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Sebaceous Adenitis in Dogs… Symptoms, expectations and costs!

Sebaceous adenitis in dogs is one of those conditions that unless you’re really familiar with dogs or more specifically certain dog breeds, chances are you’ve never actually heard of this disease before.

This is because…

Sebaceous Adenitis is an immune-mediated hereditary disease.  An immune-medicated disease that causes the sebaceous glands, which produces a fatty serum (a waxy matter that waterproofs and lubricates the hair and skin in mammals), to become inflamed.

Now for those of us…

Might not have known what sebaceous glands were before they started doing research on this disease, you’ll be excited to learn that they are associated with one’s hair follicles.  They are what help keep a dog’s skin supple and the hair soft and luscious.   Unfortunately, the sebaceous gland will eventually be destroyed by this disorder.

Now the good news is…

That in most cases, this skin disorder will only progress to a point where it is simply a “cosmetic” issue and not something more serious than that.

Symptoms of sebaceous adenitis (SA)

Now in general, when a dog is afflicted with sebaceous adenitis (SA) it will have what appears to be a whitish looking scaling of the skin.  This scaling will cause the hair to get a waxy feel to it and it will become easily matted. The hair will then appear to be what is called ‘moth-eaten,’ which means that if the dog is not bald (alopecia) the fur will be dull and sparse; it will also lose any curl.


The spinal area, not necessarily including the tail, will be afflicted first, the SA will continue down and backwards.  From there, there will be the spreading of the hair loss and the scaling of the skin and other associated lesions, while follicular casts are usually distributed along the spinal region.

It should be noted that…

Itchiness in not a primary part of the sebaceous adenitis but once the affected skin incurs secondary infections which are caused by yeast and by bacteria (pyoderma), the itching will occur and it will become intense.  At this time your dog’s skin may also give off a musky odor.

Non-dermatological symptoms…

Associated with SA are rare it has been seen in the Akita, which is a severely affected breed. It has been reported to cause a fever and malaise in Anita’s when they are afflicted with SA.

In most other dogs…

With cases of sebaceous adenitis, the disease has only been confined to the skin.  That said however, depending on the “type” of hair that the affected dog has, physical symptom may vary but will generally be as follows:

Long-Haired Dogs

The signs in long-haired dogs include:

  • Spots of hair loss that appear to be symmetrical on both sides of the dog’s torso.
  • Brittle, dull coat.
  • White scaling of the skin that doesn’t easily flake off.
  • Skin lesions starting on the top of the head that continues along the spine.
  • Anita’s can have severe cases which may lead to the development of deep skin infections.

  Short-Haired Dogs

The signs in short-haired dogs include:

  • Hair loss is patchy, thus the moth-eaten appearance
  • Mild scaling of the skin
  • Skin lesions appearing on the head, flaps of the ears, and torso of the body
  • Afflicted dogs have the possibility of developing scarring on their skin.

Affected Breeds

Standard poodles are the ultimate sebaceous adenitis patient.  This is because the standard poodle has a definite genetic recessive trait for the condition which is pretty prevalent throughout the breed.

That said however…

The granual form of SA has been found in other different breeds which include:

There is also a breed called Vizsla which has been found to be afflicted with the short-haired form of SA disease.

Other breeds which have been diagnosed with SA include, but are not limited to the:

Diagnosis of Sebaceous Adenitis is dogs

To definitively diagnosis SA in your afflicted dog your veterinarian will need to perform a skin biopsy ($500-$900). From there, the pathologist will then find areas of the sebaceous glands with not only infection, but also with inflammation, and scarring.

These biopsies…

Will also reveal granulomatous or pyogranulomatous inflammation around the sebaceous glands. When the dog has an advanced or severe case of sebaceous adenitis, the sebaceous gland will be completely dead.

Treatment of Sebaceous Adenitis in Dogs

Unfortunately, there has been no cure for SA.  Clinical signs can come and go free of any treatment that has been introduced.  The good news is that there have been some recent studies that show more of an inclination towards some treatments but nothing definitive has been found as of yet.

Specialists working…

With severe cases of SA have found that cyclosporine, which acts as a suppressor the inflammation, has allowed some patients to regrow some of the sebaceous glands as well which is certainly a step in the right direction.

Now some treatments that…

Seem to have had variable efficiency have included antibiotics ($10-$50 per occurrence) which have been used to treat associated bacterial infection and then medications which have been used to interfere with the immune system attacking the sebaceous glands. Anita’s with sebaceous adenitis have been uncooperative with any treatments.

But since…

There is a not a cure of the primary diagnosis of sebaceous adenitis, treatment has fallen to the management of the secondary symptoms associated with the disease.

Your veterinarian…

Will most likely require you to frequently wash your dog (keratolytic shampoo $20-$30, emollient rinses $10-$20) and recommend an antimicrobial ($25-$35) be administered. Oil baths and oil sprays are also a possible treatment with the oil being left on the dog’s skin for up to 2hrs as a topical therapy.

Your veterinarian may also…

Recommend that you give your dog specific supplements such as fatty acids supplements. Treatments may also be used to soothe the skin and remove the flakes and scales from your dog’s skin.

Prevention of Sebaceous Adenitis in dogs

The only way to prevent sebaceous adenitis in dogs is to not allow dogs with this disorder to breed.  Since sebaceous adenitis is hereditary, breeding allows for the transmission of this disease.  This is why you should only work with a reputable breeder and be sure to do your homework about what particular dog you wish to adopt in the future so that you’ll know what questions you should be asking!

Which is why…

We here at IndulgeYourPet also recommend that any new pet owner take a moment and see what it might cost for you to purchase a pet insurance policy for your new animal.

Now will a pet insurance policy be right for everyone?

No, probably not.  But until you fully understand what these policies “will” and “won’t” cover and how much these pet insurance policies cost, how will you know if one might be right for you?

For more information on who we feel currently offers the “best” pet insurance policies out there, we would encourage you to check out our Best Pet Insurance Policies article.

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