Seborrhea in Dogs - What It Is and How to Treat It
It’s not uncommon to believe that humans and dogs have two totally different kinds of diseases and disorders that impact them. However, some symptoms that we might consider harmless at best and annoying at worst can actually be indicative of serious conditions for our pups.
While we may not think about it, the health of our dogs’ skin is just as important to their overall wellbeing as our skin is to ours. And, unfortunately, some skin disorders such as seborrhea can pose real trouble to our four-legged friends.
What are the Symptoms of Seborrhea in Dogs?
Seborrhea, or seborrheic dermatitis, is a term that most often refers to a skin disorder in which the sebaceous glands of the skin produce an excessive amount of sebum. It’s characterized by a malfunction in the process of keratinization. Keratinization is when your dog’s outer layer of skin replaces its current cells with new ones. Sebum is a complex mixture of fatty acids, sugars, waxes, and other natural chemicals that otherwise keep your skin healthy. Unfortunately, this overabundance of sebum causes scaly, flaky, itchy, and red skin in your dog. Seborrhea is usually found on the back, face, and flanks and is worse when it occurs in the folds of your dog’s skin
However, not all dogs who develop this disorder will present the same symptoms, since there is not just one type of seborrhea.
What Are the Types of Canine Seborrhea?
There are two forms seborrhea can take.
The first is referred to as seborrhea sicca (otherwise known as dry seborrhea). Dry seborrhea causes dry, flaky skin in your dog and may also cause skin itchiness, inflammation, or infection.
The second and more common type is called-- seborrhea oleosa (or, more simply, oily seborrhea). Oily seborrhea causes the skin to produce sticky oil patches and smelly, greasy scales. However, it’s important to note that most dogs who have seborrhea will be afflicted by symptoms from a combination of the two types.
Dogs with seborrhea are further categorized between having what are known as primary seborrhea and secondary seborrhea.
Seborrhea or seborrheic dermatitis is a skin disorder.
What is Primary Seborrhea?
Primary seborrhea is a genetic skin disorder so the prognosis is poor. Fortunately, most dogs do not inherit this painful disorder. Unfortunately, some breeds are more prone than others to develop primary seborrhea.
Primary seborrhea occurs in breeds including Cocker Spaniels, West Highland White Terriers, English Springer Spaniels, Dachshunds, German Shepherds, and Basset Hounds. Dogs with primary seborrhea will often begin showing signs of the disease before they’re two years old.
What is Secondary Seborrhea?
Secondary seborrhea is a skin disorder that is caused by a primary, underlying disease that results in excessive scaling and/or skin oiliness. Dogs with secondary seborrhea may also develop bacterial infections of the skin, yeast infections of the skin, and alopecia. Secondary seborrhea is often related to, or, one could say, is a side effect of an underlying medical problem, such as:
- hormonal imbalances (e.g., thyroid disease, Cushing's disease)
- parasites (internal and external) - fleas, ticks, mange mites
- fungal infections - especially yeast skin infections (Malassezia)
- dietary abnormalities - poor diets containing low levels of omega-3 fatty acids
- environmental factors (temperature, humidity changes)
- musculoskeletal disease or pain - the dog is unable to groom itself properly
What are the Symptoms of Seborrhea in Dogs?
Seborrhea often affects spots on your dog’s skin that are rich in sebaceous glands including their back, thighs, feet, underside, armpits and neck. Affected skin will usually flake off in little white scales. These white scales are commonly referred to as dandruff.
Some affected areas of your dog’s skin may also appear very red or inflamed or may even possess lesions which are slick to the touch. This sort of inflammation and irritation can be especially severe in the folds of your dog’s skin. Tragically, this disease does also cause an odor that we can only describe as pungent. Seborrhea that occurs simultaneously with bacterial or yeast infections often produces an even more aromatic/stinky odor.
Unfortunately, according to Stephen D. White, DVM, DACVD, and Professor of Medicine & Epidemiology at UC Davis, these sorts of secondary infections are common for dogs with seborrhea, as “the keratinization abnormalities in seborrheic dogs usually provide ideal conditions for bacterial and yeast infections.” Find Banixx near you or buy online.
How is Seborrhea in Dogs Diagnosed?
Dogs will only be diagnosed with having primary seborrhea if all other root cause explanations have been ruled out. That being said, most dogs who suffer from seborrhea will have developed it as a secondary symptom of an underlying condition.
To attain an accurate diagnosis of the underlying cause of secondary seborrhea, your vet will likely have to conduct a series of tests. The diagnostic process might begin with a thorough physical examination, with special attention paid to the skin. Your vet will most likely be looking for any signs of hair loss, scales, oiliness, boils, pimples, crusts, bumps, darkening, or skin thickening. Your vet will likely also want to take samples of some affected areas in order to determine the type and quantity of any bacteria or yeast that are present.
Additional tests may be necessary to obtain a better idea of what’s causing your dog’s seborrhea. Your vet may call for a biopsy of your dog’s skin to look for signs of yeast, fungal, or bacterial infections. This will also help them determine whether or not your dog suffers from primary seborrhea.
Additionally, your vet may want to scrape a bit of your dog’s skin or pluck a sample of their hair to check for irritating parasites like mites. They might also want to take cultures of your dog’s skin to rule out specific infections like ringworm that may cause inflamed or infected skin.
A complete blood count (CBC) can also be ordered to help your vet discover potential hidden causes of your dog’s seborrhea. Certain tests can also be used to determine if your dog’s hormones are imbalanced, as this may be evidence of an underlying thyroid issue or Cushing’s disease. Find Banixx near you or buy online.
How is Seborrhea Treated in Dogs?
There is no direct cure for seborrhea. Dogs who have primary seborrhea can never be completely cured. For them, treatment will only be focused on managing their condition. For dogs with secondary seborrhea, treatment will be focused both on controlling the skin disorder as well as eliminating any underlying cause.
While not curable, seborrhea is luckily a highly treatable dermatological condition. The main method used to control symptoms from seborrhea is the use of prescribed, anti-seborrheic shampoos. These medicated shampoos work to decrease the levels of bacteria, yeast, scale, and sebum present on the skin.
The type of shampoo prescribed will be determined by the type of seborrhea your dog has and the root cause of irritation. It may take trying several different kinds of shampoos to find the best one for your bet. In some cases, multiple shampoos will need to be used in conjunction to treat your dog’s seborrhea.
Dogs with particularly severe secondary skin infections caused by seborrhea may have to combine topical therapies with oral medication to achieve full relief. Antibiotics may be prescribed to treat bacterial skin infections while antifungal medication may be administered to rid your dog’s skin of yeast microbes.
Certain oral therapies may also be necessary in very severe cases of seborrhea. These might include omega-3 fatty acid or Vitamin A supplements. Two human acne medications, isotretinoin and acitretin, are also being investigated as potential new therapies for seborrhea in dogs.
Certain retail solutions have also been proven to provide relief from the symptoms of secondary skin infections caused by seborrhea. For example, Banixx Pet Care spray is a powerful, no-odor, antifungal agent that works on-contact to provide immediate, sting-free relief for dogs with yeast infections. Banixx also doesn’t rely on any steroids, antibiotics, or additives to give your pup the pain relief they deserve. In partnership, Banixx Medicated Shampoo provides relief from any bacterial or fungal infections while cleansing your dog’s skin with its soap-free shampoo and moisturizing it with its embedded marine collagen. It’s important to use a soap-free shampoo to treat this condition since shampoos that rely on soap/detergents to cleanse your dog’s skin will strip it of essential oils that Mother Nature provides and may add to your dog’s distress by further drying out his skin.
Keep in mind, however, that solutions like Banixx should only be thought of as a band-aid while you work to uncover and treat the root cause of your dog’s discomfort. If your dog begins exhibiting symptoms of seborrhea, be sure to take them to a veterinarian so you can get a proper diagnosis and treatment plan ASAP.
If you’re curious to learn more about how to keep your pooch happy and healthy, be sure to visit Banixx.com!