Skin and Coat: Seborrhea in Dogs

Causes of Seborrhea:

Seborrhea in dogs is either termed as being primary or secondary in terms of causation. Primary canine seborrhea is seen more often in certain breeds, which are genetically prone to the condition including:

These breeds are genetically predisposed to false keratinization or conification at the epidermal layer (outer) of the skin. Primary seborrhea is idiopathic in nature, because the exact cause of it is usually not known, but it is thought that genetic factors are the cause.

Secondary canine seborrhea is the other form of seborrhea in dogs, which is common in almost all breeds of dogs. This type of canine seborrhea is caused by different underlying conditions, which includes;

Dog Seborrhea in general is a defect of dermal keratinization or cornification. Keratinization is the excessive accumulation of a special protein called, keratin. This protein causes a blockage to the waxy or greasy secretion of the sebaceous glands, which lies at the base of the hair follicles.

Secondary seborrhea in dogs is initiated with the blockage of the secretory pathway of the sebaceous glands. False keratinization is the excessive release of a kind of protein called, keratin. Over the epidermis, keratin forms a barrier to the secretory pathway of sebaceous glands, thus the greasy and waxy sebaceous gland secretions gets accumulated under the blockage, leaving hairs with a greasiness and the skin becomes dry and scaly.

An epidermal blockage or keratinization is the initial stage of the condition and secondary problems such as infections. Inflammation and clinical symptoms such as irritation and alopecia (loss of hair) causes the problem to progress, cause discomfort for the dog and a worsening of the condition over time.


Clinically, seborrhea has different forms, which relates to the the pathogenesis of the condition (how the dog skin condition develops).

Canine seborrhea sicca is the dried or scaly form, which is caused during the initial stages of the condition, when the excessive keratin accumulates over the skin. This form is notable, but does not cause major clinical symptoms.

Canine seborrhea olesa is the greasy or oily form of it, which is characterized by oiliness, greasiness and dullness of hairs over the skin. At this stage, clinical symptoms of oiliness, greasy hairs, scaly and dry skin along with pruritus (irritation) and scratching are noted. In advanced stages, secondary skin and ear infections, alopecia and general symptoms of fever, loss of condition, appetite and depression of immune system is noted clearly.

Most cases of seborrhea reported appear to be a combined form of the olesa and sicca forms of dog seborrhea. This is because a veterinarian is only usually consulted during the advanced stages of the condition when the clinical symptoms become mature and cause discomfort to the patient.


The history of the condition, diet and any past canine skin problem can reveal the primary or secondary nature of the seborrhea in dogs, while clinical examination not only confirms the state but also the possible cause of the problem. Thorough clinical examination and estimation of the conditions progress may reveal clues related to the underlying cause, such as; allergic or infectious seborrhea is more common in young and old dogs, while seborrhea caused by endocrinal disorders (hormones) are more common in middle to older dogs.

Similarly, the degree of pruritus (irritation) can also help in identifying possible causes, because pruritus is more severe in infectious, allergic and parasitic forms of seborrhea. Minimal pruritus is usually noted in dogs with endocrinopathies. Systemic clues such as increased thirst, urination, appetite, heat seeking behavior, disturbed estrus cycles, seasonal factors, response to past medication etc are some other clinical manifestations towards identification of underlying cause.

After initial clinical examination and history, an underlying cause can be confirmed with the help of laboratory tests. Skin scrapings should be examined for any bacterial, fungal or parasitic organisms. Blood tests and biochemical profiles along with allergy tests can indicate possible hypersensitivity and/or endocrinal disorders.


Any underlying cause of dog seborrhea should be treated specifically to completely resolve the problem. Specific therapies such as allergies should be treated accordingly with anti-allergic drugs and the prevention of possible allergens in environment and diet. Parasites should be eliminated with the help of local and systemic anti-parasitic drugs. Fungal infections should be treated with ketaconazole and any pyodermal state can be resolved with broad spectrum antibiotic therapy. Endocrine diseases should be monitored and managed according to the confirmatory and follow up diagnostic tests.

It has been noted that canine seborrhea usually does not resolve with specific therapies alone. Symptoms and localized manifestations should be treated separately. Anti-seborrheic shampoos such as Duoxo are highly recommended, which should be used according to the manufacturer's directions, until the symptoms of greasiness and scaling are resolved. Additional cleansing lotions or preparations should also be used after baths.

Since seborrhea causes severe depression to the skin and immune health, natural remedies should be used to enhance the immune system and to improve skin tissue strength. Helpful products including Immunity and Liver Support and Skin and Coat Tonic. These remedies can be regularly used in dogs with recurring seborrhea or confirmed primary and endocrinal canine seborrhea.

Other natural remedies can be used that are formulated to address a specific underlying cause such as Allergy Itch Ease for recovery from allergic onditions, Ear Dr to prevent ear infections that are common in dog seborreha cases and Cushex Drops for any underlying pituitary gland defects.