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Sebaceous adenitis is a hereditary disease that causes the sebaceous glands in a dog’s skin to become inflamed and die. Fortunately, in most cases it’s a largely cosmetic skin disorder that affects only a handful of dog breeds. The problem usually starts at the head, neck, and back, causing scaly skin and matted, thinning hair as the glands malfunction. There is no cure for sebaceous adenitis, but secondary symptoms, such as yeast infections, must be managed on an ongoing basis, usually with frequent bathing and topical medication.
The sebaceous glands of the skin produce sebum, a fatty substance that keeps the skin moist and aids in basic immune functions. Sebaceous adenitis is a canine disease process during which these glands become inflamed and are eventually destroyed.
Some authors report two forms of this disease: The granulomatous form (that tends to occur in long-coated breeds) and the short-coated breed form. Young to middle-aged adult dogs are primarily affected with this largely cosmetic skin disorder.
Dogs affected with sebaceous adenitis will have whitish scaling of the skin with waxy, matted hair as a result of the scaling. The fur may have a moth-eaten appearance, or be sparse, dull, or completely absent. An affected dog’s fur is often said to lose its curl.
The head, neck, and back tend to be affected first, with a backward and downward spreading of the scaling, hair loss, and other lesions. Itchiness is not a primary component of the disease, but once the abnormal skin becomes secondarily infected with bacteria and/or yeast, the itching can become intense.
Non-dermatologic symptoms are rare but have been seen in the most severely affected breed, the Akita. In this breed, fever and malaise have been reported in conjunction with this disease process. Otherwise, the disease is 100 percent confined to the skin.
Veterinarians can diagnose the disease via skin biopsy.
The Standard Poodle is the quintessential sebaceous adenitis patient. The granular form of sebaceous adenitis is also seen in other breeds including the Akita, Samoyed, and Old English Sheepdog. The Vizsla is identified as being affected by the short-coated form of the disease.
Long-term treatment of secondary symptoms is the primary approach to the disease’s management. Frequent shampooing and chronic/recurrent antimicrobial administration may be required. Specific supplements, such as fatty acid supplements, may also be recommended.
Removing affected dogs from the breeding pool is recommended to help prevent the hereditary transmission of this disease.
This article was reviewed by a Veterinarian.
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