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Skin Disease (Canine Seborrhea) in Dogs

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Canine Seborrhea


Seborrhea is a skin condition in dogs that causes flaky skin (dandruff) and greasiness of the skin and hair. This disorder is very common and can lead to a secondary infection of the skin. Often, dogs will smell bad due to the buildup of oil on the skin and hair.


Symptoms and Types


There are two common forms of seborrhea: oily (oleosa) and dry (sicca). The majority of animals will have a combination of both oily and dry seborrhea.


Seborrhea causes the skin to exude a waxy, greasy substance that clumps up in the ears, under the belly and armpits, elbows, and around the ankles. The substance is very fatty in nature and it will cause a distinctive odor. Dogs may scratch at the affected areas leading to bleeding, crusting, hair loss, and secondary infections due to skin damage.




Dogs with this inherited disorder are affected with either the idiopathic or primary form of the seborrhea disease. It usually afflicts the animal before he/she reaches two years of age and progresses as he/she gets older. The breeds most commonly afflicted with inherited seborrhea include:


  • West Highland White Terriers
  • American Cocker Spaniels
  • English Springer Spaniels
  • Basset Hounds
  • Dachshunds
  • Labrador Retrievers
  • Golden Retrievers
  • German Shepherds
  • Dobermans
  • Shar-Peis


In other animals, the condition is secondary to another disease process. Primary conditions/diseases that can lead to the onset of seborrhea include:


  • Allergies
  • Endocrine disorders
  • Dietary deficiencies
  • Malabsorption disorders
  • Parasites
  • Autoimmune disorders




Some of the tests your veterinarian will run will rule out primary causes of skin disease. This may include a thorough physical examination; skin scrapings for parasites; fungal and bacterial cultures of the skin and hair; a fecal examination; and blood tests (CBC, chemistry panel) to rule out allergies, endocrine diseases, and dietary/digestive disorders. Sometimes a biopsy of the skin may be necessary. A diagnosis of primary (inherited) seborrhea is made only once all other causes have been ruled out.


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