Grooming, Health

Shih Tzu Dandruff – Symptoms, Causes & Treatments

shih tzu skin problems dandruff


Shih Tzu – Dandruff – Symptoms, Treatment & Cures


In this article, we will talk about dandruff and flaky skin issues that your Shih Tzu might be suffering from. We will discuss what dandruff is, what causes it, and what treatments are available. I will also recommend some quality treatment products that can help remedy your dog’s dandruff problem.


Article Contents



What Is Dandruff?


Before we get into talking about the treatments for dandruff I would first like to explain exactly what it is and what causes it. I always feel that if you know the cause of something you will be able to make a more informed decision about how to remedy the problem.


Dandruff is simply skin cells that have died and are shredded to be replaced by new cells. Unless you’ve been very lucky most of us have experienced our own dandruff at some point either from our heads or dry skin in general and it’s the exact same process in dogs.


shih tzu dandruff


As you know, like all dogs your Shih Tzu will like to keep clean and will regularly groom itself by licking their skin clean of any dead skin or other unwanted contaminants. So if you are noticing a lot of dandruff on your dog it could be a sign of a problem.


Excessive dandruff can have a variety of causes including an underlying illness, a possible skin problem caused by allergies or environmental toxins, or inadequate grooming.


As I always recommend if you feel something is wrong and that your Shih Tzu is not as healthy as possible you should always visit your vet immediately for a professional diagnosis.


Symptoms Of Dandruff


  • Coat Thinning & Bald Spots.
  • Scratching & Chewing.
  • Redness & Inflammation.
  • Skin Odor.


Dandruff in dogs is a common issue that may arise due to poor grooming habits, genetics, environmental factors, or health problems.


Symptoms of dandruff may include excessive shedding due to dry skin, flakes visible on the dog’s coat, and patches of completely bald spots on areas such as the back or stomach.


If your Shih Tzu has any of these telltale signs, it is important to take them to the vet in order to get a professional opinion and treatment plan.


Left untreated, dandruff can create other uncomfortable skin ailments such as itching and rashes. Furthermore, if allergies are at play, it can lead to even more severe issues for your dog.


Early detection and appropriate care are essential for optimal pet health.


Causes Of Dry Skin & Dandruff


  • Underlying Illness – If your Shih is suffering from another illness or just feeling a bit under the weather, they might start to look a bit unkempt and can develop a greasy coat, dry skin, and dandruff.
  • Arthritis – Sadly, as your dog gets older they are more likely to develop arthritis. This can be an uncomfortable or even painful condition for your dog and therefore making grooming themselves more difficult. This can lead to less dead skin being removed and an increase in dry skin and dandruff.
  • Pain – If your dog is in pain they may spend less time grooming themselves and for the same reasons as above if they spend less time grooming then they could be an increase in dandruff.
  • Skin Infections – A skin infection can be caused by bacteria, yeast, or fungus and will usually have the symptom of dry, flaky skin, causing excessive dandruff.
  • Mites, Lice, & Fleas – These parasites can be a very uncomfortable experience for your Shih Tzu and can lead to excessive scratching and itching causing flaky skin and dandruff. Fortunately, they are easy to diagnose and treat.
  • Allergies & Food Intolerance – This cause can be a bit more difficult to diagnose and usually take some patience and perseverance to find the allergen or specific food that is causing the problem. An allergy could come from either your Shih Tzu’s food or from something environmental. If you suspect this is a possibility you should see your vet immediately for professional advice.
  • Hormonal Disease – Some hormonal diseases such as hypothyroidism and Cushings disease can often affect your dog’s skin.


So now you have a better idea of what may be causing your dog’s dandruff you are in a much better position to get the problem diagnosed and cured with the correct treatment.


We all know how expensive a visit to the vet can be so you might want to try out some other remedies before visiting your vet. However, if your dog’s skin is excessively dry or developing scaling or if your dog looks to be uncomfortable or in pain, then please visit your vet immediately.


Below I will discuss the different treatments for curing your Shih Tzu’s dry skin.


Treatments For Dandruff


Most dry skin and dandruff problems in dogs are caused by an underlying health issue, bathing and grooming issues, a nutritional deficiency, or an allergy issue. Fortunately, dandruff is something that can be dealt with.


If you have determined from your vet that your Shih Tzu does not have a more serious underlying health problem and is receiving the proper treatment, then the most common reason will be one of the following:


  • Nutritional Deficiency – particularly a lack of omega-3 essential fatty acids.
  • Poor Grooming – either too many or too few baths or using poor quality shampoos.


