Seborrhea: Is It Just a Symptom? - Groomer to Groomer Magazine

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Seborrhea: Is It Just a Symptom?

Seborrhea: Is It Just a Symptom?

By Michelle Knowles

We all have our weekly clients; those with the “special” skin pets who come in with a bag of “special” products that keep their smelly, flaky and oily pets tolerable. Many of these pets that I see for the first time have been in the same routine for months, and sometimes even years, but never seem to get better.

The diagnosis from the owner is seborrhea. This is a general term for a complex disorder. There are two types of seborrhea: primary, which is quite rare and is a form that is deemed to be inherited, and then there is secondary seborrhea, which is the most common form and is usually a symptom of an underlying infection.

Many things can cause this seborrheic symptom, and when it occurs, it is usually a symptom of something deeper that has caused the body, and therefore the skin, to become imbalanced. There are two forms of secondary seborrhea: wet or oleosa, and dry or sicca. There are several ways in which this condition can be diagnosed, including blood work, skin cytology and skin scrapings, skin cultures that can narrow down the bacterial or fungal culprit, skin biopsy and hormone tests.

It was traditionally thought that the sebaceous glands simply made an excess of oil and the greasy skin became a great place for bacteria and fungus to grow. But it has been discovered that the basal layer is making too many skin cells too quickly, which have not had time to dry out and the skin becomes saturated with rancid oils that have been sitting within the skin for too long. Any pet that is showing abnormal oil or skin production should be recommended to be seen by a veterinarian. It is very important that testing be done to find out the nature of the imbalance so that the topical treatments can be in harmony with the internal medicine, if any, that is prescribed.

Skin therapy in these ongoing cases is very beneficial. It can reduce odor, help to balance oil and skin cell production, and give a better chance at quality of life for the pet and its owner. Studies show that skins of this nature benefit from being bathed two times per week. As the goal of therapeutic baths is to normalize the skin, this frequency is ideally short–term and time in between can be lengthened as the skin responds.


The method of derm treatment is as follows:

  • Wet the pet and apply an oil and conditioner mixture to soften the old oil and hardened skin. Let sit for 5 to 10 minutes and rinse. Mineral conditioners and oils like Olive, Avocado, Emu, Argan, Camellia and Macadamia are good choices as they are no or low comedogenic oils, which are oils that can clog pores.
  • This is the cleansing step. Use a cleanser that has active ingredients such as sulfur, salicylic acid, fatty acids and perhaps benzoyl peroxide. These ingredients help to break up dead skin cells and hardened oils that cling to the surface of the skin. Let sit for 5 to 10 minutes, then rinse well. This is the perfect step to include ozone treatments in the water. The active oxygen made by combining oxygen atoms together in bunches of three is one of the most effective treatments for bacteria, fungus and viral infections, and the byproduct of ozone is pure oxygen. There are a variety of effective and affordable models to choose from online and can really give you an edge in helping pets with skin issues.
  • One of the most important steps is making sure you replace the oils that you have washed away so that the skin does not begin to overproduce more oil in order to protect the skin. Mineral conditioners with your choice of oil additives should be utilized every time the pet is washed with cleanser. Fulvic minerals are a good way to put bio–available minerals back into the skin. This mixture should also be allowed to sit for 5 to 10 minutes before rinsing and finishing as usual.

The projected time it will take to see results should be 2 to 4 weeks. The skin should look and smell better, the crusts and/or flakes should be less noticeable and the skin itself should be pink and healthy under the hair. This is the perfect time to see if the pet still responds by slowly lengthening the time in between treatments.

Hopefully this will help take some of the mystery out of a condition we hear a lot about but are frustrated with the lack of actual solutions. This method is not the only one, but it has proven to be effective for a large percentage of pets that I have worked with. There is nothing more disheartening than not being able to help a skin in need. If you find yourself doing the same thing without getting results, then a good choice would be to try something different! ✂

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