Why is Dog Hair Greasy: What You Need to Know

You reach down to pet your dog, and their hair feels extra greasy. Worse, there’s a bad smell that goes along with it. Is this normal for a dog? Should you be worried, and more importantly, what can you do to help? It’s normal for us, as pet owners, to be concerned about our pups. The good news is that you can help get rid of this gross feeling problem. I’ll walk you through the steps and give you some tips, products, and tricks to help.

Why is dog hair greasy? Dog hair is greasy because of seborrheic dermatitis. This unfortunate skin condition can also make your dog smell bad. There are two different forms of SD. First, seborrhea oleosa creates greasy hair and skin, while seborrhea sicca makes dry, flaky skin. 

Seborrheic Dermatitis In Dogs

More than just greasy hair, seborrheic dermatitis is a problem for your dog. There are two types of seborrhea in dogs, but there are also two different causes, known as primary and secondary. Regardless of the origin and which variety your pooch has, it’s a problem.

The first thing you should know is that most dogs suffer from symptoms of both seborrhea oleosa, and seborrhea sicca. Unfortunately, your pet may have ‘combination skin,’ which needs less oil and more moisture.

Secondly, seborrheic dermatitis is typically a sign that there are other underlying problems with your dog. You should always see a vet if you notice symptoms of this condition. They will be able to accurately assess the issue and find any additional underlying problems that also need treatment.

If your doggy is suffering from allergies, itchy spots, or other secondary skin issues from SD, then you may want to consider spot treating with ResQ Organics Pet Skin Treatment. The manuka honey is a wonderful soother for damaged dog skin. You can check prices and availability by clicking here

Primary Seborrheic Dermatitis

The first kind of SD is genetic. It’s an inherited condition that is far more common in certain types of dogs. If your beloved pet is a rescue or a mutt, it can be challenging to figure out where their lineage comes from. Here are some of the breeds that are especially prone to Seborrheic Dermatitis.

  • Basset Hound
  • Cocker Spaniel
  • Dachshund
  • Doberman
  • English Springer Spaniel
  • German Shepherd
  • Golden Retriever
  • Labrador Retriever
  • Shar-Pei
  • West Highland Terrier

If you have a pedigreed or non-papered dog from any of these breeds, you need to keep a watchful eye on their skin and coat. Inherited SD may be a symptom of other underlying issues that require treatment.

Fortunately, there’s a great deal you can do to help. I will cover more on that in a moment. Better still, this type of SD is much less common than the other kind.

A good Omega 3 booster like fish oil added to your dog’s food may help them with SD. I prefer keeping Life Line Wild Alaskan Fish Oil around for my dogs because it’s raw and cold-pressed. Fish oil supports a healthy balance in dog’s coats and helps with brain and heart health as well, which is a nice bonus. You can find it by clicking here

Secondary Seborrheic Dermatitis

While the other type of SD is called ‘primary,’ it is the secondary seborrheic dermatitis that is most likely the issue. Even in dogs from breeds that are prone to the condition, it doesn’t have to be genetic.

So what causes secondary SD? Unfortunately, there are quite a few common conditions linked with SD. You should never try to self-diagnose seborrheic dermatitis for your dog. Some of the most straightforward causes are obesity, allergies, and external parasites.

Infections can also lead to seborrheic dermatitis. Specifically, bacterial infections and yeast infections both irritate the skin. This can lead to SD. Additionally, lousy nutrition that leads to skin ailments, like not having the right balance of foods, could also be the root of the problem.

Alarmingly, there are a few, much more severe conditions that can also have SD as a symptom. Hormonal conditions like Cushing’s disease or hypothyroidism could be to blame. Endocrine and absorption disorders could be the cause. Moreover, it might also be a sign of musculoskeletal disease or an immune system disorder.

Symptoms to Look For in Greasy Hair

Like humans, dogs have sebaceous glands that produce oil or ‘grease’ which can impact their hair. When these glands go into overdrive, it causes a greasy feeling. You’ll notice it first where there are more sebaceous glands clustered together. Sadly, your pet’s back is one of those areas and a large one.