Nutritional Deficiency


Let’s first talk about your Shih Tzu’s diet. If you are feeding your dog quality dog food then they should be getting all the nutrients they need. However, sometimes without knowing it, we can be feeding our dogs inferior quality food and denying them the essential nutrients they need to stay healthy.


So I would firstly recommend taking a little time to learn about what nutrients your dog needs and what goes into dog food so you can make an informed decision about buying the best food you can for your Shih Tzu. We have an excellent article that will go through all this and give you the knowledge you need to know how to choose the correct food. You can read our here – How To Choose The Best Food For A Shih Tzu.


However, for some reason, your dog might still be deficient in the nutrients necessary to keep their skin healthy and moisturized. This could be for a metabolic or genetic reason or because the more expensive quality food is just too expensive. 


A great way to provide this missing nutrient is to use supplements. And when it comes to your dog’s skin the most important nutrient is an omega-3 essential fatty acid and the balance between omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids.


Benefits Of Omega-3


  • Cell Maintenance.
  • Organ Health.
  • Glossy Coat.
  • Healthy Skin.
  • Improved Immune System.
  • Joint Support.
  • Reducing Allergic Reactions.


As you can see from the list above there are many benefits of having omega-3 in your dog’s diet and many of them are related to the health of your Shih Tzu’s skin. If you would like to read more about the benefits of supplements for your dog’s coat then please read our article – Best Supplements For A Shih Tzu’s Coat.


One of the best sources of omega-3 comes from fish and there are many supplements out there that can help give your dog a needed boost of this vital nutrient if necessary.


Zesty Paws Wild Alaskan Salmon Oil


zesty paws salmon oil


best choiceThe first product I will recommend is the Zesty Paws Wild Alaskan Salmon Oil. I often recommend vitamins and supplements from this brand as their products only use natural ingredients and always have excellent reviews. This product is produced from wild Alaskan salmon and is rich in omega-3 and omega-6.


These fatty acids are a perfect supplement if your dog has dry skin, a dull coat, shedding issues, hot spits, and other skin irritations.


zesty paws salmon oil


This is a great supplement for dogs. As well as being a great supplement for improving your Shih Tzu’s skin and coat, it can also help with the health of bones and joints, heart health, and an improved immune system.



Benefits of Zesty Paws Salmon Bites


  • Rich in omega-3 & 6.
  • Suitable for dogs of all breeds, ages, and sizes.
  • Contains DHAgold (algae-sourced fatty acid).
  • Vitamin C for antioxidant support.
  • Gives coats a softer texture and silky sheen.
  • Improves overall skin health.
  • Help with joint support.
  • Regulates cardiovascular function.
  • Boosts the immune system.
  • Improves energy levels.


Check The Price On Amazon


Organic Coconut Oil


Another good supplement you might consider giving your Shih Tzu to improve their skin is coconut oil. Adding coconut oil to your dog’s diet or directly on the skin will provide some extra healthy fats.


However, it doesn’t contain a lot of omega-3 fatty acids so it should be added alongside another supplement that can provide this. The healthy fats in coconut oil have been shown to improve the moisture and overall health of a dog’s skin so could be very helpful to remedy a dandruff problem.



Vivanaturals Organic Coconut Oil


coconut oil


A great choice of coconut oil for your Shih Tzu is Vivanaturals Organic Virgin Coconut Oil. It’s derived from 100% certified organic coconut oil and contains a healthy, clean source of vitamins and fatty acids. It will help promote healthy skin and coat, benefit digestion, and help boost your dog’s immune system. 


 coconut oil


As well as using this as a dietary supplement and putting it straight into your dog’s food you can also directly massage it into their skin. As we are trying to solve the problem of dandruff I would recommend massaging it directly into the skin.




  • Derived from 100% certified organic coconuts.
  • Healthy source of vitamins and fats.
  • Promotes healthy skin.
  • Can be used as a dietary supplement or directly on the skin.
  • Can be given to dogs of all sizes and ages.
  • Excellent customer reviews.
  • Made in the USA.


Check The Price On Amazon


Grooming Issues


So as I mentioned above if you have eliminated any underlying health condition then dandruff is most likely caused by either a nutritional deficiency or a grooming issue. In this section, I would like to talk about poor grooming and some solutions and treatments that are available to remedy your Shih Tzu’s dandruff problem. 


For an in-depth look into how to thoroughly groom your Shih Tzu you might like to read our article: How To Groom A Shih Tzu.


The main reasons for dandruff associated with poor grooming are:


  • Not grooming often enough – especially brushing.
  • Not bathing your Shih Tzu often enough.
  • Bathing your Shih Tzu too much.
  • Using a poor quality harsh shampoo.


A lack of proper grooming will lead to a build-up of dead skin beneath your dog’s coat. This is particularly important for double-coated breeds like the Shih Tzu. If this dead skin isn’t continuously removed then flaking will take place as the dead skin mixes with the undercoat. And of course, the more dead skin in your dog’s coat the more dandruff they will have. This is the main reason that regularly brushing your Shih Tzu will help to keep their skin healthy.


I would strongly recommend purchasing a slicker brush if don’t already have one. A slicker brush is used to get rid of any loose hair and debris in your dog’s coat and is also useful for removing tangles and mats. It’s a must for any Shih Tzu owner. Below I have recommended a good quality slicker brush and if you would like to read about what brushes you should be using on your Shih Tzu then please read our article – Best Brush For A Shih Tzu.



Hertzko Self Cleaning Slicker Brush


hertzko grooming slicker brushhertzko grooming slicker brush


best choiceMy best choice award for a slicker brush for your Shih Tzu goes to the Hertzko Self-Cleaning Slicker Brush. This is an excellent brush for the price and provides excellent value for money. A great feature of this brush is that it’s self-cleaning. You simply click a button that retracts the teeth and then wipes away the hair.


This brush has a good density of bristles that are angled so as not to cause discomfort for your dog when brushing. It has a strong, comfortable anti-slip handle that helps towards avoiding wrist strain when brushing for longer periods.




  • Suitable for all hair types.
  • Fine bent bristles for comfort.
  • Good bristle density.
  • Easy to clean with a self-cleaning button.
  • Strong, comfortable grip.
  • Anti-slip handle.
  • Amazon Choice award.
  • Excellent rating & reviews.


Check The Price On Amazon




Both not bathing your Shih Tzu enough and bathing them too often can lead to dry, flakey skin and dandruff – although not bathing your dog enough is a far more common reason. There is no hard and fast rule about how often you should bathe your dog. Some dogs hardly need to be bathed at all while others will need more attention.


For example, if you live in a cool, dry climate you will need to bathe your dog less than if you lived in a hot, humid climate. 


As a general rule of thumb, you should bathe your dog as soon as they need it. You’ll know when your Shih Tzu needs a bath by the condition of their skin and coat – are they starting to feel greasy? Are they developing oily, flakey skin? are they starting to smell? We all know when our dog needs a bath.


It’s important to get the balance right. Bathing your dog every day is too much and can have a detrimental effect causing dryness in the skin and coat. But never bathing your pet, on the other hand, will cause a build-up of dead skin and hair, and dandruff.



Using The Right Shampoo


The Shih Tzu has a double coat. This is made up of an outer coat and an inner coat and they both have different purposes. The outer coat gives your dog protection from the environment while the inner coat is a more dense layer that helps insulates your dog keeping them warm when it’s cold.


shampoo shih tzu skin allergies


To give this double coat a good clean and prevent the build-up of any dandruff you’ll need 3 essential products – shampoo, conditioner and a leave-in spray. If you know what to look for and what to avoid when choosing these products you’ll leave your Shih Tzu with a healthy, silky, glowing coat – and skin that is well moisturized and free from debris like dandruff.


I will briefly mention what to look for and what to avoid in shampoos and conditioners below but I would recommend you read our in-depth article on choosing the right shampoo and conditioner for your Shih Tzu so you can make a more informed decision when choosing what products you’ll use. I’ll also give some recommendations for my favorite products.


best shampoo for shih tzu


What To Look For In A Good Quality Shampoo


  • Correct Cleaning Agent.
  • The Right pH Balance.
  • Damaging Your Dog’s Coat.
  • Chemicals And Low-Quality Ingredients.


What To Avoid


  • Artificial Colouring (D&C, FD&C, Yellow 5).
  • Cocamide (DEA or MEA).
  • Cocamidopropyl Betaine.
  • Diazolidinyl Urea.
  • Imidazolidinyl Urea.
  • Quaternium 15.
  • Formaldehyde.
  • Isopropyl/Isopropanol.
  • 2 Propanol.
  • Propyl.
  • Methylchloroisothiazolinone.
  • Paraben.
  • Phthalate.
  • Phosphates.


