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What is Skin Disease (Canine Seborrhea)?

In canine seborrhea, the skin cells produce excessive keratinous material that causes dermatitis with flakes and scaling. Symptoms commonly develop on the back or feet, as well as inside pouches and skin folds. The sebaceous glands in the skin often overproduce a lubricating secretion called sebum as well, and many dogs with seborrhea have very oily skin. Others develop a dryer form of the disease with peeling areas of dry skin and lesions. Many dogs have a combination of both types of symptoms. Seborrhea can be inherited, especially in some breeds. Puppies may develop flaking skin as young as ten weeks old and show significant symptoms before they are eighteen months. More commonly, however, seborrhea is due to a secondary condition, such as an endocrine imbalance that upsets hormone levels in the body, or an allergic reaction that affects the skin. Bacterial and fungal infections are often found in combination with seborrhea; in some cases these may be the primary cause, in others they are opportunistic infections that develop secondary to seborrheic dermatitis. Scratching at itchy lesions can make the skin break and increase the chance of infection. Many dogs have a distinctive odor with seborrhea, especially if it is combined with a Malassezia fungal infection. In severe cases, dogs may lose patches of hair. Concurrent ear infection is also a common problem, especially with oily seborrhea.

Dermatitis with scales and flaking skin in dogs is caused by abnormal keratinization and hormone levels in the skin cells. Veterinarians call this canine seborrhea or seborrheic dermatitis. It can be an inherited problem in some breeds, but more commonly it occurs secondary to allergies or endocrine disease.

Skin Disease (Canine Seborrhea) Average Cost

From 29 quotes ranging from $300 - $500

Average Cost

$350

Symptoms of Skin Disease (Canine Seborrhea) in Dogs

These are the symptoms you might notice in a dog with seborrhea.

  • Large numbers of skin flakes in a dog’s bedding
  • Patches of flaking skin, especially on the back
  • Excessively oily skin
  • Itching (pruritus)
  • Thick crusted skin
  • Odor
  • Alopecia (hair loss)
  • Ear infection

Types

The two different types of seborrhea can be found separately or together.

  • Seborrhea oleosa (oily seborrhea) – dogs have excessively greasy skin and commonly develop concurrent ear infection
  • Seborrhea sicca (dry seborrhea) – dogs have dry, flaky patches of skin
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Causes of Skin Disease (Canine Seborrhea) in Dogs

Primary dermatitis is more common in some breeds. It is still rare however; most seborrheic dermatitis is due to a secondary condition.

Primary or congenital seborrhea

  • American Cocker Spaniels, English Springer Spaniels, Basset Hounds, West Highland White Terriers, Dachshunds, Labrador Retrievers, Golden Retrievers, German Shepherds, Shar Peis, Doberman Pinschers, Irish Setters

Secondary

  • Allergies
  • Many types of endocrine Imbalance (including Cushing’s disease and thyroid disease)
  • Fungal infection (especially Malassezia yeast infection)
  • Bacterial infection (pyoderma)
  • Parasites (fleas or ticks)
  • Poor diet
  • Changes in temperature
  • Obesity
  • Poor grooming
  • Cancer (especially cutaneous lymphoma)
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Diagnosis of Skin Disease (Canine Seborrhea) in Dogs

The veterinarian will examine your dog’s symptoms and take skin scrapings and fluid cultures to analyze the cells at a microscopic level. Red pimples and pustules tend to suggest a concurrent bacterial infection, such as pyoderma. Hair loss, odor, and signs of itching are also relevant. Allergic reactions usually have a higher degree of pruritus than hormone imbalance from endocrine disease. Other symptoms, like excessive drinking and urination, can suggest an endocrine problem. The veterinarian will take bloodwork and complete urinalysis to check for systemic symptoms. Specific tests (such as an ACTH Stim test) may be necessary to definitively diagnose Cushing’s disease or thyroid imbalance.

Your dog’s age and breed can also be relevant. When seborrhea develops in young puppies, this is frequently a sign of inherited disease. Nevertheless, the veterinarian will still need to perform a number of other tests to eliminate treatable conditions that could be causing the problem. Older dogs will be more likely to develop secondary seborrheic dermatitis as the result of an endocrinopathy, or cancer, while younger dogs, under five years of age, are more likely to have an allergic source for the disease. Recent diet changes can be relevant, as well as any environmental changes like a recent move.

