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Seborrheic dermatitis in Irish Setter.

Species: Dog
Breed: irish setter
Age: 11-15 years
i have a 12yr old irish setter who has seborrheic dermatitis. she has the scaley skin and also the odor/greasy skin/hair. she has been tested and is on a thyroid medication once/day. we bath her at least once/week with sebolux antiseborrehetic keratoplastic and we leave it set on her for 5-10 min. she actually looks worse after bathing (more scaley/peely). this whole condition seemed to be set off last summer when we left her at a kennel when we were away. our local vet thinks she was bit by a flea that then set this whole thing off. she initially lost alot of hair when we were trying to figure out what was going on, but it has now grown back. it is a constant battle and pretty annoying to have to bathe her all the time, but she starts stinking/inching and her ears get infected alot. our vet does not want to put her on any steriods because she is >12 years old. is there anything we can do besides what we are already doing? btw, her diet has not changed in the last several years.

Online vet, Dr. Marie

Dr. Marie replied:

Oh, poor Killian. She sounds so uncomfortable. Skin problems can be really difficult to deal with.

It's always tough for me to talk about skin issues without actually seeing the dog, but I can give you a few of my thoughts.

Has she been on a good flea product lately? The reason I'm asking is because sometimes when a dog has extreme dandruff and scaly skin it can be because of a parasite called cheyletiella. Cheletiella is treated quite easily with any flea product such as Advantage, Revolution or Frontline.

Has she had her thyroid level tested recently? Sometimes when dogs are on thyroid medication their requirements for how much medicine they need to get can change. So, if she has not had her level checked in the last few months this may help. If her thyroid is too low then this can cause skin issues.

Another thing that may help is to ask your vet if they can do a biopsy of her skin with a local anesthetic. The reason to do this is to help us get a more accurate diagnosis. There are some less common skin conditions such as epitheliotrophic lymphoma which is a type of skin cancer, or ichthyosis which is a rare skin condition that can look like what you are describing.

Omega fatty acids may help somewhat as well.

And one final thing that I can recommend is to ask your vet for a referral to a veterinary dermatologist. These vets see skin problems all day long and they are very good at figuring out how to solve them. It may be worth a try.

I hope she gets some relief soon!

Dr. Marie.

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Disclaimer: Although Dr. Marie is a qualified veterinarian, the information found on this site is not meant to replace the advice of your own veterinarian. and Dr. Marie do not accept any responsibility for any loss, damage, injury, death, or disease which may arise from reliance on information contained on this site. Do not use information found on this site for diagnosing or treating your pet. Anything you read here is for information only.

Customer reply:

she has had flea treatments.
she has had the skin biopsy.
her thyroid was tested within the last few months.

the vet basically told us to give her a bath several times/week and keep her on the thyroid pills. she also gets ear infections regularly which i know is her condition spreading. we also recently noticed the condition on her belly when it was normally just on her back.

there is not a vet dermatologist within 2 hours of where we live. is there really anything more a vet dermatologist can do for seborrheic dermatitis than what we are already doing?

Online vet, Dr. Marie

Dr. Marie replied:

It does sound like your vet has been extremely thorough!

I'd be interested in knowing what the biopsy results showed. "Seborrheic dermatitis" tells us that there is flaky skin, but it doesn't tell us the underlying problem.
Do you have a copy of the biopsy report?

Many times the seborrheic dermatitis can be secondary to allergies. Often it is really hard to determine what she is allergic to.

Personally, I would not have a problem putting an older dog on steroids as long as there is no known problem with the liver, kidneys or heart. If she is uncomfortable then she needs something to help her out!

You still may get some help from the dermatologist. If we have a diagnosis for a dog's skin condition but the dog is still uncomfortable, then there has to be something that can be done. So, if this were my case I would definitely be giving you the option of a dermatologist referral.

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Dr. MarieDr. Marie is a veterinarian who practices in a busy animal hospital in Ottawa, Ontario. She created Ask A Vet Question as a resource for good, accurate veterinary advice online. Dr. Marie treats dogs, cats, hamsters, guinea pigs, and rats. She has been a vet since 1999.

Is an online vet visit just as good as a trip to your veterinarian? No! But, many times, asking an online veterinarian a question can help save you money. While Dr. Marie can't officially diagnose your pet or prescribe medications, she can often advise you on whether a vet visit is necessary. You can also ask Dr. Marie for a second opinion on your pet's condition.