Shampoo & Conditioner Recommendations


Earthbath All Natural Shampoo & Conditioner


earthbath shih tzu shampoo

earthbath shih tzu conditioner


best choiceEarthbath shampoo and Earthbath conditioner are made from all-natural and biodegradable products. It doesn’t contain DEA, perfumes, synthetic dyes, or any harsh chemicals that could affect either your Shih Tzu or the environment. This is a good product for hair that is rather oily and also helps to promote healthy skin.


The shampoo can also help to heal areas of dry or damaged skin. It will also add moisture to your dog’s skin that helps to create a nice shiny coat. This brand also provides shampoo in different scents, including vanilla, rosemary, and mango.


Best Features:


  • All-natural and biodegradable ingredients.
  • Variety of scents.
  • Hypoallergenic formula.
  • Suitable for sensitive skin and allergies.
  • PH 7.
  • Reasonable prices.
  • No chemicals.
  • Helps to heal areas of dry or damaged skin.


Check The Price On Amazon


Tropiclean 2-in-1 Dog Shampoo & Conditioner


       tropiclean shih tzu shampoo1 


The Tropiclean 2-in-1 Shampoo and Conditioner is another great choice containing only natural products. The coconut and mango extract helps to separate tangled fur allowing you to easily brush out any knots. While the kiwi and papaya nourish and moisturize the fur and skin leaving your Shih Tzu looking and smelling great.


This shampoo is soap-free so you can use it alongside any flea or tick treatments. Being soap-free also means it’s a suitable shampoo for puppies and cats.


Best Features:


  • Natural ingredients.
  • Gentle formula.
  • Long-lasting fragrance.
  • Does not strip your dog’s fur.
  • Prevents tangling & matted fur.
  • Reasonably priced.
  • No parabens, sulfates, mineral oils, phthalates, or artificial dyes.
  • Excellent rating and reviews.
  • Safe for puppies.

Check The Price On Amazon


Four Legger Lemongrass Dog Shampoo & Conditioner



The shampoo from Four Legger contains all-natural ingredients and is certified organic. This product has no detergents, sulfates, or synthetics and it naturally deodorizes and moisturizes. The lemongrass and aloe vera ingredients can cleanse the skin of all types so is perfect if your Shih Tzu suffers from sensitive skin.


The organic and essential oils also help to soothe your dog’s skin. Another advantage of this product is that it has a concentrated formula meaning you don’t have to use it as much and it’ll last longer. The gentle formula also means that this shampoo is hypoallergenic meaning you can also use this product on dogs that suffer from allergies.


This is a great biodegradable, sustainable, cruelty-free, vegan, and eco-friendly product.


Best Features:


  • USDA certified organic.
  • Chemical-free.
  • No artificial or synthetic ingredients.
  • Suitable for all skin types.
  • Hypoallergenic (causes fewer allergic reactions).
  • Suitable for puppies.
  • Concentrated formula.


Check Four Legger Shampoo on Amazon


John Paul Pet Oatmeal Conditioning Spray


 shih tzu shampoo spray


John Paul Conditioning spray is another great choice to help with tangled fur. It’s a leave-in conditioner and contains thirteen conditioning agents, including aloe, chamomile, and panthenol. Almond oil helps to condition the skin and also leaves a nice fragrance.


John Paul is a well-known and trusted brand, testing all their products on humans first meaning there is no animal cruelty involved with the production and manufacturing of their products. 


shih tzu shampoo spray


Best features:


  • Leave-in conditioner.
  • Almond oil leaves skin nourished and fragrant.
  • No animal testing – tested on humans.
  • Made in the USA


Check The Price On Amazon


For more information on Shampoos and Conditioners for your Shih Tzu please read our article – Shih Tzu Shampoo And Conditioner: How To Choose The Right One.




I hope this article has been useful for you and you are now in a better position to tackle your Shih Tzu’s dandruff problem. As I’ve mentioned a few times in this article if your dog seems uncomfortable or unhealthy in any way you should visit your vet immediately for a professional diagnosis and advice.


However, in most cases, dandruff can be dealt with by improving nutrition and grooming.


To learn more about the things discussed in this article you might like to read some of these other articles:


How To Choose The Best Food For A Shih Tzu

Best Supplements For A Shih Tzu’s Coat

Best Brush For A Shih Tzu

Shih Tzu Shampoo & Conditioner – How To Choose The Right One

How To Groom A Shih Tzu At Home


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