Seborrhea in Dogs

Seborrhea is a skin disease whose main feature includes a keratin deficiency or irregular thickening of the exterior layer of a dog’s skin, claws, or hair follicles. It typically leads to excessive formation of scale, extreme oiliness of the hair coat and skin, and frequent infection and secondary inflammation.

Primary seborrhea is a hereditary disorder of the skin, usually exhibited by German Shepherd dogs, American Cocker Spaniels, Golden Retrievers, English Springer Spaniels, Dachshunds, Basset Hounds, Labrador, and West Highland White Terriers. Dogs affected by seborrhea usually have the disorder in their family history, signifying the involvement of genetic factors. The onset of the disease is usually when the animal is between the ages of 18 to 24 months, and advances throughout the life of the dog.

Secondary seborrhea signifies an underlying disease that leads to extreme scaling, oiling, or crusting, frequently followed by hair loss, infection, and pus-filled inflammation.

Signs and Diagnosis

It is only dogs which have had all possible underlying causes of seborrhea eliminated that can qualify for a diagnosis of primary seborrhea. Majority of dogs affected by seborrhea suffer from the secondary form of the disease. Hormonal disorders and allergies tend to be the most frequent underlying causes of this disease, with the main objective being the verification and treatment of such causes. For animals younger than 5 years of age, the most likely underlying cause is an allergy. For middle aged or elderly animals, endocrine disorders are the most probable cause of seborrhea. If there is no itching, then it’s safe to eliminate scabies, allergies, and other itching diseases as underlying causes. Minimal itching enables your veterinarian to rule out primary skin diseases, internal diseases, or hormonal disorders. However, a significant degree of itching means that fleas, scabies, or allergies shall be considered as possible causes.

Other significant considerations when making a diagnosis include the environment, the presence of extreme urination, reaction to prior medications, excessive drinking, pyoderma, heat-seeking behaviour, diet, irregular oestrus cycles, the season, and fungi or bacteria present.

The initial step in identifying the underlying cause is your veterinarian giving your dog a complete physical exam, including an extensive skin examination and inner organ systems. The skin examination records the form and extent of the defects; the loss of hair; and the level of scale, odour, texture, and oiliness of the skin and hair coat. The presence of a superficial pyoderma, or bacterial infection, is usually signified by crusts, pimples, follicular boils, and other bumps. Darkening signifies a persistent skin irritation, and skin thickening signifies persistent itching. There will always be a possibility of a yeast infection during this process.

Dogs with seborrhea always have difficulties with secondary infections. The irregular keratin development in dogs with seborrhea usually creates perfect conditions for yeast and bacterial infections. The damage that occurs when an affected animal scratches itself constantly raises the possibility of a secondary infection. The infections lead to more itchiness and usually cause a considerable amount of scales, inflammation, crusts, papules, and hair loss. Scrapings of the affected skin are taken to discover the number and kind of yeast and bacteria present. The infection in an itching dog may lead to all or the majority of the symptoms. Other diseases might be revealed by treating the infections. Consequently, you have to be sure to obey any follow up examination requirements of your veterinarian.


In order to keep the affected dog comfortable as the primary cause is verified and secondary skin diseases are managed, it is vital to ensure proper treatment. Apart from using antibiotics to control secondary infections, medicated shampoos are frequently used to facilitate the control of seborrhea and ensure quick return of the skin to its usual state. Medicated shampoos can reduce the yeast and bacterial population on the surface of the skin, the quantity of sebum and scale present, and the degree of itching. They might also assist in stabilize replacement of skin cells.

The majority of elements found in medicated shampoos can be categorised depending on the effects they have. Keratolytic products include tar, sulphur, propylene salicylic acid, benzyl peroxide, selenium sulphide, fatty acids, and glycol. They get rid of excess dead skin cells, resulting in reduction of scaling and softening of the skin. Keratolytic shampoos are known to cause an increase in scale for the initial 2 weeks of treatment, as a result of the loose scales getting tangled in the hair coat. Regular baths can help remove the loose scales.

Keratoplastic products help to keep keratin formation normal and decrease formation of scale. Examples of keratoplastic agents include selenium sulphide, tar, salicylic acid, and sulphur.

Emollients lessen loss of water from the skin. These include numerous oils such as cottonseed, corn, peanut, and coconut; and lanolin, sodium lactate and lactic acid. They are great products to be used after shampooing, and are most effective after the skin is rehydrated.

Antibacterial agents such as chlorhexidine, benzyl peroxide, iodine, triclosan, and ethyl lactate can be used.

Antifungal ingredients that may be used include miconazole, chlorhexidine, ketoconazole, iodine, and sulphur. Topical antibiotics that can be used include acetic and boric and acids. However, majority of medicated shampoos are a blend of these ingredients.

Your veterinarian should provide you with advice concerning the most suitable medicated shampoo for treating seborrhea. Choosing a medicated shampoo depends on the skin scaling, hair coat and oiliness. Shampoos designed for people shouldn’t be used on dogs without the permission of your veterinarian.

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