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Dandruff - Dry Skin

Yorkie Dandruff and Flaky Skin


This section is going to cover the issue of a Yorkshire Terrier being prone to dandruff issues. The medical term for dandruff is seborrhea.

While this problem is very common among humans, many owners do not know that some canines breeds can develop dandruff as well and it is not until small white flakes are seen over and over on the coat that the question of 'can a Yorkie really get dandruff?' comes into play.

Dandruff refers to the shedding of dead skin cells from the skin, which flake off onto the hair. The element flecks of skin dying off and then releasing from the body happens to all dogs (and all humans). 
This officially becomes known as the issue of dandruff when a larger than normal amount of cells die and then flake off.

One flake is too small for the human eye to see, however when a large amount sheds off at one time, they tend to clump together which produces the cumulative effect of larger flakes that one can see.

Therefore, while the evidence of this can be seen on a Yorkie's coat, it is not a hair issue at all; it is a skin disorder.
Like humans, the canine body is constantly renewing itself. Each day thousands of microscopic cells die and fall off of the skin. When a Yorkie suffers from dandruff, the amount ranges from triple to 10 times the normal number. 
It should be noted that dandruff is different than dander. Dander is also the flaking of dead skin cells; though they are infinitesimally smaller- often drifting through the air- and it does not lead to any substantial amount that would be mistaken for dandruff. 

Additionally, dander is what causes humans to be allergic to certain animals. 

This is also why despite being labeled hypoallergenic, since the Yorkshire Terrier does produce some dander, it is possible for someone to be allergic to the puppy or dog.

Let's learn more about Yorkie dandruff and learn steps that you can take to treat this.

Why Some Yorkies Develop Dandruff

While cases of dandruff can be found among all canine breeds, it is much more common with those in the Terrier group. Therefore the Yorkshire Terrier, Scottish Terriers, West Highland Terriers, Fox Terriers, and Cairn Terriers are among the top breeds to suffer from this disorder.

Keratinocytes is the body's production of the outermost layer of skin called the epidermis. When a dog suffers with dandruff, there is rapid increase in this process.

Though there will be dandruff over the entire body, since the flakes are white, they will be more noticeable on dark areas of the coat.

Elements that can exasperate dandruff are:

- Dry skin - Dry skin in itself does not always cause dandruff; however when a Yorkie develops this disorder, dry skin will cause the problem to worsen.

- Food intolerance - Certain food ingredients may trigger dry skin, which increase the flaking.

- Age - As dogs grow older, they are more susceptible to developing dandruff. Therefore, this is much more common in senior dogs than with puppies.

- Cold weather - The condition may worsen in the wintertime, when temperatures plummet and the air is dryer. In these cases, while it may appear that the condition is improving during spring or summertime, it actually is still ongoing - just to a lesser degree - and must still be properly treated.

- Low humidity - If you live in an arid region, this can make a Yorkie's skin more prone to dryness and dandruff

Other Signs & Symptoms that Can Accompany Yorkie Dandruff Are:

- Itchiness - The puppy or dog will scratch at his coat, may chew on areas that he can reach and/or rub his body against the carpeting or another surface

- Redness - If you were to lift the hairs on the coat, you may spot areas of irritated, red skin.

- Thinning of the coat - In severe cases that have not been properly treated, repeated scratching to certain parts of the dog's body can cause the coat to thin in certain areas (and even develop bald patches)

- Oily skin - Opposite to the symptom above, some dogs may overproduce body oils as the skin cells slough off which can create oily skin.

- An odd odor - When a Yorkie has the above mentioned overproduction of body oils, this mixes with the dead skin cells and can produce an unpleasant, musty type smell.

Making Sure That it is Indeed Dandruff

Before treating your Yorkie for this issue, you should make sure that it is indeed a common case of dandruff. Random patches and areas of dry skin can be treated in much the same way, but will not need to be treated with specialized shampoos for this skin disorder.

It is often easier to spot dandruff on Yorkies with puppy cuts, since the flaked skin does not need to travel far to be noticeable; though even dogs with long show coats will eventually show the clear signs of white specks. 

If your Yorkie has the signs listed above that include dry skin, an oily smell, itchiness and/or irritation, do take time to gently lift sections of the coat to inspect the skin. While belly skin is easy accessible, skin that is flaking will generally be that which is under the coat - so check the back, the flank and the legs. 

The #1 condition that is most often mistaken for common dandruff is mites.

Dandruff Vs Mites

There is a canine condition commonly referred to as walking dandruff. Though, it is actually a skin parasite: Cheyletiella mites. (Also called Cheyletiella mange). 

The presence of these mites may appear to be dandruff, but if you look for a long enough time you will actually see movement, letting you know that your Yorkie has a much different issue. 

In some cases, the mites themselves will be seen moving around; in other cases, the presence of the mites causes skin to flake off. The mites live under those skin flakes- when they move, the tiny specks of skin flakes wobble around or are carried on the backs of the parasites.

There is a rise in this parasite, and one of the main reasons is that most owners use some sort of flea control and most flea control products have no effect on Cheyletiella mites. This can affect dogs of any age, though most cases are seen with young puppies.

These types of mites jump from host to host and can be found on dogs, cats, many wild animals, rabbits and even sometimes on humans. Therefore, if a Yorkshire Terrier has Walking Dandruff, the mites can jump to his owner.

Aside from the obvious movement that you will see when you look closely at this Walking Dandruff, the only other sign that differs from real dandruff is that with many dogs, the mites tend to nest on the main trunk of the dog (keeping away from head, legs, etc.)

Your vet will diagnose this by taking a small skin scraping or by simply applying a small piece of adhesive tape to the coat to lift off specimens. Under a microscope, 4 legs can clearly be seen, along with eggs that have been hatched and sometimes tiny bits of fecal matter.

If you suspect that your Yorkie has Walking Dandruff, you may be tempted to give him a bath; however this can wash off quite a few of the pests which can make the veterinarian's job just a tad harder. If the appointment is soon, hold off on baths, as you will be given prescribed medication to apply.

There are several treatments for this: Pyrethrin shamoo, lime sulfer dips, Fipronil spray, Selamectin solution and Ivermectin. Depending on which type of treatment the vet prescribes, the coat will need to be treated anywhere from 3 weeks to 45 days.

All pets in the house will need to be treated. Additionally, since mites that can jump to other surfaces and lay eggs in carpeting etc., the house and all bedding, clothing, etc. will need to be treated in the same way that one would treat for fleas. Once a mite has left its host, it can live for up to 10 days.

Treatment for Genuine Dandruff on the Yorkshire Terrier Puppy or Dog

Once you know that you are not dealing with a more common dry skin issue and that your Yorkie does not have an infection of mites (Walking Dandruff), you will want to treat the dandruff.

NOTE: As we talked about above, an actual dandruff disorder is caused by a more rapid than normal Keratinocytes process (the production of skin cells). The rate of Keratinocytes cannot be changed.

Therefore, you will treat your Yorkie to descale the coat, calming any irritation and itchiness and moisture the skin to fight the dryness.

When the right product is used consistently, most Yorkies respond so well that flaking is drastically reduced and after a short while (2 to 3 months) you may never spot dandruff spotting again - though do remember that your dog's body is still going to have its own overactive Keratinocytes process.

1. The Right Product. While we have more tips and advice ahead, the #1 most important element to treating this will be to use a quality canine dandruff shampoo. These are much different than 'normal' shampoos, as they will contain either specialized ingredients such as chlorhexidine gluconate, miconazole Nitrate or have a blend of natural ingredients that work together to treat dandruff (Aloe vera, almond oil ,collagen, coconut, apple, and lemon).

It is important to note that the use of human dandruff shampoos is not recommended, as they are extremely harsh on a dog's skin and may cause additional issues.

The best dandruff shampoo for Yorkies will do several things:

- Descale the skin (Remove any bits of skin that have died but have not yet fallen off)

- Calm and soothe (relive itchiness and any irritation)

- Add moisture (which will then cut down on flaking quite a bit)

- Work as a degreaser (this refers to the removal of the oily greasy like substance that can be found on the coat along with dandruff)
After much trial and error, our top recommended product for the best dandruff shampoo is SynergyLabs Veterinary Formula Antiparasitic & Antiseborrheic Medicated Shampoo for Dogs which treats dandruff scaling via coal tar, salicylic acid & micronized sulfur (all safe for dogs). It is also fantastic to clear up issues like mange, fungal, and bacterial skin infections.  
While you understandably may be in a hurry to rid your Yorkie of the dandruff, it is best to take things slowly and patiently. Don't overdo baths - Instead, increase bath time to 1 time per week until you see that it is clearing up.

You will also want to use a good leave-in conditioner to aid both skin and coat between baths. After 1 to 3 months, you will see an improvement. At that time, you can switch to a high quality canine shampoo that will keep the skin properly moisturized and combat dryness.
Note: A good grooming routine that includes regular brushings will work in conjunction with the right products - Brushing removes dead hairs that would otherwise remain on the coat and block healthy air circulation. It also aids in removing dead skin cells.
2- Proper grooming will work well to decrease or essentially remove dandruff (though remember that the underlying cause may never go away), and this is the most important element. However another step that plays a role to ensure excellent skin health, is feeding your Yorkie the best food possible, as intolerance to certain ingredients often triggers skin issues. Artificial coloring, nasty additives and chemical preservatives can all exasperate dandruff problems.

3- If you follow the steps that we have listed and your Yorkie's dandruff problem has not cleared up within 3 months, do please make an appointment with your dog's veterinarian. Underlying causes such as a thyroid imbalance or a different issue such as fungal infection may be at play.
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