5 Best Dandruff Shampoos for Dogs: Soothe Dry Skin and a Flaky Coat

Relieve itchy skin and dandruff with these shampoos.

Written By: Gemma Johnstone | Last Updated:

While it’s important to understand the underlying cause for dog dandruff, a moisturizing dandruff shampoo can reduce flaky skin and itching. Here are five of the best dandruff shampoos for dogs.

A guide to the best dandruff shampoo for dogs
Dandruff isn’t just a human problem – it can affect dogs too.

A good quality anti-dandruff shampoo can provide relief from itchy and dry skin, while also reducing the amount of canine dandruff on your sofas or carpets.

This article will explain what causes dandruff, how it can be treated, and list five of the best anti-dandruff dog shampoos.

Note: Dog dandruff isn’t something that should be taken lightly. Sometimes it can be a sign of an underlying condition. For recurring or serious cases, you should always seek advice from a vet.

Our #1 Pick

Veterinary Formula Antiseborrheic Medicated

Veterinary Formula Antiseborrheic Medicated

Three active ingredients & colloidal oatmeal

The Veterinary Formula Antiseborrheic shampoo is our top pick in this category. With three active ingredients and colloidal oatmeal, it can be an effective option for reducing white flakes in many dogs.

What is Canine Dandruff?

Canine dandruff is dead skin cells that are proliferating at a faster rate than normal. These small, dry flakes are often white or light yellow. They can gather in your dog’s coat and, depending on coat color and texture, will often only be visible when they fall onto soft furnishings or bedding.

There are two types of dandruff: dry and oily. Dry skin dandruff is more common, but excess oil can also lead to a specific type of dandruff which is accompanied by a distinctive odor.

Dandruff commonly occurs across the whole coat, but it can sometimes be in isolated areas. This is usually a result of an infection, parasite, or localized allergic reaction

While dandruff isn’t always a major problem, the underlying causes can be itchy and irritating. Dandruff may also be accompanied by inflamed skin, scabbing or hair loss.

Example of dog dandruff

What Causes Dog Dandruff and Flaky Skin?

Long-term dandruff is often a sign of an underlying medical condition that may need treatment. In these circumstances, you should seek advice from a vet.

Some conditions that can result in dry and flaky skin include:

  • Allergies. This is one of the most common causes of dandruff. If your dog has an allergic reaction to an environmental allergen, something in their diet, fleas, or even an ingredient in a shampoo, this can lead to dry and irritated skin.
  • Stress. Chronic stress can cause a number of physical symptoms, including dry skin, poor coat health, and dandruff.
  • Seborrhea. This is a specific skin condition that leads to new skin cells forming too quickly. It can be caused by a variety of factors and can be present in oily or dry variety. Seborrhea can lead to a buildup of grease in the coat, alongside a strong odor or flaky dandruff.
  • Cushing’s Disease. This relates to when the body produces too much of the hormone cortisol. It can be a serious condition that requires lifetime treatment. Along with lethargy, excessive thirst and urination, and a variety of other symptoms, it often causes dandruff. 
  • Hypothyroidism. While overactive thyroid in dogs is rare, one symptom is a dry and flaky coat. This will also often be accompanied by hair thinning or loss, a lacklustre coat, excessive weight gain and lethargy. It can require lifetime treatment with oral medication.
  • Skin infections (bacterial or fungal). Bacterial and fungal infections can sometimes lead to dandruff. The fungal infection ringworm can cause patches of hair loss and dry skin, as can yeast dermatitis. These types of infections can often be secondary problems caused by an underlying condition, and it’s important to seek advice from your vet regarding diagnosis and treatment. You may want to look at our page about antifungal dog shampoos.
  • Genetics. Some breeds are predisposed to suffering from particularly dry or oily skin that can lead to dandruff. Breeds like Labradors, West Highland Terriers, Basset Hounds and Dachshunds can be more susceptible.
  • Walking Dandruff. Cheyletiellosis is sometimes called “Walking Dandruff,” but is actually white mites walking across the body. While rare, it’s highly contagious. A specific and repeated medicated treatment will be required to help resolve the problem, alongside treatment of other pets and the house too.

It’s not always a medical condition that causes dandruff though.

Changes in the weather, diet, overbathing, a lack of proper hydration, and even a poor grooming regime can all contribute to dry skin and dandruff. For more information, please read the “What Are Some Other Tips for Getting Rid of Canine Dandruff?” near the bottom of this article.

Is Dandruff The Same as Seborrhea?

Sometimes people refer to seborrhea and dandruff as the same thing, but seborrhea is actually a skin condition that causes dandruff. It’s usually a secondary problem resulting from another medical condition, although some dogs are genetically predisposed to suffer from it.

