Why Does My Poodle Have Dandruff? (And What to Do About It)

It’s movie night, and you’re cuddling with your furry best friend, and uh oh, your poodle’s shedding dandruff! He or she may be possibly itching and suffering from scaly skin! As the heroic owner, there are some things to learn to aid your best friend in their suffering.

So, why does my poodle have dandruff? There are several types of dandruff causes. The condition is often referred to as “scaly skin.” The underlying scaly skin condition can range from abnormal skin or hair follicle development to unknown and harmful disorders. When symptoms are present, a veterinarian can run standard tests to determine the cause and treatment.

Because dandruff can be a result of an underlying disorder, it is important to fully investigate this condition and make sure your fluffy friend is going to be well taken care of.

The following sections will delve into the symptoms you may be able to pinpoint, possible causes to look into, and feasible treatments.

Why Do Poodles Get Dandruff?

First and foremost, let’s learn the technical term. Dandruff is a symptom and a subcategory of what is known as “Exfoliative Dermatosis.” This refers to a group of disorders that show symptoms of dandruff or scaling skin. Some poodles may be suffering sebaceous adenitis that does not fall into this category.

Causes of Dandruff in Poodles

According to PetMD (source here), various causes could lead to dandruff. The common causes are excessive shedding, abnormal skin cell accumulation, scaling, or loss of cell adherence.

Sebaceous Adenitis

Unfortunately, poodles and standard poodles are one of the many breeds that are more prone to dry skin conditions causing dandruff and scaling

In many cases with poodles, sebaceous adenitis causes dry skin, and it is oftentimes accompanied by hair loss on the head, back, or neck. Fortunately, sebaceous adenitis will most likely not affect your poodle’s health.

This condition often appears on a poodle between the age of one and five years and is suspected of being an inherited trait. For instance, It is more prominent in apricot-colored poodles.

Dry Skin from Grooming Products

Keep in mind that poodles are regularly-groomed breeds and, therefore, can become sensitive to the excessive exposure of products on their coats. For older poodles, dry skin could be from this sensitivity, or from oil-producing glands lacking in productivity.

If you suspect your grooming product is causing an issue, you may switch to gentler, oatmeal-based products. Once your veterinarian determines the cause of your poodle’s dandruff, you can discuss alternative shampoos.

Diet or Allergies

It’s entirely possible that the cause of your poodle’s dandruff is diet-based or a reaction to an allergy. Again, your veterinarian can determine if this is the case and may recommend adding a healthy oil, such as Omega-3, to your dog’s diet.

There are other causes for dogs to have scaly skin, though. It’s important to consider other root causes to ensure your fluffy friend is not suffering any diseases. We’ll cover potential causes in detail below, and, further on, we’ll talk about treatments for your poodle’s condition.

Underlying Health Issues as the Cause of Poodle Dandruff

This first list includes the primary condition that results in dandruff and scaling on the skin. This is usually biological and the underlying disease. The second list is the second condition, which is most often a result of the primary condition or a consequence of it.

Secondary Conditions
Cause Description and Related
Tumors of the skin Abnormal growths of the tissue.
This could be malignant or benign. This may result in hair loss and
produce scales at the expense of
the damaged skin.
Parasitic infection Unhealthy parasites that infest
the skin. (Some parasites such as
cheyletiellosis the “walking
dandruff,” demodicosis, (and
Bacterial Infection Bacterial infection of the hair
follicles (also due to primary
infections that leave the skin
susceptible to infections)
Skin Inflammation Inflammation caused by a yeast,
Skin infections Evident by the pus formed by
infection (pyoderma)
Hormonal disorders (Also known as Endocrinopathies). Related to the thyroid hormone –
hypothyroidism and excess steroids from the adrenal glands.
Symptoms: This leads to excessive
surface skin cells and pus. Sex
hormone abnormalities may also
lead to excessive scaling
(seen in older dogs due to
natural alterations associated
with aging)
Senior pets with dry, brittle, and
scaly scalp due to hormonal
changes, and oil gland production, and natural alteration in the body.
disorders and
May be caused by malnutrition
and diets consisting of a generic
dog food. This alters the normal
replacement of the shedding skin
cells and results in accumulated
surface skin cells.
Sugar diabetes; Such as the
hormonal disorder, you will see
excessive scaling.
Diseases of the immune
An autoimmune disorder where
the immune system attacks the self.
Increased reactivity to foreign agents on the skin. It could react like
an allergy (pollen allergy, flea bite allergy, and other substances
found in the environment.)

