Seborrhea in Dogs and Cats The Flaky Skin Condition

itchy dog

Does your dog or cat have flaky skin? Are the flakes dry and scaly, or greasy and oily? If so, your pet may be suffering from seborrhea, a skin disorder caused by an excessive production of sebum, an oily secretion of the sebaceous glands. Read on to find out more.

We all want our pets to look, feel, and smell their best. But a pet with seborrhea may not meet any of those expectations, having instead flaky, smelly skin that is dry, oily, or some combination of both. So what causes seborrhea, and what can you do to treat it?

Seborrhea can either be primary (occurring on its own) or secondary (occurring as a result of another condition), and we’ll look at both situations here.

Causes of Seborrhea in Dogs and Cats

In both dogs and cats, primary seborrhea is an inherited disease. It is relatively rare in cats, but when it does occur it is usually in Persians and Himalayans. Primary seborrhea is much more common in dogs and affects a wider range of breeds, including the Basset Hound, Chinese Shar-Pei, Cocker Spaniel, English Springer Spaniel, German Shepherd, Irish Setter, Labrador Retriever, and the West Highland White Terrier.

Secondary seborrhea occurs as a result of some other medical condition, such as:

Symptoms of Seborrhea in Dogs and Cats

The most common symptom of seborrhea in dogs and cats is flaky skin that is either dry, oily, or some combination of both. The large flakes of dry seborrhea are easy to lift from the skin, while the flakes of oily seborrhea are greasy and stick to the skin and fur. In the oily condition, hair follicles may become blocked and infected.

Other symptoms include:

  • Red, inflamed skin
  • Itching
  • Foul smell

Diagnosing Seborrhea in Dogs and Cats

Contact your veterinarian if your pet exhibits any of the above symptoms. They will examine your pet, take a complete medical history, and perform certain tests to check for underlying medical conditions. If an underlying medical condition is identified, seborrhea becomes much easier to treat than if the skin disorder is thought to be inherited or idiopathic (of unknown origin).

Treating Seborrhea in Dogs and Cats

Treatment for seborrhea will depend on whether or not an underlying condition is identified. If one is, then that condition will be treated, and the seborrhea will most likely subside.

Primary seborrhea, however, cannot be cured. But it can be managed. Treatment is generally aimed at controlling the formation of skin flakes, and common treatment options include:

  • For mild, dry cases: moisturizing hypoallergenic shampoos
  • For severe, dry cases: sulfur or salicylic acid shampoos
  • For severe, oily cases: benzoyl peroxide shampoos or shampoos containing coal tar
  • Antibiotics if the seborrhea caused a secondary infection
  • Oral corticosteroids may be prescribed for severe itching
  • Omega-3 fatty acid supplements for healthy skin and coat

In cases of primary seborrhea, a pet may require lifelong treatment and care.


Dog Seborrhea
Seborrhea in Cats and Dogs
Seborrhea in Cats
Skin Disease (Canine Seborrhea) in Dogs

Was this article helpful?

You May Also Like

Image for Dog And Cat Acne
Dog And Cat Acne

What Causes Pet Pimples?

Read More