Like us humans, our canine companions may also be susceptible to various skin problems that can be uncomfortable, to say the least. One of these is seborrhea, which is often associated with dryness and flakiness of the skin and is also commonly referred to as dandruff. But what exactly is seborrhea in a dog?


  1. What Is Seborrhea in Dogs
  2. What Does Seborrhea Look Like on a Dog
  3. What Causes Seborrhea in Dogs
  4. How to Treat Seborrhea in Dogs
  5. How Can the Emergency Fund Help with Treatment
  6. FAQs
  7. Conclusion

What Is Seborrhea in Dogs

According to the The Veterinary Manual study seborrhea, or seborrheic dermatitis in dogs, is a skin condition where keratinization of the skin’s outer layer, hair follicles, or claws occurs. “But isn’t keratin good for the skin?” You might ask. As a matter of fact, yes, keratin is an essential protein that helps strengthen a dog’s skin and fur.

However, what seborrhea does is cause abnormal keratin production, resulting in scaling, flaking, redness, and itchiness of the skin, and sometimes excess greasiness of both the skin and fur. Oftentimes, this leads to inflammation and a secondary infection.

Seborrhea in dogs can be categorized into two types: Primary or Secondary.

Primary Seborrhea

This type of seborrhea in dogs is genetic. Among the breeds in which seborrhea is mostly seen, suggesting a genetic link, are Basset Hounds, Dachshunds, Labrador retrievers, Golden Retrievers, American Cocker Spaniels, English Springer Spaniels, West Highland White Terriers, and German Shepherds. While it can start at any age, it’s more likely for primary seborrhea to begin early (usually starting below 18–24 months old) and progress throughout the life of a dog.

Secondary Seborrhea

This type of seborrhea is caused by underlying health issues such as:

  • Allergies;
  • Hormonal imbalances;
  • Immune-mediated diseases, according to the Purdue University College of Veterinary Medicine study;
  • Vitamin deficiencies;
  • Skin lymphoma.

Oftentimes, secondary seborrhea is accompanied by inflammation with pus, infection, and loss of hair.

What Does Seborrhea Look Like on a Dog

Symptoms of Seborrhea in Dogs

There are a variety of skin issues that dogs may be susceptible to. Having said this, how do we distinguish seborrheic dermatitis in a dog from other skin disorders? What does seborrhea look like on a dog?

Seborrhea in dogs may have symptoms such as:

  • Dandruff;
  • A noticeably dry and dull coat;
  • Oily or greasy skin with a bad odor;
  • Rough, scaly, and crusted skin lesions;
  • Itchiness;
  • Lots of earwax or debris in the ear.

When a dog has seborrhea, all skin (in general) is affected. However, it is worse in areas such as the skin folds between the toes, the belly, the armpits, the perineum, and the area below the neck. Dogs that have a lot of folds on their skin, such as Basset Hounds, for example, maybe more affected in the mentioned areas of the skin.

Monitoring our dogs is important to be able to detect anything out of the ordinary. With skin issues such as seborrhea, for example, signs such as flaky skin and itchiness are things to look out for. Having a Petcube Cam 360 is a handy gadget to help monitor your cat for anything out of the ordinary. Apart from its 1080p full HD video and 360-degree panoramic view, it also can zoom 8 times, so you can also detect minute details such as changes in your furry pal’s skin.

What Causes Seborrhea in Dogs

Finding out why your dog has seborrhea depends on whether the condition is primary or secondary. Let us get to know more about the causes of seborrhea in dogs.

Causes of Primary Seborrhea

A congenital disease, primary seborrhea often starts at a young age and progresses as a dog ages. Among the breeds that are most commonly affected are Basset Hounds, West Highland White Terriers, English Springer Spaniels, and American Cocker Spaniels.

