Sebaceous adenitis is an inflammatory skin disease that causes the sebaceous glands in a dog’s skin to become inflamed and die. While this can result in some unsightly symptoms, the good news is that the disease is largely cosmetic, meaning that it does not affect a dog’s overall health or life span.
Causes of Sebaceous Adenitis in Dogs and Cats
Sebaceous adenitis is a hereditary disease that is most often seen in young and middle-aged dogs. Sebaceous adenitis is rare in cats. Among dog breeds, it is usually seen in Akitas, Poodles, and Samoyeds, though Vizlas, Lhasa Apsos, Old English Sheepdogs, German Shepherds, and Bernese Mountain Dogs are also at risk.
The exact cause of sebaceous adenitis unknown, though some suggest that it may be the result of an animal’s immune system attacking their sebaceous glands.
The sebaceous glands produce sebum, a fatty, oily substance that moisturizes and protects the skin. When the sebaceous glands malfunction or die, they are no longer able to produce sebum, leading to dry skin, hair loss, and in some cases, infection.
There are two forms of sebaceous adenitis: the long-coated breed form and the short-coated breed form. Symptoms may vary depending on what type your pet has.
Symptoms of Sebaceous Adenitis in Dogs and Cats
The symptoms of sebaceous adenitis usually start at the head, neck, and back before spreading towards the tail and downward. You will typically see scaling, whitish skin and waxy, matted hair. The hair may start thinning, lose its curl, become dull, or fall out completely.
In addition to scaling skin, matted hair, and hair loss, you may also see:
- A secondary bacterial or yeast infection
- Itching, if the pet has a secondary infection
- Foul, musty odor from the skin or coat
Diagnosing Sebaceous Adenitis in Dogs and Cats
The symptoms of sebaceous adenitis may mimic those of other skin diseases -- such as demodectic mange and seborrhea -- so your veterinarian will need to rule those out before making a diagnosis.
Testing procedures used to rule out other diseases and make a diagnosis may include skin scrapings, endocrine function tests, pathologic testing, and skin biopsies. In addition, if your pet seems to be suffering from an infection, your veterinarian may run tests to determine the type and severity of the infection.
Treatment for Sebaceous Adenitis in Dogs and Cats
There is no cure for sebaceous adenitis. Treatment therefore revolves around managing symptoms and secondary infections. Common treatment options include:
- Antibiotics may be prescribed if your pet is suffering from an infection
- Your veterinarian may recommend bathing your pet several times a week with an emollient rinse or Keratolytic shampoo to remove scaling and soothe the skin. If a skin infection is present, you may also need to use a medicated shampoo.
- In some cases, a baby oil soak may help to relieve symptoms and remove flaking skin.
- In addition to baths and soaks, topical leave-on conditioners and sprays may also help to heal the skin. Propylene glycol is commonly recommended.
- In certain cases, medications such as retinoids and cyclosporines may be prescribed to eliminate infections and normalize sebum production.
- Some affected animals benefit from fatty acid and Vitamin A supplements. Ask your veterinarian before starting your pet on any new supplement.
Owners of pets with sebaceous adenitis should be aware that treatment may be lifelong and the disease can be progressive, meaning that it may worsen over time. However, with regular management and care, your pet can still live a full and comfortable life.
To prevent the spreading of the disease, affected pets should not be bred.
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