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Treatment of Skin Disease (Canine Seborrhea) in Dogs

Treatment for canine seborrhea will focus on managing the symptoms and eliminating the cause if it is a secondary condition. Antibiotics and antifungal medication will be prescribed to treat concurrent bacterial and fungal infection, which is common. The veterinarian may choose an antibiotic based on a lab’s analyzation of your dog’s specific bacteria to avoid problems with antibiotic resistant staphylococcal bacteria. Ketoconazole or fluconazole are frequently given for malassezia infection. Medication may also be prescribed to kill fleas or roundworm.

Antiseborrheic shampoos are the most effective way of treating the flakes and scaling that are the defining symptoms of seborrhea. The veterinarian will prescribe or recommend a shampoo. In the first few weeks of treatment, you may need to bathe your dog two or three times per week. The shampoo will need to stay in contact with the skin for ten or fifteen minutes in order to have an effect. Moisturizers and sprays can be used after or between baths. The flaking may get worse to begin with, but will taper off as symptoms begin to be controlled. You will need to monitor your dog carefully as over-bathing can actually make seborrhea worse. If ear infection is present, the veterinarian will prescribe drops and you will need to clean the wax build-up out of your dog’s ears frequently.

Other treatments will focus on conditions that are causing secondary seborrhea. Medication may be prescribed to treat hormone imbalance. Diet change may be recommended to eliminate or find the root of an allergic reaction. You may need cut your dog back to a single protein and add in other foods slowly to see what substance is causing the reaction. If the condition cannot be pinpointed, it may be due to an autoimmune response rather than a direct allergen; the veterinarian may recommend an immune suppressant medication if the problem is very severe. If the root cause of your dog’s seborrhea turns out to be cancerous, surgery and/or chemotherapy may be necessary, but this is quite rare.

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Recovery of Skin Disease (Canine Seborrhea) in Dogs

Recovery will depend on the cause of seborrhea. With primary inherited versions of the disease, medicated shampoos and sprays will be necessary throughout your dog’s life. Depending on the dog, symptoms can often be kept mostly under control, but you will need to monitor your dog’s skin and seek treatment as soon as you notice a problem developing.

Secondary conditions can often be eliminated by treating the cause. If Cushing’s disease or thyroid imbalance can be treated medically, this will usually eliminate or greatly reduce seborrhea, however, lifelong medication may be necessary to treat the hormone imbalance. Finding and eliminating the source of an allergic reaction can also effectively cure seborrhea; if the exact allergen is impossible to pinpoint you may need to continue to manage the problem symptomatically. If seborrhea is due to an infection or a flea infestation, treatment is often quite effective. Your dog’s exact prognosis will depend on the veterinarian’s diagnosis.

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Skin Disease (Canine Seborrhea) Average Cost

From 29 quotes ranging from $300 - $500

Average Cost

$350

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Skin Disease (Canine Seborrhea) Questions and Advice from Veterinary Professionals

Need pet health advice? Ask a vet

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Ask a Vet

dog-name-icon

Freeway

dog-breed-icon

Shih Tzu

dog-age-icon

13 Years

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Critical severity

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0 found helpful

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Critical severity

Has Symptoms

Licking; Scratching; Smelly

My Shih Tzu is 13 years. Serious case of oily Seborrhea. He's been on anitbiotics and shampoos. The infection keeps coming back. Now it has spread from head to tail. His hair is patchy. Scratching like crazy. He appears to be suffering. Please help. Any advice?

June 11, 2018

Freeway's Owner


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0 Recommendations

Unfortunately in some cases like this, there are no shortcuts and you may need to continue to give treatment with medicated shampoos (benzoyl peroxide, chlorhexidine or ethyl lactate based) and antibiotic/antifungal therapy; if the issue keeps recurring you should return to your Veterinarian for another examination and a discussion on treatment. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM www.msdvetmanual.com/integumentary-system/seborrhea/overview-of-seborrhea

June 12, 2018

My American Cocker Spaniel has the terrible dry seborrhea. We have been back and forth to the vet, prednisone, antibiotics, medicated shampoos etc. I have found a product on the market that seems to help quite a bit now. It's not always easy to find in stock, so you may need to try a few searches. It's: "Homeopet skin & seborrhea dog, cat, bird & small animal supplement". It's drops that I put on his food daily. Be sure to get the one that actually says Seborrhea on it. Maybe this will help your dog as well. Good Luck!

