What Causes Dogs to Have Oily Hair?

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Oily hair in dogs is usually caused by a skin disorder known as seborrhea, which can include keratinization disorder, seborrheic dermatitis, or other variations. This common ailment causes your pet's skin sebaceous glands to manufacture inordinate levels of sebum. Some dog breeds are particularly susceptible to an inherited form of seborrhea.


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Understand dry and greasy symptoms

Seborrhea causes two types of symptoms. and The first is dry seborrhea and the second is oily seborrhea. If a dog has dry seborrhea — seborrhea sicca — he'll experience symptoms such as skin flaking and dry, dehydrated patches.


Seborrhea causing oily dog fur — seborrhea oleosa. — causes immoderate greasiness of the coat. Dogs who have seborrhea typically possess elements of both types of the disorder, however. Seborrhea in most cases is a symptom of a medical condition rather than an ailment in and of itself.


Know the root cause

Primary seborrhea isn't caused by a medical condition but by genetics. According to Merck Veterinary Manual, a few dog breeds that are particularly prone to greasy coats caused by seborrhea include


  • Basset hounds.
  • Cocker spaniels.
  • Dachshunds.
  • Dobermans.
  • English springer spaniels
  • German shepherds.
  • Golden retrievers.
  • Shar-Peis.
  • Labrador retrievers.
  • West Highland white terriers.

Symptoms are most pronounced in the first two years of life for these breeds, according to Pet Coach. Excessive greasiness may abate as your dog matures.


Secondary seborrhea is triggered by skin trauma that's an effect of nutritional ailments, external parasites, allergies, yeast infections, bacterial infections, musculoskeletal diseases, obesity, immune system disorders, and hormonal conditions including hypothyroidism and Cushing's disease.


Watch for common symptoms

When canines have seborrhea, the condition typically impacts parts of the skin that are heavy in sebaceous glands. The skin located on the back is a good example. These parts of the skin typically come off in flakes that show up wherever dogs spend significant amounts of time, such as their beds. The flakes look like pale scales.


If your pet has seborrhea, you might notice him emitting an oily, fatty substance that lumps together below his stomach, inside of his ears, by his ankles and below his elbows and armpits.

You also might discover inflammation and redness of his skin or ears. He might develop lesions that are especially greasy or dry in feel. Unpleasant odors are common in dogs with seborrhea, according to VCA Hospitals. These smells generally are enhanced in dogs who possess secondary yeast or bacterial infections.


Frequent licking and scratching sometimes indicate that a dog might have this condition. The scratching sometimes leads to loss of hair, crusting, bleeding, and even secondary infections.

Consult a vet

If there's an oily coat on your dog along with itching and flaking, he might have seborrhea. Take him to the veterinarian who can diagnose any underlying medical conditions that are causing it.

Your vet will do a physical examination and may order tests such as

  • Stool examinations.
  • Hormone tests.
  • Skin biopsies.
  • Skin culture assessments.
  • Skin scrapings.
  • Blood tests.

Once the veterinarian determines the cause of the seborrhea, she can proceed with treating the source. If there doesn't appear to be a source condition, she'll diagnose your pet as having primary seborrhea. Since primary seborrhea lacks a cure, vets usually focus on minimizing the symptoms in affected dogs.

Treatments for primary seborrhea could include medicated anti-seborrheic shampoos, hypoallergenic diet plans, omega-3 fatty acid supplementation, retinoids, moisturizers, and oral cyclosporine. Vets also sometimes prescribe anti-fungal or antibiotic drugs for secondary bacterial infection treatment.

Should your vet suggests medicated shampoo treatment for your pooch, she might shave or clip his fur, especially if it's long to make it much easier for medication to reach his skin. Shampoos used to treat seborrhea in dogs often contain components such as coal tar, benzoyl peroxide, salicylic acid, and sulfur.

Always check with your veterinarian before changing your pet’s diet, medication, or physical activity routines. This information is not a substitute for a vet’s opinion.