Oily in Dogs

Why is my dog oily?

What is Oily?

Although some breeds of dog naturally have slightly oily coats, such as dogs bred for water retrieval, any age, breed, or gender of canine can develop oily or greasy coats or skin. Seborrhea, a keratinization of the skin, frequently leads to excessive oil and grease in the coat, although it can present as extreme dandruff. There are several conditions which can lead to this type of symptom occurring. 

  • Allergies
  • Hormonal disorders 
  • Natural oiliness
  • Parasites
  • Primary seborrhea

Why Oily Occurs in Dogs


Canine allergies of all sorts tend to show up on the skin of the animal. The skin typically becomes itchy and swollen and may even develop a rash; these symptoms encourages the dog to scratch, leading to infections and keratinization. 

Hormonal Disorders

Disorders such as Cushing’s disease and thyroid disorders can also cause itchiness and hair loss, leading to damage to the dermis which can encourage oily or greasy skin. Imbalances of the sex hormones can also cause dermatitis causing keratinization and oiliness. 

Natural Oiliness

Dogs have been bred for several purposes throughout human history, and in many cases, extra oil was a benefit to the coat and skin. The extra oil that is present in the coat and skin of water dogs such as the Labrador Retriever, the Newfoundland, and the Chesapeake Bay Retriever helps to shed water and dirt as well as protecting them from icy waters, and many hunting hounds such as the Basset Hound have short oily fur that repels dirt and keeps them from getting soaked when traveling through tall wet grasses. 


Bites from fleas and mites can cause inflammation and swelling of the skin, particularly if the dog has an allergic reaction to the parasites. In many cases, this will lead to a great deal of the type of scratching that leads to oily and greasy skin that flakes off. 

Primary Seborrhea

Primary seborrhea is a genetic disorder that is passed down through family lines. This disorder is common in several breeds, including:

  • Basset Hound
  • Dachshund
  • Doberman Pinscher
  • English Springer Spaniel 
  • German Shepherd
  • Golden Retriever
  • Irish Setter
  • Labrador Retriever
  • Shar-Pei
  • West Highland White Terrier

What to do if your Dog is Oily

If your dog has a naturally oily coat, this can typically be managed with regular bathing. When bathing a dog with an oily coat it may be best to use a shampoo that contains natural citrus or baking soda, and if the skin is also mildly affected, oatmeal, aloe vera, and essential oils like peppermint and eucalyptus may also be beneficial. If the skin is showing symptoms of seborrhea, meaning that the skin is oily, greasy, or flaking off, then a visit to the veterinarian should be scheduled to determine the cause of the seborrhea. The veterinarian will perform a physical examination, and will typically take a sample of any affected skin to examine under the microscope. This technique, known as cutaneous cytology, will help to uncover issues such as mites and fleas as well as detecting if any bacterial or fungal infections have developed on the damaged skin. If fleas or mites are found to be the cause of the skin trouble, a combination treatment that includes medicated baths and antiparasitic drugs will usually be employed to eliminate the infestation, and some infestations may require repeated medicated baths. 

Standard diagnostic tests, such as a complete blood count, urinalysis, and biochemical profile will help the examiner uncover any blood infections, hormonal imbalances, or determine if there are indicators that allergies are to blame. Any bacterial or fungal infections or hormonal imbalances will be treated with the appropriate medications, and if allergies are suspected, then additional diagnostic techniques will be employed to determine what your dog is allergic to. Once any underlying conditions have been identified and treated, additional bathing will usually be required to help reduce the itching and inflammation until the skin has healed.

Prevention of Oily

Although it is normal for certain breeds to have more oil in their coats than others, regular bathing may mitigate any excess oil for these animals, and for dogs that are afflicted with primary seborrhea, specialized shampoos can help to calm and sometimes prevent outbreaks. Regular grooming is also important with these animals in order to encourage good circulation and to evenly distribute the natural, beneficial oils that keep your dog’s coat healthy and nourished. Changing to a high-quality food and adding in supplementation with Omega-3s is extremely beneficial for your dog’s skin and may help to reduce excess oil production.  Consistent veterinary examinations may help to recognize disorders like Cushing’s disease and other hormonal imbalances before they start to affect the skin and ensuring that your dog receives the proper flea and tick medications can prevent infestations from occurring.

Cost of Oily

The cost to treat the conditions which lead to greasy or oily skin is generally fairly low with an average of around $400 for seborrhea itself, around $350 for treating an infestation of fleas, and only $250 to treat most allergic responses. In the rare case where the skin and coat issues are related to Cushing’s disorder, it may run quite a bit higher, averaging around $2000.

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Oily Questions and Advice from Veterinary Professionals


Yorkshire Terrier



Thirteen Years


6 found this helpful


6 found this helpful

My pet has the following symptoms:
Oily Skin
He’s It’s very oily he rubs against everything it’s on his back in the front of his head

July 15, 2020

Answered by Dr. Michele K. DVM

6 Recommendations

thank you for your question. Some dogs do produce more oil than others, especially if their skin is unhealthy. He may have an endocrine disease that is causing this, a parasite, or a bacterial infection. It would be best to have him seen by a veterinarian, as they can examine his skin, see what the cause might be, and get either medications or a medicated shampoo to help make him more pleasant and less prone to rubbing oils on everything. I hope that everything goes well for him.

July 15, 2020

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