Seborrhea is a skin condition in which the epidermis (the outer layer of the skin), the sebaceous glands, and part of the hair follicles are hyper-productive. The result? An excessive amount of dead skin is being shed from the epidermis and hair follicles.
Dogs with “dry seborrhea” (seborrhea sicca) have skin flakes that are dry and dandruff-like.
On the other hand, dogs with “oily seborrhea” (seborrhea oleosa) have skin flakes that are oily and greasy. Oily seborrhea is due to an overproduction of sebum by the sebaceous glands.
Many dogs have a combination of both types of seborrhea.
Seborrhea in dogs can be primary or secondary, which are two totally different skin diseases.
Primary seborrhea is an inherited skin disorder and is most commonly seen in:
- American Cocker Spaniels
- English Springer Spaniels
- West Highland White Terriers
- Basset Hounds
- Irish Setters
- German Shepherds
- Chinese Shar-peis
- Labrador Retrievers
Dogs with primary seborrhea may have dry flaky skin, or oily greasy scaly skin, or a combination of both.
They are also smelly with a rancid doggy odor.
Primary canine seborrhea usually begins at a young age (from around 18 to 24 months) and progresses throughout the dog’s life.
Areas most commonly affected include the elbow, hocks, neck and chest, and hair along the borders of the ears.
Chronic waxy ear infections also occur rather commonly in dogs with seborrhea (especially oily seborrhea).
Secondary seborrhea is caused by another underlying disease and is usually accompanied by pyoderma, yeast infections, and hair loss.
Common diseases that can trigger seborrhea in dogs include:
- Allergies (canine atopy, food allergies, flea allergy dermatitis)
- Hormonal disorders (such as hypothyroidism)
- Canine mange (scabies, demodectic mange)
- Other hormone-related skin diseases
Treatment of Canine Seborrhea
If you dog has been diagnosed with canine seborrhea, get a thorough medical check-up to see if it is caused by an underlying disease.
Secondary seborrhea usually disappears when the underlying cause is addressed.
Primary seborrhea cannot be cured; it requires life-long control and management.
Dry seborrhea can usually be controlled more easily than oily seborrhea.
For mild dry flaking, all-natural, moisturizing hypoallergenic shampoos and rinses can be used to help moisturize the skin, such as:
For very dry flaky skin, veterinarians usually recommend shampoos that contain sulfur and salicylic acid which can remove the scales.
Oily seborrhea is usually treated using shampoos that contain coal tar or benzoyl peroxide which can remove greasy scales from the hair and reduce scale production.
Depending on the severity of the skin condition, initial bathing of 2 or 3 times per week may be required.
However, it is advisable to consult with your veterinarian since overbathing can sometimes worsen seborrhea.
If seborrhea is accompanied by bacterial or other skin infections, antibiotics will also be prescribed.
Dogs with skin issues such as seborrhea should be supplemented with Omega-3 fatty acids such as salmon oil or krill oil. The Omega-3 fatty acids are anti-inflammatory and helpful for skin problems.
Here is a good supplement of Omega-3 fatty acids plus vitamins A, D and E, which are good antioxidants and benefit the skin: