm, a highly contagious fungal infection that affects your dog’s skin. 

To identify if your puppy is suffering from a skin condition or infection, your vet will take some skin samples to make an accurate diagnosis.  


Flaky skin could be a giveaway that your pooch is feeling under the weather. If they are lethargic or unwell, they are less likely to keep up their high grooming standards, leading to more dandruff building up.  


Fleas irritate a dog’s skin as they feed off their blood. Excessive scratching could lead to your puppy getting dandruff. Fleas thrive in warm, damp environments and flock indoors during winter. Read our guide on how to keep your dog itch-free and safe from fleas. 


Skin reactions that cause dandruff could be triggered by an allergic reaction. Your puppy could be allergic to certain foods (dogs can develop food allergies without warning at any time) or environmental factors such as pollen or dust mites. 

Your vet may recommend food allergy testing and may suggest a dietary elimination or a hypoallergenic diet. In the case of seasonal allergies, treatment with anti-inflammatory medication or a medicated shampoo might be suggested. Read our advice on allergies in dogs. 

black spaniel puppy having a bath

How can I treat puppy dandruff? 

If your puppy has a persistent problem with dandruff, there are lots of options to improve the health of their skin. 

Change their diet

Much the same as human health, poor skin is often linked with a diet that isn’t delivering the right nutrients. If your puppy’s diet doesn’t include high-quality nutrients, switching to a specially formulated diet can be really beneficial.

A balanced diet with effective levels of high-quality protein, Essential Fatty Acids, Zinc and Vitamins will help to support healthy skin & coat. 

Use specialist pet shampoo 

Human shampoos aren’t suitable for dogs and will dry out their skin, so make sure you’re being kind to your puppy’s skin by using sensitive skin pet shampoo.

Specialist dog shampoos, such as VetSoothe Oil-Balance Shampoo, are specially formulated to help manage greasy and flaky skin. It contains soothing agents to help reduce itching, whilst managing the build-up of grease and excess oil, helping to moisturise and exfoliate your dog’s skin. 

Give them dietary supplements

Dietary supplements are a great way to give your puppy natural support for their skin. Vetpro Healthy Skin & Glossy Coat capsules are specially formulated for pets with itchy, flaky & dry skin.

They contain beneficial Omega-3 Fatty Acids that help to calm sensitive skin and reduce itching and redness. Speak to your vet about adding Fatty Acid supplements to your dog's diet to boost their skin health. 

Need more info? 

For expert advice on puppy dandruff and skin problems, contact your local vet. Find your nearest vet using our Find a Vet page. 

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