Causes of Secondary Seborrhea

Underlying health issues that may cause secondary seborrhea include:

  • Cushing’s disease (due to a hyperactive adrenal gland);
  • Skin allergies (food, environment, fleas, and parasites);
  • Diabetes Mellitus;
  • Hypothyroidism (due to an underactive thyroid gland);
  • Lice and Mites;
  • Autoimmune diseases (Some possibilities are lupus erythematosus, pemphigus foliaceus, and sebaceous adenitis);
  • Vitamin deficiencies (e.g., vitamin A-responsive dermatosis, zinc-responsive dermatosis);
  • Cancer (A type of cancer called cutaneous epitheliotropic lymphoma may also cause secondary seborrhea).

Early diagnosis can make a whole lot of difference in the management, treatment, and prognosis of a dog with seborrhea. As soon as you notice symptoms, seeking the help of your veterinarian is best.

The Petcube Cam is a great way to detect any symptoms that your dog may be exhibiting. It features a 1080p full HD camera, smooth 2-way audio, crystal clear night vision, smart sound and motion alerts, and flexible mounting options. Plus, you also get access to a 24/7 online vet service, allowing you to consult with certified veterinarians about any pet-related issues and concerns you may have, wherever and whenever you need support and professional advice.

How to Treat Seborrhea in Dogs

An important part of canine seborrhea treatment involves addressing the underlying cause in cases of secondary seborrhea. Depending on the underlying cause, treatment recommendations may vary.

If primary seborrhea is diagnosed, however, there are several options that your veterinarian may recommend for managing the condition. These may include:

  • Anti-seborrheic shampoos;
  • Medicated ear cleaner;
  • A balanced diet or diet change;
  • Supplements;
  • Anti-inflammatory medications;
  • Antibiotics (in cases of secondary infections);
  • Antifungals (in the presence of yeast).

Note that some dogs may have chronic or recurring seborrhea. If so, regular vet visits may be needed to address the flare-ups and change treatments if necessary.

How Can the Emergency Fund Help with Treatment

While seborrhea in dogs is not life-threatening in itself, some underlying causes may be. And while we hope they don’t happen, pet emergencies may occur. Because of this, it is helpful for us pet parents to prepare in ways that we can. For instance, having a Petcube’s Emergency Fund subscription may go a long way during unexpected pet emergencies. For one thing, it offers up to $3000 annually for pet emergencies for up to six pets. You also get access to a 24/7 online vet service, which may be life-saving, especially when you need first aid guidance and emergency triage. Unlike some pet insurances, the Pet Emergency Fund welcomes pets regardless of age, breed, and medical history.

Having the support and peace of mind that we need during pet emergencies will be of great help to us and our pets, and that’s what the Pet Emergency Fund offers. Luckily, as a treat for being one of our blog readers, we are offering an exclusive 27% off on subscriptions if you follow this link.


What does seborrhea smell like on dogs?

Seborrhea in dogs can smell very foul. The odor may be similar to the smell of corn chips, grease, and a very strong dog odor, especially if a secondary infection occurs.

How often should you bathe a dog with seborrhea?

A dog with seborrhea may need frequent baths using anti-seborrheic shampoos. To start, it may be recommended to give them baths with the special shampoo every 2–3 days. This is continued for 2 to 3 weeks or more, depending on whether your dog’s skin gets better.

What is the best dog food for seborrhea?

This would depend on the cause of your dog’s seborrhea, but generally, a well-balanced diet with the right amount of protein, fat, vitamins, and minerals is ideal for good skin and coat.

How does anti-seborrhea dog shampoo help?

Anti-seborrhea shampoo for dogs has ingredients such as coal tar and salicylic acid. These ingredients help remove the excess keratin on your dog’s skin.


Seborrhea is a skin disorder that may affect dogs and may be caused by a variety of factors, such as genes, hormonal imbalances, allergies, and vitamin deficiencies, among others. As a result, it can lead to crusty, flaky, red, and itchy skin, skin lesions, hair loss, and pus, which may cause your dog discomfort.

Understanding the cause of your dog’s seborrhea is important in managing and treating the condition. Treatment options vary, depending on the cause of the seborrhea.

While seborrhea may be a pesky condition for your dog, proper management may help relieve the symptoms and treat the condition successfully.

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