July 24, 2018

Dawn B.

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Paco

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Chow Chow

dog-age-icon

6 Years

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Fair severity

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1 found helpful

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Fair severity

Has Symptoms

Its been 10 months and my dog still has seborrhea oleosa, I switched his food to royal canin skin support and been using the virbac sebolytic shampoo but he still has those “dandruff”. He wears the ecollar for 10 months now. His ear infection is getting worse. I bathe him 2 a week. His T2 exam is low normal. He’s been itching a lot. How do I find a cure? Or how do I help prevent him from itching a lot?

April 14, 2018

Paco's Owner


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1 Recommendations

These cases can be difficult and unrewarding when it comes to treatment, if there has been little progress over the past ten months I would recommend seeking help from a Specialist if no headway has been made so far. I cannot think of anything to immediately help you, but you may consider using a different shampoo to see if it yields better results than the one you are currently using. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM www.msdvetmanual.com/integumentary-system/seborrhea/overview-of-seborrhea

April 15, 2018

My dogs’ itching is controlled with Apolquel and then the disease is under control. I have two dogs from the same litter with the same problem.

April 30, 2018

Susan M.


I’ve been going through with my cocker for this exact disease. Lots of vet visits and very expensive meds but nothing can cure. After meds she’s only free of issues for a month then all symptoms come back to life starting with pimples that multiply aggressively. Done all organic approach & myriad of shampoos until now. The minute my dog shakes her head and pimples appear I now proactively shampoo her with Dechra products. I started two days ago and I can tell her shaking and itching diminished. I know she’s heading that lousy path, shaking head, itching, warm head. Mind you I always bath my dog but with wrong shampoo. I hope this time I can control the symptoms by proactively giving her a bath 3x a week until the symptoms subside. I use DechraDermabess and also ordered Miconahex +Triz. I vowed to help her not take anymore antibiotics by combatting the first sign of trouble.

April 15, 2018

Faye B.

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Teddy

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poodle cross

dog-age-icon

13

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Moderate severity

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0 found helpful

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Moderate severity

Has Symptoms

Generally Quite Happy

Hello my 13 yr old poodle cross has Cushings Disease that is treated with vetoryl 15mg bid. for about a year. ACTH stim tests have been on the high end of normal. All his hematology and chemistry tests have improved considerably most notable liver function. However he continues to have marked hair loss, especially on back, back of neck and lateral torso plus patches of alopecia. His skin is thin with hyperpigmentation on the back of his neck and fairly diffuse seborrhea worst on his back in front of tail and hip jts. He constantly licks his skin and more fur has come off that way. He was aggressively chewing his tail. He has had significant weight loss (20-25%) Vet not willing to attribute to Cushings although Teddy has no other symptoms. (vomiting, diarrhea lethargy. I feed him a fairly high protein diet 4 times a day My main question is about treating his skin. From discussions with the vet and myown research, I believe all his skin problems are related to Cushings.I know ketoconazole shampoo can help the seborrhea, but are topical creams such as loprox efficacious? Are there any moisturizers that might be beneficial? Has using products like rogaine shown any benefit? thank you. He has lost 20-25% body weight, despite eating reasonably well. However,

July 26, 2017

Teddy's Owner

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0 Recommendations

Fundamentally, seborrhoea can be difficult to manage and using other products together with the shampoo can cause more harm than good. Products like Regaine (minoxidil) can be toxic to dogs (and even more toxic in cats); obviously regular bathing with the shampoo along with preventing him from biting himself will help the best. Applying creams to areas where a dog is already biting and licking can lead to ingestion and other problems. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM

July 26, 2017

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Huxley

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Shih Tzu

dog-age-icon

4 Years

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Serious severity

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0 found helpful

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Serious severity

Has Symptoms

Licking
Scratching Often
Oily Skin
Smelly

My dog has secondary, oily Seborrhea. We are treating his allergies with a special serum made for him and he is now on z/d food. He's been on the food for a month, but still has these problems. We are trying a special medicated shampoo from the vet, but it doesn't contain sulfur tar and I've read that's what we should be doing.

