Can You Use Dandruff Shampoo on Dogs? [8 Ways to Cure Dry Skin]

It’s normal for dogs to get a mild case of dry skin and dandruff every once in a while. However, severe cases are very rare and usually not the problem but a symptom of another problem, which is why dandruff shampoo may not help much. Some breeds are more susceptible to dandruff than other breeds, but no breed should suffer from a severe case (at least not consistently).

Can You Use Dandruff Shampoo on Dogs?
The answer to this is a big NO! The dog’s coat can easily handle human shampoo, but dogs have extremely sensitive skin that can’t handle the chemicals in human dandruff shampoo. If you’re searching for new dog shampoo, our favorite is Xymox dog shampoo and conditioner. It’s gentle on the skin and locks in the moisture after applied.

So if dandruff shampoo isn’t the best idea, what should you do? Dry skin and dandruff in dogs could be caused by both internal (malnutrition) and external (parasitic infestation) factors. Treatment options depend on the cause. In most cases, it can be treated at home with proper grooming. There are a few exceptions that require medical attention, such as fungal or bacterial infections.

If you’ve noticed your pooch is a little (or a lot) more “flakey” than usual, you’ll want to get to the bottom of the issue. It could be something as simple as allergies, but could also be something as serious as a cushings disease. This is why we recommend taking your dog to the vet if you aren’t 100% confident what’s causing the dandruff.

You’re probably wondering two things.

  1. What caused the dry skin and dandruff in the first place
  2. What’s the solution?

We will cover both those topic in today’s post.

Common Causes of Dry Skin and Dandruff

This dog has such dry skin and dandruff that it is starting to cause hair loss

Improper Grooming

When we think about improper grooming, our mind immediately goes to complete neglect of grooming. Although under-grooming can cause dry skin and dandruff, overgrooming can as well. You should bathe your dog a minimum of once every three months and a maximum of once every two weeks unless there is a particular circumstance (such as rolling in mud).

If your dog is already prone to dry skin, don’t just pick up the cheapest doggy shampoo you can find. You’ll want to get a high-quality shampoo that is made specifically for dry skin.

Low Humidity

If you live in an area that has low humidity, it can cause dry skin for your dog, just like it can for you. This is especially true for those harsh winter months. The good news is that this is an easy fix by getting a humidifier for your home.

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Lack of Nutrition

Whenever we tell people their dog may be lacking in nutrition, the response is always something like “I feed my dog twice per day, they’re getting plenty of nutrition.” But lack of nutrition doesn’t mean a lack of food. It just means the food you’re feeding them isn’t providing them with the nutrients they need.

When it comes to dry skin and dandruff, that usually means they aren’t getting enough omega-three fatty acids. Check the food label and see if there is omega-three in your dog’s food. If not, it’s time to make the switch to a different brand.


We all know that fleas make dogs itch like crazy, which leads to uncontrollable scratching, but they can also cause dry skin, which will lead to dandruff. The reason fleas can cause the skin to become dry is that they can cause an allergic reaction when they bite.

It’s easy to tell if your dog has fleas because they can be spotted with a naked eye. If you suspect your pooch may have fleas, brush through the hair with a comb and see if you can spot any critters crawling around.


Dogs can develop an allergic reaction to just about anything. Other than constant sneezing, one of the key symptoms of allergies in dogs is dry skin. If you’ve recently switched dog food, they could also be suffering from an allergic reaction to their new food.

Over Vaccination

It’s common for puppies to suffer from dry skin and dandruff from being over-vaccinated. Vaccines can be tough on a puppy’s immune system, and when the immune system becomes overloaded, it could lead to dry skin.

Things to Look Out For

The following things can help give us an idea if it’s just a seasonal thing that will pass or if it is a more severe issue that needs medical attention.

Seeing Critters in Fur

We have already talked about how fleas can cause dry skin and dandruff, but any parasitic infestation such as worms or dust mites could have the same effect. Regardless of what the parasite is, you’ll want to take your dog to the vet to figure out the best way to get rid of those critters.

If it looks like your dog’s dandruff is moving, this could be Cheyletiella Mites. This is a mite that has been nicknamed “walking dandruff” for a reason. It’s vital to treat Cheyletiella right away because it is contagious for humans as well. They are easy to spot, just look for white flakes moving around on the surface of your dogs skin.

