Dandruff, the age-old tussle between healthy hair and the obnoxious dandruff continues. Dandruff is not only a sign of unhealthy hair-skin balance but also is somewhat unpleasant to the eye. Dandruff is found in our pets too. Yes, it is quite surprising to know that, our dearest pets too can face the agony of bad-skin, bad-hair [fur] days. Depending upon the type of fur-skin colour, it becomes quite easy to spot skin infections or dandruff related damage in some of the lighter coated furry paws as compared to others. In today’s blog, we aim to bring forward some of the facts and features of dandruff in pets. Let’s get started.
INFO & FACTS: WHAT IS DANDRUFF?
Dandruff is also termed as seborrheic dermatitis which means inflammation of skin which is a common, noncontagious, easy-to-manage skin condition. Let us break this down into simpler terms. Seborrhoea refers to a kind of skin disease which is characterized by a defect in keratinization/ cornification of the outer layer of the skin, hair follicles, or claws. To further break this big chunk of information down into a small bite size piece, keratinisation is a process wherein the protective outer layer of skin is being constantly renewed by new skin cells. We shed and we grow new skin layer every single day!
Fun Fact: Every minute of the day we lose about 30,000 to 40,000 dead skin cells off the surface of our skin. So just in the time it took you to read this far, you’ve probably lost about 40,000 cells
But wait, why do we shed skin in the first place? Skin is made up of cells, which have a certain life span, after which they are replaced by newer younger cells to take over the functioning. Coming back to our mighty dandruff, this seborrhoea results in increased scale formation, occasionally causing excessive greasiness of the skin and hair coat, which often leads or paves its path to secondary inflammation and infection.
WHAT ARE THE CAUSES, SIGNS AND SYMPTOMS?
Unlike humans, sometimes this infection can manifest itself in a cryptic form, i.e., it does not manifest or occur in large scale such that we may overlook into this matter. On the other hand, sometimes infection is widespread and quite rampant spread of disease may overestimate the problem of dandruff. Let us now understand the causes behind this.
- The Madness of Malassezia: Our skin harbours many different types of bacterial cells which have a whole different role-functioning to do. They are usually harmless creatures which help our body to ward off pathogenic bacteria, maintenance of host immune homeostasis, and skin health. These skin microbial community are a part of multifunctional ecosystem. As these good or colony bacteria reside on the skin surface, they do not particularly cause any ruckus. Malassezia belonging to the fungal genus is too, part of this ecosystem. In case of seborrheic dermatitis, this Malassezia overgrows thereby triggering the immune system, leading to an inflammatory response that results in skin changes. Also, it is interesting to note that, due to any breech in skin continuity [thanks to secondary bacterial infections, low immunity, etc.] these good commensals end up invading our tissue [or skin tissue to be precise], as a result, they end up causing you-know-it: Dandruff!
- THE STRESS STRUGGLE: Stress does no good to our health, both at the levels of physical health as well as mental health. Stress is one of the factors which hampers the Immunity of your pets tremendously. Sudden stress will lead to the release of adrenaline that will suppress the immune response. Long term stress causes release of cortisol, which is also immunosuppressive at high levels. Any kind of physical or emotional stress affects your pets, for example – sudden change of atmosphere and environment, severe weather changes (extreme high temperature, extreme low temperature), travelling, excessive handling, trauma, illness, pregnancy, boarding, etc. Stress essentially lowers down the guard wall of protection, which paves a clear road for secondary infections to kick in. one of the complications of lowered immunity and stress is skin infections: Bacterial and fungal mixed infections which again lead to seborrheic dermatitis- dandruff!
- HAMPERED HARMONY OF HARMONES: Hormones are the core team which works silently in background, helping us to thrive, smile and survive! Yes, hormones do have a role to play in overall skin health as well. Alopecia and dermatosis are some examples of skin disorders related to an imbalance of reproductive hormones. Also, thyroid hormone imbalance can cause symmetrical loss of fur [hair] and also cause loss of fur in the tail region of the dog. Such a tail is commonly referred to as rat-tail or rat-tail appearance pertaining to thyroid-related disorders.
- HARSH SOAPS/SHAMPOOS: Human soaps and shampoos are not that great as dogs have a different kind of skin and they have fur instead of hair [like us humans] so needless to mention, it is not a good idea to use human soaps and shampoos ideally. Sometimes, although rare, some pets may not adapt well to certain veterinary products like shampoos etc. it is totally understandable that no two living beings are the same and some pets may react positively while others not so positively to a given substance. Hence, keep an eye out on any reactions such as redness of skin or shedding of fur excessively beyond normal limits.