July 26, 2017

Huxley's Owner

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0 Recommendations

Tar based shampoos can smell unpleasant and can be irritating to the skin which is why they are generally not used anymore (due to owner reluctance to use the shampoo). Benzoyl peroxide based shampoos are usually recommended for oily seborrhoea, but these shampoos too can irritate the skin and cause drying of the skin. Ask your Veterinarian about a tar based shampoo if they have it in stock. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM

July 26, 2017

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Bling

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Shih Tzu

dog-age-icon

9 Years

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Serious severity

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pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Serious severity

Has Symptoms

Can thyroid medicine cause skin problems my dog has always had skin issues but it seems to have gotten worse with thyroid medicine?

July 26, 2017

Bling's Owner


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0 Recommendations

In thyroid conditions, appearance of the skin and dulling of the coat are normal clinical signs; in some cases medication for thyroid issues may affect the appearance of the skin. It would be best to visit your Veterinarian for them to evaluate the effectiveness of treatment, determine if the skin issues are related to the thyroid or the thyroid medication and to possibly measure T3 and T4 again to determine if the dosage is still appropriate. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM

July 26, 2017

Can cutaneous papilloma found on a dogs paws cause seborrhea? Or is it more likely for the dog to have primary seborrhea and contract the cutaneous papilloma as a result. In addition, should a histopathology report detect canine seborrhea or is it primarily just a diagnosis of exclusion?

July 26, 2017

Brie W.


Can worming your 15 year old dog cause the oily one?

July 26, 2017

Zac P.

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Betty Boop

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French Bulldog

dog-age-icon

6 Months

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Moderate severity

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Moderate severity

Has Symptoms

Hair Loss
Dandruff

Key symptoms: severe dandruff, hair loss in spots on the back, seborrhea) I had a hard time finding information online about treatments for primary seborrhea so I hope this helps. My 6 month old French Bulldog started itching and having dandruff, followed by hair loss along her back. The hair loss started as small spots and eventually led to almost complete hair loss in a stripe down her back. She has extremely dry skin and severe dandruff so I rubbed coconut oil on her (like a greased pig) and called the vet. The vet preformed a skin cytology which concluded she had superficial pyoderma (topical skin infection) along with seborrhea. Treatment included 4 weeks of antibiotics and an antiseptic shampoo (PhytoVet CK Antiseptic Shampoo). Eventually, the pyoderma cleared up but her dandruff remained, therefore, her bacterial infection was secondary to the seborrhea. In order to determine if the seborrhea was secondary to an underlying disease, a complete blood panel was performed. All her blood values came back normal, therefore the seborrhea was most likely primary (hereditary). Other symptoms of primary seborrhea includes her young age and her lack of itching once the bacterial infection was resolved. A skin biopsy will need to be preformed to confirm that the seborrhea is primary or idiopathic. But because SEBORRHEA IS A SYMPTOM, NOT A DIAGNOSIS, the biopsy is needed to also determine what part of the skin is causing the seborrhea. Problems with the sebaceous (oil) gland, hair follicle, hyper proliferation of the epidermal layer (over regeneration of the top layer of skin), and vitamin A responsive disease can be treated with retinoids and vitamin A. Topical treatments for seborrhea also include medicated baths. There are different treatments for seborrhea sicca (dry) and seborrhea ossea (oily). It is usually a combination of the two but the majority of the dogs’ coat will either be oily or dry. Seborrhea sicca is treated with medicated baths that include, salicylic acid and sulfur. Whereas, seborrhea ossea is treated with shampoos that include benzoyl peroxide and tar. Medicated baths including benzoyl peroxide and tar are very drying and will exacerbate seborrhea sicca. Other ingredients that are in many medicated shampoos include: Chlorhexidine Gluconate, Ketoconazole, and Phytosphingosine. Chlorhexidine gluconate is an antibacterial to treat infections that often coexist with many other skin disorders. Ketoconazole is anti-fungal that treats yeast and fungal infections which accompanies many skin problems. Phytophingosine works as an anti-inflammatory that calms skin. These ingredients can be drying, which may make seborrhea sicca worse. Since my Frenchie, Betty Boop, has primary seborrhea sicca and she will need topical skin treatments for the rest of her life. Her routine includes medicated baths 2-3 times a week to treat her seborrhea sicca, which has helped tremendously. Using Vetoquinol Seba-Hex Shampoo, I massage her for 15 minutes while the shampoo remains on her skin. Vigorously massaging her seems to loosen all the dandruff. Then, I apply Zesty Paws Oatmeal Anti-Itch Conditioner with Aloe Vera and Shea Butter to her body. Finally, after towel drying her, I apply Hylyt Cream Rinse (leave-in conditioner). Because she has seborrhea she needs a Omega supplement added to ”quality” food. First of all, I believe dogs should be fed quality food no matter what. I feed her Open Farm dog food which works as well as the prescription skin & coat dog food I used. The Omega supplement that works best for Betty Boop is Zesty Paws Salmon Oil plus Hemp Oil. Finally, every night, I use 3-4 tablespoons of coconut oil to rub into her fur. Then, I put a doggie shirt on her so it doesn’t rub off. It probably would not be recommended but what has helped the most to heal her skin and regrow her hair is topical Vitamin E Oil for humans. Every morning, I use a dropper to apply it to problem spots. This is the mix of treatments that work best to treat Betty Boops’ seborrhea sicca, but I also reccomend Humilac Spray, Douxo Seborrhea Mousse, and Douxo Calm Mousse. I hope this helps other dogs with similar symptoms.

