Seborrhea is a condition in
which flakes of dead skin are shed from the
epidermis and hair follicles. These flakes may be dry and dandrufflike, or oily
and greasy. Oily seborrhea is due to excessive production of sebum by the
sebaceous glands. Sebum is responsible for the rancid doggy odor that
accompanies oily seborrhea.
Primary and secondary seborrhea are two different diseases.
Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) occurs when a dog’s stomach and/or intestine becomes home to an unusually high number of inflammatory cells. These cells cause changes in the lining of the digestive tract, which inhibit the normal absorption and passage of food.
It is important to note that although some of the symptoms may be similar, IBD is not the same as irritable bowel syndrome, which is caused by psychological stress rather than a physiological abnormality.
This common disease is seen most often in American Cocker Spaniels, English
Springer Spaniels, West Highland White Terriers, Basset Hounds, Irish Setters,
German Shepherds, Labrador Retrievers, Chinese Shar-Pei, and other breeds.
Affected dogs may have dry flaky skin,
greasy scaly skin, or a combination of both. The flakes of dry seborrhea are
easy to lift off the skin. The scales of oily seborrhea stick to the hair. In
oily seborrhea the hair follicles can become plugged and infected, resulting in
the development of folliculitis (see page
The elbows, hocks, front of the neck down to the chest, and hair along the
borders of the ears are commonly involved. With oily seborrhea, wax may
accumulate in the ear canals, producing a condition called ceruminous otitis.
Treatment: Primary seborrhea is incurable but treatable. Therapy is directed
toward controlling scale formation using shampoos and rinses. A number of
commercial antiseborrheic products are available. The choice of shampoos and
rinses and frequency of application vary with the specific problem, and should
be determined by your veterinarian.
For mild dry flaking, moisturizing hypoallergenic shampoos and rinses that
contain no dyes, fragrances, or other added ingredients can help rehydrate the
skin. These products can be used frequently without causing harm.
For severe dry flaking, shampoos containing sulfur and salicylic acid are
recommended to remove scales. For oily seborrhea, shampoos containing coal tar
are effective and retard further scale production. Benzoyl peroxide shampoos
have excellent hair-pore flushing activity and aid in removing greasy scales
that adhere to hair shafts.
Therapeutic shampooing may be more effective when preceded by a warm water
shampoo. Rinse thoroughly and follow with the medicated shampoo. Leave on for
15 minutes or as directed, then rinse thoroughly.
Systemic antibiotics are used to treat
folliculitis and other skin infections. A short course
of oral corticosteroids may be prescribed during periods of severe itching. Dietary supplements
containing omega-3 essential fatty acids derived from fish oil are said to be
beneficial for seborrhea and certainly can do no harm.
This condition occurs when some other skin disease triggers the seborrheic
process. Diseases often associated with secondary seborrhea include scabies, demodectic mange, canine atopy, food
hypersensitivity dermatitis, flea allergy dermatitis, hypothyroidism, hormone-related
skin diseases, color mutant alopecia,
pemphigus foliaceus, and others. Primary seborrhea should not be diagnosed
until secondary seborrhea has been ruled out.
Treatment: Secondary seborrhea is managed in the same way as primary
seborrhea. It usually disappears with control of the underlying skin disease.
Always look for a primary cause when faced with a dog with seborrhea.
WebMD Veterinary Reference from "Dog Owner's Home Veterinary Handbook"