Dandruff is rarely the primary condition, and it’s important to address the underlying cause to have a good long term prognosis.

What Makes a High-Quality Anti-Dandruff Dog Shampoo?

Because the underlying cause of dog dandruff can vary, the most effective treatment also differs considerably.

Shampoos won’t always be enough, and it’s important to discuss this with your vet. If your dog has an underlying infection, for example, they’ll likely need antibiotics.

If your dog is suffering from general dry skin, however, then shampoos can be an effective solution on their own. They can also provide temporary relief from itchiness and irritation, while the primary condition is treated in other ways.

Effective Anti-Dandruff Ingredients

The key to an effective dandruff dog shampoo is the active ingredient. Some of the most important include:

  • Salicylic Acid. This moisturizes the skin, helping to remove dead skin cells. It also prevents skin cells from clumping together, which can form into flakes and scales. Salicylic acid is one of the most common ingredients found in anti-dandruff shampoos and studies have shown it to have good efficacy.
  • Sulfur. You may also see this listed as Selenium Sulfide. It’s an antifungal that is designed to target yeast developing on the skin, and it can slow down cell production and relieve itching. It should be noted that, with regular use, there is a chance that it can cause hair discoloration. 
  • Benzoyl Peroxide. This has antibacterial properties and has been shown to have hair follicle flushing action. It may even decrease the amount of oil produced by the sebaceous glands, so it could be beneficial when treating oily seborrhea.
  • Coal Tar. This works by slowing down the production of skin cells, and it helps to remove dead skin. It also has soothing properties, which can relieve the itchiness caused by dandruff.

Other Beneficial Ingredients

Alongside active ingredients that are proven to help dandruff, it’s also worth looking for other ingredients that can soothe and moisturize the skin. Improving skin health may reduce the amount of white flakes present in your dog’s coat.

Good examples include aloe vera, coconut oil, shea butter, vitamin E and colloidal oatmeal.

Minimal Substances if Dog Has Allergies

Skin can become irritated due to an allergic reaction. If a shampoo ingredient triggers a reaction, washing could actually make dandruff worse.

For this reason, it’s a good idea to stick with a shampoo that doesn’t have a long list of ingredients. This minimizes the chance of something in the shampoo triggering further irritation or itchy skin.

Medicated dandruff shampoos are always going to have more ingredients that regular dog shampoos though.

Avoid Harsh Artificial Ingredients

For any pet shampoo, I always recommend avoiding too many chemical ingredients.

This is especially important when dealing with a dog with dandruff. Harsh chemicals can dry the skin and cause additional irritation. This risks aggravating the skin even further and making the problem worse.

Try to avoid chemical preservatives like parabens, synthetic sulfate cleansers, and artificial fragrances.

Other Considerations

Don’t be tempted to use your own anti-dandruff shampoo. Dogs have a more alkaline skin than humans, so their shampoos have a different pH. Human shampoos can disrupt the skin’s protective layer, called the ‘acid mantle,’ leading to additional skin issues.

If your dog has oily seborrhea, this can create an unpleasant musty odor. You may want to select a shampoo that has a pleasant natural fragrance to help counteract this. Try to avoid artificial fragrances where possible, as these will be more likely to irritate the skin. 

Also, steer clear of extra strong fragrances in a dog dandruff shampoo. These can be overpowering for your dog, given their powerful sense of smell.

5 Best Dandruff Shampoo for Dogs (Plus Reviews)

Listed below are four dandruff shampoos for dogs that contain medicated active ingredients, plus a gentler hypoallergenic option. Many also have other beneficial ingredients that may help with dandruff.

1. Veterinary Formula Antiseborrheic Medicated Shampoo (Contains Salicylic Acid and Coal Tar)

Veterinary Formula

This is my number one pick for a dandruff shampoo for dogs. It contains several active ingredients, doesn’t have too many ingredients, and also has moisturizing qualities.

The Veterinary Formula shampoo contains coal tar, salicylic acid & micronized sulfur. Studies have shown that using salicylic acid and sulfur together has a bigger effect on dandruff than when they’re used on their own.

Also, if your dog is suffering from a yeast infection that’s causing dry skin, the antifungal properties of sulfur could be beneficial.

The shampoo also contains colloidal oatmeal. Studies have shown this has anti-inflammatory properties, so it can soothe irritation caused by dry skin. It also moisturizes, which helps reduce the dry nature of your dog’s skin and coat.

The final important ingredient is allantoin. This is another gentle and safe ingredient, known for its hydrating, repairing, and soothing properties.