Hair Loss

Sometimes a dogs skin itches so much they start to lose hair because of all the scratching and biting. When this happens, it’s usually isolated to one specific area. Be sure to comb through that area and look for any critters, bumps, or cuts.

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Foul Smell

This is usually the sign of a bacterial, fungal, or yeast infection that’s starting to become severe. These are not only painful for your dog but can itch like crazy.

Loss of Color in Coat

You can always tell how healthy a dog is by looking at their coat. If the color of your dog’s coat is becoming more dull than usual, it could be a sign of malnourishment. As previously discussed, malnutrition leads to dry skin and dandruff. Make sure your dog’s food has plenty of omega-three.

Home Remedies For Dry Skin and Dandruff

Thankfully there is a home remedy for dog dandruff and dry skin

Install a Humidifier

If it seems like the dry skin and dandruff only happens during those cold winter months, it’s probably dead skin cells caused by the humidity. Place a humidifier in the room where the dog sleeps. This should take care of the issue within a matter of days.

Increase Fatty Oil Intake

Adding some essential fatty oils such as omega-three fish oil or sunflower oil is a great way to keep your dogs skin from becoming too dry. For small dogs, you can sprinkle a teaspoon of oil onto their food. For larger dogs, you can increase it to a tablespoon. If your dog refuses to eat the food because of the oil (which is unlikely), the next best option is to purchase dry kibble that is higher in essential fatty acids.

Increase Vitamin E

Along with increasing fats, another great way to prevent dry skin and dandruff is to include more Vitamin E in the diet. There are multiple ways to get more Vitamin E into your dog’s system. The first is through gel caps. Try sneaking a gel cap of up to 400 IU into the food. Most dogs will eat it. However, if your dog refuses to eat the gel caps, you can also topically apply Vitamin E. Purchase some lotion that is rich in Vitamin E and apply it as you pet your dog. You can also add coconut oil to the vitamin E to make it even more potent.

Apple Cider Vinegar Before Bath

It seems like apple cider vinegar has a use for everything, doesn’t it? It can even help alleviate skin conditions such as dry and itchy skin for your dog! Apply it in the same way you did with the Vitamin E…gently massage it into their skin. Make sure you bathe them right after unless you want them smelling like vinegar all day!

Keep Your Dog Hydrated

Dehydration causes dry skin (and sometimes flaky skin). If your dog has been sitting out in the sun all day and not drinking water, make sure you fill up the bowl and let them drink as much as they need. If your pooch isn’t a good water drinker (meaning they never drink enough water), try adding some flavor to the water along with some electrolytes to help with hydration.

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Use Oatmeal Based Shampoo

This one might seem obvious, but many dog owners don’t bathe their dogs as much as they should. Don’t let more than 12 weeks go by without bathing your dog. When bathing them, use a very gentle oatmeal based shampoo. Oatmeal seals in the moisture, very similar to what lotion does for humans.

Brush Your Dog Once Per WeekBrushing dogs hair not only prevents dandruff but releases oils to help keep the skin and hair healthy

Most dogs love it when their owners brush them; if you use the right brush, it feels like a massage. But there’s another significant benefit to frequently brushing your dog…it stimulates the skin, which causes an increase in natural oil production. When you brush them, you’re spreading the oil throughout the coat, keeping it as healthy as possible and preventing future skin issues.

Regular Exercise

This is often the overlooked cause of an unhealthy skin and coat. When a dog doesn’t exercise, their entire system (including their immune system) weakens. A weak immune system means an unhealthy coat that is full of dandruff. Even if you can only squeeze in a simple 15-20 minute walk for the day, that’s enough to keep their system running correctly.

As you can tell, there are several causes and solutions for dry skin and dandruff in dogs. If it’s only happening during those cold winter months, it’s probably nothing to worry about. However, if this has turned into a chronic year-round issue, it’s best to seek the advice of a vet. But whatever you do, don’t bust out the Head and Shoulders dandruff shampoo for your dog! Anti-Dandruff shampoo such as Xymox is better PH balanced for your dogs skin.

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