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General Information

Sebum is a normal product of certain skin glands. In seborrhea, excessive sebum is produced and appears as dry, light-colored flakes in the hair coat or as greasy, waxy scales on the skin and hair. Because sebum is a fatty material, it becomes rancid and causes a strong coat odor.

Seborrhea may occur as a disease by itself (primary seborrhea) or result from an underlying disease (secondary seborrhea). While secondary seborrhea often clears up when the underlying disease is cured, primary seborrhea is a chronic disease that may be controlled but not cured. The cause of primary seborrhea is unknown.

Important Points in Treatment

1. Anti-seborrheic shampoos must be used on a regular basis to remove accumulated sebum, prevent skin irritation and control odor. Anti-seborrheic shampoos contain substances like salicylic acid, tar, sulfur and propylene glycol. Many times owners are disappointed in the effect of anti-seborrheic shampoos because they may not provide any immediate releif. These product work by altering the rate a which skin cell secrete and move from the deepest layers of the skin to the surface. This process take a long time. It may take a month or more for the effect of an anti-seborrheic shampoo to take effect and when their use is stopped it may take a month for seborrhea to return. Sometimes owners stop using the antiseborrheic shampoo and don't recognize that the return of the problem a month later was associated with failure to continue preventative treatment. Examples of potent antiseborrheic shampoos that we maintain in our inventory includes Allerseb-T and NuSal-T (tar based products) and examples of maintanance products would include Sebolux and Sebalyt (salicylic acid based products). Over the counter human dandruff shampoos are not usually useful but Neutorgena T-gel is not a bad choice for many dogs.(though is is probably more expensive than the dog products).

2. Treatment must be tailored to the individual patient. There may be times when other problems are occuring simultaneously that may require other types of medication. If, for example, a folliculitis occuring simultaneously we may recommend that a shampoo be used simultaneously to open the follicle. Each "medicated" needs to have about 10 minutes of contact with the skin before being washed off to be effective. Please call the doctor if you cannot give any medicine prescribed.

3. Diet: Follow the instructions checked.

____Feed the normal diet.

____A special diet is required. Feed as follows:


If your pet has flaky, dry, or greasy skin and haircoat, he may have a condition called seborrhea. Seborrhea, in humans or animals, is caused by an abnormal "gearing up" of certain cells in the skin, including cells of the sebaceous (oil) glands and the basic skin cells.

In seborrhea, the sebaceous glands (found in or near hair follicles, whose normal function is to enrich the skin with oil secretions) increase the amount and quantity of their secretions.

An abnormal turnover of the skin cells (keratinocytes) into dead scale (keratin) also occurs. Normally the cells in the skin are constantly dying and being worn off; new cells to replace them from deeper in the skin. So there is a constant migration of deeper cells moving to the surface, undergoing keratinization (making keratin and dying), and being sloughed off. This migration usually takes 3 weeks. This cycle is changed in animals with seborrhea. The migration is greatly accelerated and only takes several days. Thus there is a buildup of this keratin on the surface of the skin. This is why seborrhea is commonly termed a "keratinization disorder".

Seborrhea can be broken down into two groups, based upon the cause. Primary seborrhea can be either genetic-based or caused by a keratinization disorder. Secondary seborrhea is a result of other disease processes such as allergies, parasites, nutritional disorders, and endocrine (hormonal) disorders such as hypothyroidism. To determine the best treatment, it is important to differentiate whether a dog has primary or secondary seborrhea. Dogs with secondary seborrhea must be treated for its cause, such as allergies or zinc deficiency.

Seborrhea is characterized by skin that is excessively flaky, and can be divided into several types depending upon the signs and symptoms. The two most commonly referred to are:

Seborrhea sicca, or dry seborrhea which shows dry scaliness only. This type is common among Irish Setters and Doberman Pinschers.
Seborrhea oleosa, or oily seborrhea, in which the scales are accompanied by an oily coat. This type is common among Cocker Spaniels and West Highland White Terriers.
In addition to flakiness, dogs with seborrhea often have an increased odor and may tend to scratch and lick various parts of their body.

Symptomatic treatments may include clipping or shaving the haircoat which will make shampooing much more effective since we need to get the shampoo down to the skin. Frequent shampooing with special medicated shampoos selected according to the type of seborrhea present (sicca or oleosa) are very important. In some cases, special rinses or ointments to flush out the hair follicles may be used. Essential fatty acid supplements are often given. This may seem counterintuitive since the coat may already be "greasy", however the fatty acids are essential for normal skin cell function and will help the condition, not exacerbate it. In cases of secondary seborrhea, the underlying cause should be diagnosed and appropriate treatment given as directed by your veterinarian.

The majority of the information in this page is has been taken from VetMedCenter.com. For further information about this useful source of informtion follow the link or look, on the internet, at www.vetmedcenter.com.