The fragrance isn’t too overpowering, although I wish it listed the actual ingredients rather than just “fragrance.” If you have a dog that suffers from a musty smell due to oily seborrhea, you may want to select a shampoo that has a stronger scent.

For many dogs, however, I think this is the best dog dandruff shampoo.

2. PetMD Benzoyl Peroxide Medicated Shampoo for Dogs

PetMD

PetMD Medicated Shampoo for Dogs contains three active ingredients that have been proven to be effective when treating dandruff. These are benzoyl peroxide, sulfur and salicylic acid. 

If your dog is suffering from oily seborrhea, the benzoyl peroxide may be particularly useful as this reduces the amount of oil produced by the sebaceous glands.

It also contains Tocoheryl Acetate, which is a form of vitamin E. This provides anti-inflammatory and moisturizing benefits.

This shampoo has a relatively long ingredient list. For dogs with sensitive skin or allergies, it will be important to perform a patch test before using across the whole body to ensure it doesn’t trigger a reaction.

The PetMD shampoo also has a fruity fragrance which can help if your dog has a yeasty condition causing an unpleasant smell. The label doesn’t specify what the fragrance is made from though, which is a shame. It also doesn’t contain colloidal oatmeal.

3. PetAg Fresh ‘n Clean Skin & Coat Essentials Dog Shampoo for Dandruff

PetAG

If you’re looking for a medicated shampoo that is largely made up of natural and beneficial ingredients, then the PetAg one could be a good choice.

It only has one active ingredient, but salicylic acid is shown to be beneficial even when not used alongside any other active ingredients. 

Baking soda is also used in this shampoo. This can help to absorb excess oils in cases of oily dandruff. It also acts as an anti-inflammatory and has antifungal properties, which will be helpful when dealing with a yeast infection.

Other ingredients include olive oil and vitamin E, which are natural moisturizers. There’s also aloe vera, which has soothing benefits and helps promote a healthy coat. Even the rooibos tea extract could have a soothing effect, and the shampoo contains zinc which has beneficial anti-itch properties.

The mild, pleasant scent of this shampoo is created from green tea, so there are no chemically derived fragrances. Additionally, the cleansers used in this formula are natural plant-derived ingredients, so they are gentler than chemically derived sulfates. 

A downside is that the shampoo doesn’t generate much lather. You’ll need to thoroughly wet your dog’s coat after application to generate some suds.

4. Hartz Groomer’s Best Anti-Dandruff Shampoo

Hartz Groomer

The Hartz Anti-Dandruff shampoo only contains salicylic acid as the active ingredient. It has a strong fragrance, so if you have a dog that is a bit whiffy as a result of oily seborrhea, it may appeal.

Aside from salicylic acid, the shampoo contains hydrolyzed silk proteins to moisturize the skin and hair. You might find your dog’s coat will feel softer as a result.

While the strong smell is good for covering unpleasant odors, some people and dogs may find it overpowering. It also isn’t broken down on the label to explain what the ‘fragrance’ is made from.

This shampoo does have a fair few chemically derived ingredients and doesn’t contain as many that are known to have soothing and moisturizing properties. This is why it isn’t up at the top of the list.

5. 4-Legger Hypoallergenic Unscented Dog Shampoo

4Legger

This dog shampoo from 4-Legger isn’t specifically designed for dealing with dandruff. It doesn’t contain any of the active ingredients previously mentioned, so it’s not a medicated anti-dandruff dog shampoo.

It’s designed to be gentle and minimize the chance of irritation for dogs with sensitive skin or allergies though. So, if you just want a mild and moisturizing shampoo that won’t be likely to cause dry skin, the 4-Legger could be a good choice.

It only has five ingredients. The coconut oil-based cleansers and olive oil help to moisturize dry skin. The aloe vera also provides anti-inflammatory and antimicrobial qualities, so it could soothe your dog’s skin if it’s irritated.

Jojoba oil is also a good natural moisturizer. For dogs with fungal infections or those with greasy skin problems, this ingredient has antibacterial qualities and is known to help control excess sebum production.

If your dog has suffered from hair loss alongside the dandruff, the rosemary oil in this shampoo could help to stimulate hair growth.

It doesn’t have any added artificial fragrances, and it’s perfect if you don’t want a shampoo with an overpowering scent. The lack of active dandruff ingredient means it’s not the most effective choice unless your dog is suffering from allergies though.

Frequently Asked Questions

Is Dandruff Painful for Dogs?

Dandruff itself isn’t painful, although it can cause itching and irritation.

If an underlying condition is causing dandruff, this could also cause your dog to feel discomfort or pain. You should seek veterinary advice for any prolonged or severe dandruff, especially if other symptoms accompany it.

