eng-CA Canada

Your Dog's Skin

Oily or flaky skin (AKA Seborrhea)

Dealing with dandruff

What's going on?

If your dog has oily or dry skin with flakes ('dandruff'), he may have a condition called seborrhea.


There are two forms of seborrhea: oily (oleosa) and dry (sicca). A combination of both types can also occur. A change in the amount and quality of the oily skin secretions (sebum) causes this condition. Excessive skin peeling and the flakes on your dog’s coat are caused by an imbalance between new and dying skin cells. 

Underlying conditions such as allergies, endocrine disorders, and dietary deficiencies are often the cause of seborrhea. These conditions cause an imbalance of the skin's ecosystem leading to secondary seborrhea. 

Primary (inherited) seborrhea also exists. It affects young dogs of certain breeds including West Highland White Terriers, Dachshunds, and others. In Shar Pei's, primary seborrhea is common in the body folds.


Oily skin can be waxy or greasy. Often, dogs have a bad odor due to this excessive sebum production.  

With dry seborrhea, a lack of sebum irritates the skin and dandruff is more frequent. Skin hyperpigmentation and hair loss are also common.

Damage of the natural protective skin barrier can contribute to bacterial or yeast skin infections. Your dog's skin may also be itchy, leading to excessive scratching or licking. 

If you notice any of these signs, a trip to the veterinarian is warranted as this is not just a hygiene issue!


Your veterinarian will first look for the underlying cause of the problem and may need to perform diagnostic tests.  In addition to treating the primary disease, topical therapy may also help repair the damaged skin barriers.