- WEATHER CHANGES: Atmosphere too plays a pivotal role in maintaining skin health. Cold weather can make the skin coat dry which if coupled with weak immunity can lead to dermatitis. Also, if the skin or fur stays damp or cold for considerably long time, fungal-bacterial mixed dermatitis may ensue. These are some of the factors which could potentially be triggering point for the whole drama of dermatitis and dandruff.
The signs and symptoms which could be observed in cases of dandruff or seborrheic dermatitis are:
- Itchy skin: Intensive itching is a common feature in cases of seborrheic dermatitis
- Flaky skin: Due to loss of normal microflora on the surface of skin, there is a good chance that the skin loses its natural qualities and end up becoming dull and flaky. You may notice flakes on your pets’ bedding, areas where your pet lies down for a long span of time, etc. Good and normal healthy skin is smooth, soft whereas a good and normal fur is soft to touch, lustrous to sight, smooth to feel.
- Loss of fur or alopecia: Alopecia essentially means loss of hair/fur. Now we have established this fact that immunity is the main hero of the drama wherein good microflorae are the smart background actors. Due to infections and immunity getting disturbed, there is a good chance that the skin integrity is temporarily lost leading to alopecia. Alopecia or loss of fur could be bilaterally symmetrical or in patches or it could be so diffused which makes it difficult to categorize the type of alopecia and fit it into a box of options.
- White speckles: As we know in case of human-dandruff, there are white speckles which could be noticed easily. Similarly, we may notice these speckles on our pets’ coats. Also, bedding, contrast mats or carpets could essentially provide us with this information that indeed, our pets are suffering from dandruff.
However, it is essential to note that not always do we see such clear-cut signs and symptoms. Sometimes yes, there is a diffuse spread of infection or dermatitis which makes it difficult to ignore or overlook. But sometimes, there is a good chance we may not notice such dandruff-related issue since the amount of infection or the load of infection is on the lower side of the spectrum scale. But it is again not that hard to miss out on since we all love to give our pets belly-scratches and petting them every now and then for being a good boy or a good girl!
IT’S A WRAP FOR DANDRUFF: TACKLING THE ISSUE OF DANDRUFF SWIFTLY
- Medicated Baths: Giving a bath to our furry friends can be quite a challenge! Some petsenjoy and love water and just live in the moment while taking baths while some, just let’s just say are not-that-fond of bathing and detest the very idea of water being anywhere near them. Either way, bathing is not an option, it is a necessity and an essential core of living! For skin related issues, apart from oral medication [if indicated in severe dermatitis or skin infections] bathing is one of the curative treatments for the same. Me & My Anti-Dandruff Shampoo is one such homeopathic shampoo which helps to fight the dandruff issue swiftly. With itchy skin, dry skin or flaky skin, it’s a wrap for all these issues with a natural shampoo- Me & My Anti-Dandruff Shampoo.
- Skin Supplements: Omegra-3 Fatty acids and zinc are some of the essential supplements which help us to cater to the needs of good-healthy skin management. These supplements are coupled with anti-fungal/ anti-bacterial sprays and oils which are to be applied and massaged on the skin especially the affected areas.
- Oral Medications: Medicines such as anti-fungal drugs or anti-bacterial drugs or anti-itching/inflammation can be warranted in cases of infections which are at their worst behaviour. For milder or moderate infections, oral drugs are usually skipped since there is no need to unnecessarily put our dogs through a rigorous regime of antibiotics and related drugs. Simple medicated baths can do wonders in milder forms of infections, whereas, in bad infections these medicines are coupled up with skin-fur supplements such as omega acids or zinc [syrups or tablets] along with medicated baths to tackle the issue of infections.
Infections can spread rather quickly especially when they are of skin. To ensure that your pets are not undergoing series of skin-fur issues, make sure that you are adopting good managemental practices and giving your pets bath every couple of weeks with good shampoo or soap specific to dogs. Use of non-veterinary products can provide a good scope for unwanted skin issues to flare up. Keep a close eye in case of reactions or adverse reactions to be precise in case of shampoos if they are not well adapted by your pets. Skin infections are easy to tackle in earlier stages and hence, ensure that your furry paw is paying a visit to his local vet as soon as you notice some changes which are not normal in your pets’ fur or skin or paws. It’s an easy road, with apt diagnosis and prompt treatment.
With Me & My Anti-Dandruff Shampoo – IT’S A WRAP FOR DANDRUFF!