Canine Sebaceous Adenitis

Canine Sebaceous Adenitis in Dogs

Compared to other dermal pathologies that dogs can develop throughout their lives, canine sebaceous adenitis is a relatively new one. It is also rare, and it tends to affect a variety of other species, including pets like cats, but also traction animals such as horses.

In today’s article, we are looking at everything that pet owners should know about sebaceous adenitis in dogs – from its potential causes and clinical signs to whether or not it can be treated.

What is canine sebaceous adenitis?

Sebaceous adenitis is a somewhat uncommon condition that can affect dogs of various ages and health statuses. It appears without a specific cause, even in dogs that seem to be well cared for and that might not have experienced dermatitis before.

The etiology of the disease hasn’t been discovered yet, but in all cases, the sebaceous glands and ducts end up being affected by chronic inflammation, which leads to the destruction of various nearby structures, including hair follicles.

Clinical manifestation

The symptoms of sebaceous adenitis in dogs can depend on two factors – the staging of the condition and the type of dog breed. When the condition is diagnosed in its early stages, some of the sebaceous glands and ducts may respond to treatment and, as such, may not be destroyed completely.

As the name of the disease might suggest to you, it is characterized by an excess production of sebum, which is why the patient’s coat will look greasy and develop dandruff.

After scaling begins and the hair follicles are affected, most dogs that have sebaceous adenitis will start to lose their hair. Initially, hair loss will affect some patches but will later on spread across larger body regions.

Some dog breeds seem to be more predisposed to the condition, with the Akita and Poodle being at the top of the list. Others range from Chow Chow and Havanese to Samoyed dogs.

Since we mentioned that the clinical signs could depend on the dog breed, the hair length determines what symptoms you might be able to notice in your pet. For example, long-haired breeds can show the following:

  • Matting
  • Hair loss from the neck to the base of the tail
  • Possible bacterial infections
  • White scales that don’t flake as easily as in other dermal conditions

By contrast, short-haired breeds experience some or all of the signs listed below:

  • Skin scales
  • Asymmetrical hair loss
  • Skin scars (especially if pruritus appears)


Due to its somewhat confusing clinical manifestation, the only accurate way of diagnosing canine sebaceous adenitis is by performing a biopsy and a cytological examination.

The biopsy almost always reveals the damage that the sebaceous glands and ducts have sustained, along with the same process affecting the hair follicles.

Can sebaceous adenitis in dogs be treated?

It largely depends on every case in part. Some dogs might have sebaceous adenitis because of their genetics, which makes treating it very challenging. Oral supplements, along with topical treatments (creams), will usually improve the symptoms, but the condition will reappear at one point in these dogs.

Any dogs that have developed secondary skin infections will be treated with topical ointments and oral medication consisting of antibiotics. Some dogs respond well to doxycycline, which is not just an antibiotic but is also considered an immunomodulator.

In all cases, the therapy is long and difficult, and only after a period of 4 to 6 months can a dog be considered clear of this condition.

Owners are usually informed by their vets that it could reappear at any point in the future, which is why oral supplements and occasional topical treatments using mineral bath oil, for example, are highly recommended.

Is there any way to prevent canine sebaceous adenitis?

Since this condition is often immune-mediated or appears without an apparent cause, the only way to prevent it to some extent is to make sure that your dog’s coat and skin are in top health at all times.

This doesn’t mean bathing your canine friend often so as to remove the scales or excess sebum. Giving your dog a short haircut may be a good idea if you want to be able to see all of their body and the areas where this condition may appear.

Since sebaceous adenitis can easily spread from one portion of the body to the next and sometimes cover large surfaces, you should take your dog to the vet at the first sign that you notice.

Frequently asked questions

Is sebaceous adenitis in dogs itchy?

Approximately half of the dogs that have developed this disease will also develop a dermal infection, and that may indeed cause itchiness. Besides alopecia, meaning loss of hair, owners can notice the presence of dandruff. If dogs have external parasites, they might inflict damage upon their dermal layers due to itchiness.

Is sebaceous adenitis painful?

In most cases, it does not cause any specific local pain or discomfort. Unfortunately, the lesions produced as a result of the dog experiencing the clinical signs can lead to secondary bacterial infections that can indeed be associated with pain.

All dogs that have been diagnosed with sebaceous adenitis have a much higher likelihood of developing bacterial or yeast infections compared to their counterparts.

Can sebaceous adenitis be considered an autoimmune disease?

In some dogs where its appearance is completely idiopathic and there really doesn’t seem to exist a separate cause, this condition can be considered an autoimmune disease.

Some of the breeds it has been reported in and is categorized as such are the Akita Inu, the Standard Poodle, as well as the English Springer Spaniel. Although initially, its incidence was rare in all dog breeds, even in these particular ones, it seems to have increased over the past few decades.



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