Seborrheic Skin Disorders in Shetland Sheepdogs

Shelties are prone to thyroid problems, which makes skin problems even worse.
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Shetland sheepdogs excel at obedience training, agility trials and other outdoor competitions, and their beautiful coats make dog show standouts as well. Shelties have few hereditary issues, but they are predisposed to seborrhea skin disorders, much like their collie relatives.


The term seborrhea describes two seemingly different conditions: very dry skin and excessively moist skin. Dry seborrhea is characterized by the shedding of dandruff, or dead flakes of skin, as well as dulling and thinning fur. Moist seborrhea develops greasy, smelly spots on Shelties' backs and sides. Primary seborrhea is a chronic hereditary disorder that usually manifests by the time the dog is 1 year old, according to the Animal Dermatology Clinic of British Columbia. Seborrhea is considered secondary if it appears as the result of a temporary skin infection or allergic reaction.

Breed Predisposition

Dermatomyositis, also called Collie nose, is a health problem unique to Shetlands, Collies and related herding breeds. Symptoms of seborrhea emerge in affected dogs when their skin is aggravated by exposure to sunlight, physical injury and infections. Shelties are genetically prone to epidermolysis bullosa syndrome, which causes their skin to blister and ulcerate. The syndrome is apparent within a few weeks of birth and is usually fatal for the puppy. Shelties run a higher risk of developing hair follicle infections and other common skin disorders than most breeds.

Symptoms and Diagnosis

While many cases of seborrhea in Shelties are associated with hereditary traits, you should take your pet to the vet for a physical exam and lab tests. Skin problems tend to come in groups as pathogens take advantage of your dog's weakened state by establishing themselves on damaged skin. Once your vet confirms seborrhea and identifies any underlying causes or secondary complications involved, he will prescribe medication and ointment to ease your pet's symptoms. Even if your Sheltie is in good health, take him for checkups every six months to make sure his skin shows no signs of damage.

Disease Management

Antibiotics can cure most skin and follicle infections, but no true cure exists for dermatomyositis. Ask your vet for advice and medication to manage the symptoms of seborrhea as they emerge. Fatty acid and vitamin E supplements boost your dog's skin health and help prevent skin irritation, according to the Sheltie Planet website. Ask your vet about products for keeping your Sheltie clean and fragrant. Regular baths with medicated shampoo can reduce the odor and itchiness caused by greasy buildup from wet seborrhea.

Always check with your veterinarian before changing your pet’s diet, medication, or physical activity routines. This information is not a substitute for a vet’s opinion.

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