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.
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.
As you know, like all dogs your Shih Tzu will like to keep clean and will regularly groom themselves 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.
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 is 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 are 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.
Lets first talk about your Shih Tzu’s diet. If you are feeding your dog a quality dog food then they should be getting all the nutrients they need. However, sometimes without knowing it, we can be feeding our dog’s 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 dogs needs and what goes into dog food so you can make an informed decision about the buying the best food you can for your dog. 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 reasons your dog might still be deficient in the nutrients necessary to keep their skin healthy and moisturizes. 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 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 you dog a needed boost of this vital nutrient if necessary.
The first product I will recommend is the Zesty Paws Salmon Bites. 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.
They also include vitamin C, Vitamin E and biotin which all help to give your dog a soft, healthy coat. This is an excellent supplement to use if you are trying to improve your dog’s skin or coat. They have a 4.7 out of 5 star rating on chewy.com and you can read the customer reviews here.
Benefits of Zesty Paws Salmon Bites
- Rich in omega-3 & 6.
- Suitable for dogs of all breeds, ages, and size.
- 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.
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 if a dog’s skin so could be very helpful to remedy a dandruff problem.
A great choice of coconut oil for your Shih Tzu is the Zesty Paws Organic Coconut Oil. It’s derived from 100% certified organic coconut oil and contain 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.
As well as using this 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 in the skin.
- Can be given to dogs of all sizes and ages.
- Excellent customer reviews.
- Made in the USA.
The Zesty Paws Coconut Oil has an excellent 4.8 out of 5 stars on chewy.com and you can read the reviews for yourself here.
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.
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 if 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
My 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 wipe away the hair.
This brush has a good density of bristles that are angled 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. This brush has a 4.3 out of 5 stars om chewy you can read the reviews for yourself here.
- 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.
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 bath 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 bath your dog less than if you lived in a hot, humid climate.
As a general rule of thumb, you should bath 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 have developing oily, fakey 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.
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 of my favourite products.
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.
- 2 Propanol.
Shampoo & Conditioner Recommendations
Earthbath 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 the shampoo in different scents, including vanilla, rosemary and mango.
- 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 or dry or damaged skin.
This Earthbath Shampoo has an excellent 4.8 out of 5 rating on chewy.com and you can check out the reviews for yourself here.
Tropiclean 2-in-1 Dog Shampoo & Conditioner
The Tropiclean 2-in-1 Shampoo and Conditioner is another great choice containing only natural products. The coconut and mango extract help 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 along-side any flea or tick treatments. Being soap-free also means it’s a suitable shampoo for puppies and cats.
- 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.
Tropiclean shampoo and conditioner has an excellent 4.6 out of 5-star rating on chewy.com and you can check out the reviews for yourself here.
Four Legger Lemongrass Dog Shampoo & Conditioner
The shampoo and conditioner from Four Legger contain all-natural ingredients and is certified organic. This product has no detergents, sulfates, 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 essentials oils also help to soothe your dog’s skin. Another advantage of this product is that is has a concentrated formula meaning you don’t have to use as much and it’ll last longer. The gentle formula also means that this shampoo and conditioner 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.
- USDA certified organic.
- No artificial or synthetic ingredients.
- Suitable for all skin types.
- Hypoallergenic (causes fewer allergic reactions).
- Suitable for puppies.
- Concentrated formula.
Four Legger dog shampoo has an excellent 4.5 star on chewy.com and you can check out the reviews for yourself here.
John Paul Pet Oatmeal Conditioning 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. The 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. This conditioner has an excellent 4.6 out of 5-star rating on chewy.com and you can see the reviews for yourself here.
- Leave-in conditioner.
- Almond oil leaves skin nourished and fragrant.
- No animal testing – tested on humans.
- Made in the USA
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 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 diagnoses and advice. However, in most cases, dandruff can be dealt with by improving nutrient and grooming.
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