Sebaceous Adenitis


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 distinct forms of this disease: The granulomatous or "standard poodle" form and the short-coated breed form. Only the clearly hereditary granulomatous form will be treated here.

Young to middle aged adult dogs are primarily affected with this largely "cosmetic" skin disorder.

Symptoms and Identification

Dogs affected with sebaceous adenitis will have whitish scaling of the skin with waxy, matted hair as a result of the scaling. The fur is usually sparse, dull or completely absent. Dogs' fur is often said to "lose its curl" when affected. The head neck and back tend to be first affected, with a backwards and downwards 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, itching can become intense.

Non-dermatologic symptoms are rare but have been known to occur in the most severely affected breed, the Akita. In this breed, fever and malaise has been reported. Otherwise, the disease is 100% confined to the skin.

Diagnosing the disease happens via skin biopsy.

Affected Breeds

The Standard Poodle is the quintessential sebaceous adenitis patient. This granular form of sebaceous adenitis is also seen in Akitas, Samoyeds, Old English and Belgian Sheepdogs. The disease is inherited as an autosomal recessive trait.


Long-term treatment of secondary symptoms is the only known approach to this disease's management. Frequent shampooing and chronic/recurrent antimicrobial administration is the most common approach taken.

Veterinary Cost

The cost of diagnosis and treatment of this frustrating skin disease is not insignificant but neither is it the kind of expense associated with the more insidious, uncomfortable skin diseases (allergic skin disease, for example). An average of $30-$50 for the cost of medicated shampoos and other drugs should be expected.


Spaying and neutering affected dogs and their first degree relatives is strongly recommended to prevent the hereditary transmission of this disease.


Campbell, K.L. 1997. Diagnosis and management of keratinization disorders in dogs. ACVIM - Proceedings of the 15th Annual Vet. Medical Forum. pp 220-222.

Dunstan, R.W., Hargis, A.M. 1995. The diagnosis of sebaceous adenitis in standard poodle dogs. In J.D. Bonagura and R.W. Kirk (eds.) Kirk's Current Veterinary Therapy XII Small Animal Practice. p 619-622. W.B. Saunders Co., Toronto.

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