In some cases, the cause remains unknown (idiopathic seborrhea, in which too much oil is produced). As mentioned above, there are symptoms that may be known, such as hyperkeratosis (thickening of the skin), but also do not have a known cause.

Vitamin or Mineral Deficiency

The causes listed below refer to several breeds of dogs, but it is still good to reference and check vitamin and zinc deficiencies for your poodle. Your pet’s skin may be reacting to a poor-quality diet.

  • Vitamin A deficiency – may seem like idiopathic seborrhea but is detected by the response to vitamin A supplements.
  • Zinc deficiency – results in hair loss and accumulation of surface skin cells. There are dry discharges on the surface, and reddening effects are seen around the eyes, ears, feet, lips, and external cavities.

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For more information on these conditions, refer to PetMD or Tri-Country Animal Hospital to reach out to professional help.

Symptoms of Dandruff to Check for on Your Poodle

Symptoms (Physical) Characteristics
Scales (often excessive) Fine white particles (commonly
known as dandruff) and course
scale sheets.
Itchiness Continuously scratches skin
Accumulated scales Accumulation of dry or greasy
patches of scales in localized areas. Often attached to certain areas of
the hair coat.
Excess Scales and Crust on the
nasal planum (a flat area of the
nose) and footpad margins
Dry areas or presence of crusts in
the flat region of nose or footpad
margins. These crusts could signify a secondary bacterial infection.
Hair Loss (alopecia) Random patches of hair loss throughout the pet/poodle’s coat.
Smelly skin Rancid fat odor (common)
Oily skin and hair Hair follicles filled with excess oil and skin cells (comedones).
Debris on coat Accumulation of debris found
adhered to the hair shaft
Candle Wax deposits “candle-wax”-like deposits present on coat/hair.
Nails Nails may also be affected
Skin infection Inflammation and pus due to
secondary infections

Diagnosing Dandruff on Your Poodle

Further on, even if you may not be able to pinpoint a cause, your veterinarian will be able to diagnose your poodle at a deeper level and eliminate or determine the cause of dandruff. It may be a simple cosmetic issue, but it is always important to have her/him checked.

Immediate action needs to be taken for pregnant dogs as medication and treatment options can be limited for maintaining a healthy pregnancy, so make sure to take her to your vet for urgent attention.

As mentioned previously, it will be important to list out your poodle’s health history, and also when you first noticed excessive itching or the appearance of dandruff. The veterinarian will be able to perform a few lab tests and be able to eliminate some of the causes listed above.

Expect the veterinarian to perform standard tests such as complete blood count, biochemistry profile, and urinalysis. Importantly, they will also inspect the skin.

Standard tests Description
Skin scrapings Obtains superficial dead layers of
the skin for testing
Skin biopsy Surgery. A small sample of skin is
removed and tested for
determining the diagnosis. This
method will be able to identify
whether your poodle simply has
sebaceous adenitis.
Skin allergy (intradermal skin
Checks for immediate allergic
reactions by a puncture or scratch
Testing for Ectoparasites Inspecting for skin parasites by
methods of skin scraping, coat
brushing, hair/fur plucking, tape
strip, or serology.
Food elimination trial Prescription diet to diagnose
possible food allergy.

Treatments for Your Poodle’s Dandruff

The most important action is that you are looking into this by researching and learning the condition for your poodle’s health. This is crucial because your fluffy friend will need your TLC regularly to remain healthy and safe from diseases.

Ointments and Shampoo

For Sebaceous Adenitis, some treatments can be disappointing. Often, the conditions can improve or worsen. If the condition is not severe, the poodle may be provided with anti-seborrheic shampoo and fatty acid supplements to lessen the effect.

In most cases, bathing will be necessary to remove the scales, but it will dry the poodle’s skin even more. To compensate, a veterinarian will most likely prescribe a topical medication and a moisturizing ointment.

There are options for hydrating shampoos that you could try switching to. I recommend the Warren London 8oz Butter Combo – Premium Dog Shampoo & Conditioner. If you want to take a closer look on Amazon, click here. This is a natural remedy that you could try if you think it is a minor dry skin condition from the products your poodle is using.

Natural Remedies

Some people recommend natural treatments for pet owners that do not want to add medications to their poodle’s life. Unfortunately, none of these have been scientifically supported as of yet. However, some veterinarians recommend adding omega oil to your poodle’s diet and increasing salmon in their diet to help the skin.

Shampoo and Topical Treatments

Depending on the root cause of the condition, there will be treated depending on the proper diagnosis by your veterinarian. For each primary and secondary condition, it may be necessary to have several treatments to control all conditions.