Your dog may show signs of dandruff-like problems. You can check their bedding and fur for skin flakes. Likewise, you might notice your dog’s skin is inflamed and redder than usual. Plus, keep an eye out for scratching and other signs of doggy discomfort like frequent licking, hair loss, and scabbing to help tip you off.

A greasy, oily, or ‘fatty’ substance may or may not be visible. If it’s clumping together, you may see it on doggy elbows, under ‘arm’ area, ankles, belly fur, or ears. Often it’s accompanied by an unpleasant smell.

How Your Vet Diagnoses The Problem

The first thing a vet will do when you bring in a greasy-haired dog is to ask you questions. They’ll want to know as much as you can tell them about your dog’s history. Bring any previous vet records you have. Determining the cause of SD can be obvious, or tricky, depending on what it is.

Next, they’ll do a preliminary health check. Your vet may take the dog’s temperature and otherwise look them over. Listening to the heart and peering in the ears, eyes, mouth, and nose.

If there’s nothing obviously wrong, and you’re not complaining of other symptoms or reporting a health history that might cause the condition, they will move on with additional testing. This may include any number of steps. Here are some of the standard tests.

  1. Cortisol testing can help to determine if your dog has hormonal issues.
  2. The vet may want a fecal sample to examine for parasites, and they may also perform a skin scraping to look for external parasite activity.
  3. A urinalysis (pee test) might be next.
  4. Drawing blood will let the veterinarian run numerous tests. They’ll run a chemistry panel and do a blood count to make sure everything is as it should be.
  5. A thyroid test will help rule out hypothyroidism.
  6. Bacterial and fungal culture samples might also be necessary.

Your vet might do any or all of these things and more to determine the underlying cause of seborrheic dermatitis. Sadly there’s no specific cure for the condition. However, treating the problems that led to SD can help a great deal. Better still, some dietary supplements and shampoos will help you keep your pet more comfortable and less greasy.

Help for Your Greasy Doggy

Talk to your vet about appropriate treatment for seborrheic dermatitis and greasy hair on your dog. They may suggest dietary changes. If there’s an underlying cause, then there will be a treatment for that as well.

Talk to your vet about special shampoos and supplements high in omega-three fatty acids. Shampoos with tar and benzoyl peroxide are often helpful. I suggest Sogeval Douxo Seborrhea Shampoo from Amazon. A few years ago, I had a dog who suffered from SD, and it helped a lot. To pick some up for your dog, click here.  

Greasy Dog Hair Isn’t Always Bad

While you should always pay attention to your dog’s health, a greasy coat isn’t necessarily a big deal. Sometimes, your dog just needs a bath. They may have gotten into something oily,  and smeared it on their fur.

It’s also important to note that some dog breeds tend toward oilier hair naturally. Usually, dogs who were bred for working in the water may have oilier hair. This is natural protection they evolved, just as they may have webbed toes for swimming.

When your dog is perfectly healthy, and the greasy feeling isn’t connected to any other symptoms or worrisome signs, try giving a bath. Make sure you keep an eye on them afterward for a few days to see if it comes back. If you have any worries, see the vet.

Final Thoughts

Dogs get into all sorts of things, including greasy, stinky ‘stuff.’ If you’re lucky, then that feeling is temporary and nothing to worry about. However, you shouldn’t ignore it. If a bath doesn’t ‘cure’ the problem for good, then you need to dig deeper and see if it’s a case of seborrheic dermatitis.

Only your vet can tell you for sure if there’s an underlying illness or issue that is causing seborrheic dermatitis. When you see any of the signs, or the grease comes with other symptoms, make an appointment to see your vet soon. After all, the quicker you begin treating the problem, the happier and healthier your dog will be.

Unfortunately, seborrheic dermatitis doesn’t go away. Make sure you stay on top of whatever treatment your vet suggests to keep your pet healthy.

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