Is Head and Shoulders Safe for Dogs?

As mentioned earlier, I don’t recommend washing your dog’s hair with anything other than a shampoo specifically designed for dogs – and that includes Head and Shoulders

Human shampoos can contain ingredients that are safe for us but could be toxic or irritants for dogs. They’re also designed for frequent use and for skin that is naturally more acidic than dogs.

Head and Shoulders is also a shampoo that contains a lot of chemical ingredients. This will increase the chance of it causing irritation to your dog’s skin.

What Are Some Other Tips for Getting Rid of Canine Dandruff?

The key to permanently removing dandruff is to solve the underlying problem. Here are some tips for relieving dry skin and eliminating dandruff.

Seek Veterinary Advice

If your dog has been suffering from dry skin for a while, or they have a flare-up that’s causing discomfort, you should always seek advice from your vet. This is even more important if your dog has additional symptoms.

If an underlying health condition is causing dandruff, just using an anti-dandruff shampoo isn’t going to be enough. You could risk your dog becoming very sick if they don’t get a diagnosis and treatment plan in place.

Review Your Dog’s Diet

Choosing a high-quality diet with the right mix of nutrients, vitamins and minerals is important for your dog’s overall health – not just their skin. 

In particular, omega 3 fatty acids can nourish the skin and coat. These are often sourced from fish oils. Vitamins A, E and Zinc also promote healthy skin.

You may want to consider adding small quantities of coconut oil or olive oil to your dog’s diet. In small doses, these could improve the overall condition of your dog’s skin and coat.

It’s important to discuss these supplements with a vet, however, as they may not be suitable for dogs with certain health conditions (such as pancreatitis.)

Consider Changes in Weather and Humidity

In the winter months, a dog’s skin can become dry. This is caused by heated homes and low humidity.

If you’re finding that your dog is struggling with poor skin during the winter months, you may want to consider using a humidifier in the home.

Don’t Forget the Importance of Grooming

Adopting an efficient grooming regime can ensure that dead hairs and debris are lifted from your dog’s coat. This helps prevent a build up that could lead to poor skin condition and possibly dandruff.

Keep Your Dog Well Hydrated

Dehydration is a common cause of dry skin, so always make sure your pet has fresh water available.

If your pooch isn’t a big drinker, you could mix their food with water or make an unsalted broth. You could even try giving them ice-filled treat toys, like Kongs, in warmer weather.

Don’t Bathe Your Dog Too Frequently

Overbathing, especially with shampoos containing harsh chemicals, can dry the skin out and cause irritation.

Ideally, you shouldn’t bathe your dog more than once a month. Always towel dry after a bath, as a hair dryer can dry the skin. Many dogs also find the loud noise to be stressful.

Keep Up to Date With Parasite Treatments

Make sure you regularly treat your dog with a safe and effective anti-parasitic. This prevents fleas and other parasites from making a home in your dog’s coat.

If your dog has a flea allergy, this can lead to severe skin irritation and dandruff. Apart from anything else, you don’t want a flea infestation in your home. They can be difficult to eradicate and cause continuous health problems for your dog.

Are Some Breeds More Prone to Dandruff or Dry Skin?

As explained earlier, some breeds are genetically prone to developing dandruff or dry skin.

Breeds more prone to skin allergies that can result in dry and irritated skin include Labradors, West Highland Terriers, Bull Terriers and Dalmatians.

Breeds like Basset Hounds, Bulldogs, Cocker Spaniels and Poodles are more prone to oily, yeast infections that can result also result in dandruff.

Summary

Dandruff is relatively common in dogs. Sometimes it can be mild and caused by weather temperature, overbathing or dietary issues. More often, however, it’s a symptom of an underlying condition which will need diagnosis and treatment.

Using an anti-dandruff shampoo can sometimes be a solution. These shampoos provide temporary relief, while the underlying issues are being dealt with.

My top pick is the medicated shampoo from Veterinary Formula. It contains three active ingredients that have been proven to be effective when dealing with dandruff. It also contains moisturizing and anti-inflammatory oatmeal and allantoin.

I hope this article has helped you choose the best dandruff shampoo for your dog. If you have any queries about the contents of this article, please reach out using the comments form.

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About The Author: Gemma Johnstone

Gemma is a freelance writer and official dog nut. With 15 years of experience in the pet industry, she is a passionate animal welfare advocate. She has worked for the Scottish Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, ran her own specialist dog shop for ten years, has volunteered for her local rescue shelter, and is studying towards completing an Advanced Diploma in Canine Behaviour. Gemma is currently travelling around Europe with her wonderful rescue dog, Annie.