Seborrhoea In Dogs

Manifestation of Seborrhoea

To the lay person, this is where your dog develops abnormal changes to the skin and coat which causes excessive production of skin cells (keratinisation) resulting in excessive scaling and dandruff and /or abnormal oil / wax (sebum) production in the skin producing a greasy feeling.

This is a complex disease of the skin which may arise from many different sources and present in several different ways. Seborrhoea can be idiopathic (developing from an unknown source, often congenital or inherited) or secondary to other factors (see below). The two primary presentations are:

Seborrhoea oleos and oily seborrhea. Oily seborrhoea is where there is an excessive production of skin oil, waxes, and skin cells. The coat takes on a matted look, a greasy feel and there is often a heavy scarf / oily dandruff clogging the base of the hairs. There is often a strong and unpleasant odour to the skin. Many dogs are pruritic (itchy) and will nibble and rub themselves persistently causing hair loss, inflammation and often secondary infections.

Seborrhea sicca or dry seborrhoea.  Dry seborrhoea is where there is an excessive production of skin cells. The coat takes on a dull look, with excessive scaling of the skin producing heavy dandruff. These dogs are also pruritic and again may bite and nibble setting up areas of inflammation and hair loss in which secondary infection may occur.

Causes of Seborrhoea

Primary – Certain breeds of dog; West Highland Terriers, Springer Spaniels, German Shepherd Dogs appear to predispose to inherited or congenital seborrhoea.

Secondary – There are many different sources, the general rule being that any disease that can chronically inflame large areas of the skin surface may end up with a seborrhoeic outcome. Among the many causative factors are:

  • Allergies   

Environmental allergies /atopy, food allergy, contact allergy, etc…

  • Endocrine Deficiencies 

Conditions such as hypothyroidism Defect in fat absorption or metabolism.

  • Parasitic Infections   

Flea allergic dermatitis, sarcoptic and demodectic mange, harvest mites, cheyletiella mites.

  • Pyoderma  

A bacterial skin infection caused by several different bacteria affecting differing areas and thicknesses of the skin.

  • Fungal  

Malassezia yeast is the most common.

  • Dietary Deficiencies   

Protein, zinc and vitamin A. (unlikely on good quality, complete, dog foods.)

Treatments for Seborrhoea

The principals of treatment are to reduce inflammation, skin cell overproduction and skin oil (sebum) overproduction. If there are secondary factors such as bacteria or yeasts these have to be removed as well. If there is severe irritation, areas of skin damage and a foul odour, then more likely than not there is a secondary factor and your vet will help determine the cause and depending on this offer the appropriate treatment. This may well take the form of antiparasitic drugs, antibiotics or occasionally steroids.

Most owners would prefer to be able to treat their dogs before they get to these acute phases and certainly in the cases of primary seborrhoea and secondary allergy / atopy and early stage pyoderma cases, this can be easily done by choosing the correct shampoo and oral supplement.

We have known for a while that essential fatty acids such as gamma linolenic acid (GLA) and certain fish oils will help promote healthy skin by modifying inflammatory pathways, skin prostaglandin hormone production and sebum production. They are extremely useful in seborrhoea, particularly where flea allergic dermatitis (FAD) is involved. The product Viacutan is a highly refined mix if high-quality vegetable GLA and 3 Omega FA, fish oils of the salmon source. It is highly palatable and packaged in a way that it will not oxidize (as most do) when the pack is broached.

Sebolyse is the shampoo of choice for oily seborrhea. Look at the data link and it will explain why it is important to use products such as coal tar to degrease the skin surface whilst reducing skin cell and sebum production and reducing inflammation.

Sebomild is the shampoo we recommend for dry seborrhoea. Any heavy scaling, dandruff skin should improve with this shampoo, so long as there is no other major, secondary factor.

Etiderm is an antibacterial shampoo which can be used in conjunction with the above shampoos. Shampoo with Sebolytic or Sebomild first to lift off excess skin cells and decrease the hair follicles and then wash with Etiderm to reduce skin bacteria.

Sebocalm is the shampoo the coat with on a regular basis ( as often as you like) to maintain condition and hydration of the skin surface, once the skin has returned to normal. Weekly shampooing with SEB calm and the use of Viacutan may prevent reoccurrence of seborrhoea.