dog-name-icon

Lexi

dog-breed-icon

pitbull boxer mix

dog-age-icon

6 Years

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Moderate severity

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0 found helpful

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Moderate severity

Has Symptoms

Itching
Flaky Ears
Bed Skin

My 6 year old dog just came down with this... I think... I've tried everything ketohexadene chlorhexidine hypo oatmeal... everything now we're on to a shampoo that treats seborrhea...yesterday was the first day of the shampoo... I'll be bathing her 3 times a week... it's only when it get cold she flares up

dog-name-icon

Harry

dog-breed-icon

Dachshund

dog-age-icon

3 Years

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Moderate severity

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0 found helpful

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Moderate severity

Has Symptoms

Itch

My neutered 3 year old dachshund stinks. We bathe him in a tea tree oil shampoo. He gets metronidazole and prednisone. He also eats an organic no grain diet. What am i missing? In the way of treatment

dog-name-icon

Nika

dog-breed-icon

Shiba Inu

dog-age-icon

11 Years

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Fair severity

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1 found helpful

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Fair severity

Has Symptoms

Oily Fur

My 11 year old Shiba Inu, female, has had really oily fur lately. I dismissed it for awhile until I started doing some research and found your site. She does get bathed once a week, due to shedding, with zymox shampoo and conditioner. She gets a probiotic daily and has been for quite some time. I even noticed her personality has changed, could this be due to the oily fur condition, seborrhea,if that is what she has? What tests can my vet perform to diagnose this?Thank you.

dog-name-icon

Zenobia

dog-breed-icon

Cane Corso

dog-age-icon

5 Years

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Moderate severity

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pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Moderate severity

Has Symptoms

Symptoms Began Right After Surgery.
White Fur Spots Appeared
Paws Raw
Licks Constantly
Cries Out A Lot

My five yr old Cane Corso suffered uterine prolaspse. Out of the blue, woke one morning and saw the vaginal sticking outside. Rushed her to emergency surgery. One week afterwards she started developing white spots on her fur, very weird andvisually out of place. Gave her good grooming and noticed that underneath these white hairs were scabs or open sores. Took her back to vets only to be told it was rare unknown condtion and to seek care of exp​​ensive dermatologist. Her Paws are also raw making it extreemly​ difficau​t ​to walk.

Skin Disease (Canine Seborrhea) Average Cost

From 29 quotes ranging from $300 - $500

Average Cost

$350

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