Seborrhea in Dogs

Revised: April 26, 2018
Published: October 20, 2003

Dogs with seborrhea have excessive scaling and flaking of the skin. The seborrhea may be dry or oily and greasy. Additionally, there may be reddened or pigmented areas of skin inflammation and an odor to the skin. Many of the symptoms of seborrhea are worse in the folds of the skin, especially on the neck and underneath the body. The odor associated with seborrhea can be worsened by bacterial skin (Staphylococcal pyoderma) or yeast (Malassezia) skin infections. Many seborrhea patients also have ear problems (otitis). 

There are two forms of seborrhea, primary and secondary seborrhea. Primary, or idiopathic, seborrhea is most commonly seen in breeds such as Cocker Spaniels, West Highland White Terriers, and Basset Hounds. Secondary seborrhea is more common and occurs when another disease causes excessive scaling and flaking of the skin. Many diseases can trigger secondary seborrhea, including hormonal imbalances, allergies, parasites, or fungal or bacterial skin infections, and environmental factors such as temperature and humidity changes.

For primary seborrhea, there is no cure. However, synthetic vitamin A derivatives, called retinoids, or other medications often help. For secondary seborrhea, the treatment involves diagnosing and managing the underlying disease that is causing the seborrhea.

A key method for controlling the symptoms of either primary or secondary seborrhea is using antiseborrheic shampoos. Several shampoos may need to be tried before the best one for your pet is found. Sometimes, two different shampoos or topical treatments may be needed.

VIN News Service commentaries are opinion pieces presenting insights, personal experiences and/or perspectives on topical issues by members of the veterinary community. To submit a commentary for consideration, email

Information and opinions expressed in letters to the editor are those of the author and are independent of the VIN News Service. Letters may be edited for style. We do not verify their content for accuracy.