German Shepherd Dogs (GSD) are known for their intelligence and work ethic, sociability, tendency to shed, high energy, and their need for consistent leadership. But, did you know they require a serious long-term commitment for their health and well-being and this commitment extends to special health concerns including skin conditions, and a tendency toward dandruff.

What is Dandruff?

Before we can prevent dandruff in the GSD it is helpful to know what we are preventing and its cause. There are primary and secondary forms and types of dandruff. The primary form is usually an inherited condition and the secondary is typically indicative of an underlying health condition. The most common types are (i) Seborrhea: a skin condition causing flaky skin (dandruff) and greasiness of the skin and hair and can lead to a secondary infection of the skin; and (ii) Cheyletiella Mange (Dog Walking Dandruff): caused by a parasite (Cheyletiella yasguri) that lives on the skin appearing like small skin flakes while moving on the dog.

Symptoms of Dandruff

Dandruff is a sign that your German Shepherd’s skin is dry. You can recognize dandruff by parting your dog’s hair and looking directly at the skin to see if there is dandruff (flakey skin).

Other symptoms may include:

  • Increased scale formation
  • Crusting
  • Excessive greasiness to the skin
  • Greasy hair coat
  • Secondary inflammation
  • Secondary infection
  • Hair loss
  • With or without excess itching


To prevent dandruff, you must first determine the origin or cause. If your dogs’ dandruff is caused by an allergy to food or other external factors such as plants or even in-home air fresheners, disassociation of the dog from the allergen and a strict adherence to eliminating further contact may prevent future episodes.

To determine the allergen source a veterinarian will likely run diagnostic tests beginning with a skin scraping to check for external parasites such as skin mites or plucking hairs from the affected area and culturing for ringworm.

If skin tests result in negative findings, your veterinarian may suspect an underlying skin condition, food or environmental sensitivity, endocrine, or hormonal disorders.  

Tips for preventing or treating dandruff include, but are not limited to, the following:

  1. High-Quality Food: Your GSD needs a certain amount of the good kind of fat in their diet to keep their fur shiny and skin healthy.
  2. Treat for Underlying Diseases: Ask your veterinarian to test for underlying disorders like allergic dermatitis, endocrine disorders (hypothyroidism or Cushing’s disease) and others.
  3. Regular Baths: This can be most helpful in keeping dandruff at bay.  However, be careful not to over-bathe your GSD, as this may cause a change in the pH of the skin.
  4. Medicated Shampoo: There are special anti-dandruff shampoos designed for to help treat dandruff.
  5. Brushing: If you brush your GSD daily it will not only make him feel good and keep the fur smooth, shiny and burr-free, but will also help distribute the coat’s natural oils and massage the skin.
  6. Antifungal treatments: The spectrum of antifungal agents used in dandruff treatments differs between countries. Zinc pyrithione, selenium sulfide, sulfur, and ketoconazole are used in the United States as over-the-counter (OTC) applications, while other regions of the world may also use alternative antifungals such as imidazoles (e.g. climbazole) or hydroxy-pyridones (e.g. piroctone olamine and ciclopirox) either alone or in combination with FDA-registered actives.

If you suspect your GSD may have dandruff, please contact us to determine the cause and plan of treatment.

For more information about German Shepherds or if you’re looking for a German Shepherd puppy, please contact us here. In addition, Misty Ridge boards all dogs & cats at their animal resort in Maryland.