Best Shampoos for Dogs with Dandruff and Dry Hair in 2021

Here’s another thing you and your dog may share in common: dogs can have dandruff. Dandruff is dead, flaky skin, often accompanied by mild itching. It can have different causes but it’s not usually a serious problem by itself. Even if it’s not terribly harmful, most people don’t want their dogs to have dandruff any more than they want to have dandruff themselves. Once again, there are some excellent shampoos that can rescue your dog from those white flakes – and we don’t mean Head & Shoulders!

What causes dog dandruff?

The most common cause of dandruff is dry skin. Dogs can have dry skin for all kinds of reasons from serious illnesses to living in a home with dry winter heat. If you live in a place with low humidity, that can cause some dogs to develop dry skin which can lead to dandruff.

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A dog’s dry skin can also be caused by a serious health problem such as Cushing’s disease or hypothyroidism so dry skin is nothing to take lightly.

Other causes of dandruff can include allergies; cheyletiella mites (“walking dandruff”); shampooing too often or using harsh shampoos; not cleaning your dog thoroughly when you bathe him;  having sensitive skin; having oily skin (sebaceous secretions); fungal and bacterial infections; dehydration; microorganisms such as some kinds of yeast; and even inadequate nutrition. Even obesity can cause dry skin and dandruff in some cases.

Some dogs that have seasonal allergies such as allergies to pollen. These dogs can have scaling, flaky skin at certain times of the year.

Signs of dandruff

Along with dead flakes of skin – which can be either dry or oily, depending on the causes – there are some other signs that your dog has a dandruff problem. Dogs often itch and scratch. Some dogs can lose hair or even develop bald spots. In some places the skin may look thicker than normal. Some places on the skin can have pimples, bumps, or scabs. If your dog is showing these signs you should see your veterinarian because he could have a condition other than simple dandruff.

Some breeds can be more prone to dandruff. For example, Labrador Retrievers have a somewhat oily coat and they can be prone to an oily dandruff. German Shepherds and Doberman Pinschers can tend to have a dry dandruff.

The best shampoo for dandruff

If your dog has a few occasional flakes because he has some dry skin in the winter, you can usually buy a good moisturizing shampoo that will take care of the problem. Add some fish oil to your dog’s diet and a humidifier to your home and your dog’s skin should be smooth and supple again very soon. The same treatment is also good for you if you have dry skin in the winter.

However, if your dog has a more serious case of dandruff, we recommend a good shampoo made especially to treat dandruff.

Veterinary Formula Clinical Care Antiparasitic & Antiseborrheic Shampoo is made especially for dogs with dandruff. It contains coal tar which is often used in human dandruff shampoos. Coal tar slows down bacterial growth and it relieves scaling, itching, flaking, and drying of the skin. Along with dandruff, this shampoo can be used to treat dermatitis, seborrhea, mange, and other parasitic or bacterial infections. Colloidal oatmeal and the compound Allantoin soothe and heal your dog’s skin. This shampoo should be used two or three times per week until your dog’s skin condition improves and you can reduce the frequency of the baths. It contains no soap, dyes, or parabens. We think this shampoo is a good choice if your dog has a more serious case of dandruff.

Ways to keep dandruff away

If your dog has ongoing problems with dandruff, try the following

  • Groom your dog regularly. Brushing your dog on a regular basis is a good way to remove those dead flakes and stimulate the growth of healthy skin and coat. Brushing your dog thoroughly a couple of times per week can do a lot to help keep dandruff away.
  • Bathe your dog on a regular basis. Most dogs need a bath about once a month. Use a good quality moisturizing shampoo. Products that are organic or plant-based are usually gentle and soothing to a dog’s skin. As long as your dog doesn’t need a special dandruff shampoo, these products are a good way to keep his coat clean and hydrated.
  • See a veterinarian about your dog’s dandruff if necessary. If your dog is showing hair loss, bald spots, bumps, or thickening of the skin in some places, these can be indications that your dog has other issues besides just dandruff. It’s a good idea to visit your veterinarian to see what’s  going on with your dog.
  • Check your dog’s diet to make sure he’s getting enough fatty acids. Omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids are important for your dog’s skin and coat. Many people add fish oil (such as a soft gel) to their dog’s diet to make sure he is getting plenty of omega-3. Make sure your dog is eating a good quality dog food that meets all of his nutritional needs. If necessary, change to a better quality food.


Dandruff has many causes and it can be itchy and uncomfortable for your dog. If your dog has dandruff, brushing and bathing him are important steps to solving the problem. A good moisturizing shampoo can help many dogs who have a case of dry skin. If your dog has a more serious case of dandruff, don’t hesitate to use a good shampoo made specifically to treat your dog’s dandruff. And no Head & Shoulders!

Carlotta Cooper

Carlotta is a long-time contributing editor for the weekly dog show magazine Dog News. She's also the author of The Dog Adoption Bible, the Dog Writers Association of America Award winner for 2013. In addition, she's written Canine Cuisine: 101 Natural Dog Food & Treat Recipes to Make Your Dog Healthy and Happy.

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