Most importantly, as mentioned above, topical therapy of applying medicine to the skin of your poodle will be a frequent treatment. Depending on your veterinarian’s prescription, you may have a shampoo that needs to be left on your dog’s body for a certain amount of time (generally ranging from 5 to 15 minutes).

You will need to pay close attention to applying this topical therapy appropriately to retain and maintain your poodle’s skin balance. This is where your TLC will come into play!

There will be various types of topical formulas that will be prescribed at a certain dosage. This will all depend on your dog’s condition, but also his/her scaling and reaction. Here are a few formulas to be familiar with:

Shampoo/Formula What it Does
Sulfur/Salicylic acid Shampoo This softens and loosens the crusts and scales on the skin. This also
slows the growth of bacteria –
bacteriostatic. (Not overly drying
and known for better cell turnover)
Benzoyl peroxide shampoos Stronger option in comparison to
the salicylic acid shampoo. Softens and loosens the crust and scales. It destroys bacteria or slows their
growth and multiplication –
antimicrobial. This shampoo also
flushes out the hair follicles; it may result in severe dryness; therefore, increased irritation. This is best for extreme oiliness and bacterial
infections that are persistent.
Hypoallergenic shampoo Used in mild cases and/or after the primary condition has been
treated and controlled.
Ethyl lactate shampoo For bacterial infection at the hair
follicles and scales, but not as harsh as the benzoyl peroxide shampoo.
Chlorhexidine Chemical antiseptic (which kills or slows the growth of
microorganisms). Used to treat
bacterial infections at the hair
follicles and inflammation
(specifically caused by Malassezia yeast infection).
Tar shampoo Soften and loosens crust and scales on the skin. Decreases itchiness
and a moderate level of grease. The main benefit is for mild scales
paired with itchiness. This product is a carcinogen and not widely
Bacteria control Minimize microbes or bacteria on
the skin; for severe or moderate
bacterial infection


Along with the shampoos, there will be moisturizers mandatory to retrieve the moisture for your poodle’s skin. Additionally, moisturizers increase the effectiveness of the shampoos.

Moisturizer Description
Humectants Attracts water to the skin surface
and enhances hydration. It can be
used to loosen crusts and scales if
Polypropylene glycol
with water)
Must be diluted. Use as directed by your veterinarian
Microencapsulation A moisturizer is in a capsule that is controlled by a sustained release
after bathing.
Emollients Soften and soothes the roughened skin from scaling by coating the

It is important to keep all the areas of treatment sterile. Some of the conditions under the category of Exfoliative Dermatosis can be contagious (Zoonotic Potential).

Without precaution, this could potentially be passed onto your other pets, animals, and yourself. During initial treatment, especially, make sure direct skin contact is minimal and maintain a sterile environment during and after treatment.

Medical Treatments for Dandruff in Poodles

For other diseases that are underlying the dandruff condition, the veterinarian might prescribe medications. As all prescriptions go by the same rule, it is important to follow the schedule the vet sets for the pills to be taken, and also to remain consistent and complete all dosages correctly.

Medication Condition Prescribed For
Antibiotics For cases in which the skin
condition is due to secondary
bacterial infection
Antifungal Drugs For cases in which the skin
condition is due to fungal
Antiparasitic Drugs For removal of parasites on the
skin surface
Supplements For Vitamin A or Zinc deficiencies; The appropriate balance is to be
reached with secondary
Thyroxine For cases in which the skin
condition is due to Hypothyroidism

For most secondary conditions, as listed above (bacterial, fungus, parasitic, nutritional, and hormonal), there may be a requirement for repeated treatments. This may need further testing if persistent.

In some cases, surgical approaches may be necessary. For example, skin tumors, whether cancerous or benign, may be recommended to be removed.

Dietary Treatments

As there are symptoms that rely on your dog’s nutritional reaction and allergies, it is important to pay attention to the food that your dog eats. Besides the natural remedy recommendation, listen to your veterinarian when deciding which dietary modifications are acceptable, and a list of suspected food allergies.

Dietary modifications will be mainly for food allergies and nutritionally related skin disorders (even if supplements may be prescribed).

Commitment is important for your poodle to maintain a successful treatment. Regular bathing and overall treatment with appropriate ointment and topical therapy are key in preventing relapse of the condition. Your love and care are really what helps your poodle cure!

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Brent Hartman

I'm Brent Hartman. I've been a dog lover my entire life and have owned many animals over the years. When my black lab Angus passed away, I was looking for another friend to share my life with. As a result of my research, I've come to love poodles and wanted to share some of what I've learned with you. Whether you're looking to adopt a poodle, or already own one, I created Poodle report to be the ultimate guide to help you find the answers you need.

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