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Sebaceous Adenitis


S - SIGNS, this condition expresses itself with a silvery dandruff which adheres to the coat. Often the dog doesn’t like being groomed and/having its tail/feet trimmed. It is usually accompanied by hair loss, a dull/brittle coat and later on skin lesions along the back and ears as well as thickened skin and a musty or rancid odour.

C - CAUSE Sebaceous adenitis is caused by an inflammatory disease process which affects the sebaceous glands of the skin. The cause of the inflammation is unknown but is most likely an autosomal recessive inherited disease with variable expression.

A - ACTION, get a diagnosis. Diagnosis confirmation requires two punch biopsies analysed by a Dermopathologist who will comment on the condition of the sebaceous glands, revealing granulomatous or pyogranulomatous inflammation surrounding the sebaceous glands or even the complete destruction of the sebaceous glands.

N - NO CURE for this condition, treatment is generally lifelong and takes the form of bathing and soaking in mineral oils and washing with antibiotic shampoos to try to alleviate symptoms and slow the conditions progression.
Antiseptic and antibiotic shampoos (chlorhexidine or benzoyl peroxide) are used to manage further secondary bacterial infection.
It has been suggested that the more aggressively one applies the topical method of treatment the less aggressively one needs to apply the immunosuppressant therapy. The suggestion is this phenomenon may be due to cyclic feedback whereby secondary infection, when not aggressively treated with topical therapy, increases and contributes to further sebaceous gland inflammation. There are different levels of severity but usually once you get on top of this condition your dog can enjoy its life to the full.



For more information speak to your Vet

Visit Sebaceous Adenitis pages

Talk to our Breed Health Co-ordinator Carole Grundy 07869 515250

Meet us on our stand at Crufts – next to the Standard Poodle ring

Or come to the SPC Champ or Open shows to discuss


It is a requirement in the SPC code of ethics that members test for SA prior to breeding. The KC confirm it is one of the breed specific tests


Latest results from Animal Health Trust

Lay Summary of Progress Report To Determine Genomic Region Associated with Sebaceous Adenitis in the Standard Poodle Sebaceous Adenitis (SA) is a dermatological condition that has been described in several breeds of dog, most commonly in the Standard Poodle. It is a condition in which the sebaceous glands in the skin become inflamed and are eventually destroyed, leading to hair loss and secondary skin infections, and is a significant health and welfare problem. 

The Animal Health Trust has collected DNA samples from over 300 Standard Poodles. Using the latest genotyping techniques, (a Canine SNP(single nucleotide polymorphism) array of 22,362 genome-wide SNPs) we have genotyped a subset of 48 samples from dogs with a rigorous SA diagnosis, which included 20 affected dogs and 28 unaffected dogs. We have been helped enormously by the Standard Poodle Club UK in this choice of samples. Using this data, we have carried out careful computer analysis to try to identify the region in which the SA mutation lies. 

The preparation of the DNA samples and their genotyping have been achieved successfully. All 48 samples were genetyped, although 4 fell below rigorous acceptability standards and were not included in the analysis. The vast majority of the 22,362 SNPs on the array (over99.7%) worked well this is a very impressive result. 

The data was analysed using pedigree-based linkage software and association-based software. The analyses were carried out successfully: we know this because using identical methods on other diseases and breeds, we have been able to identify genome locations linked to the diseases. However for the Standard Poodle samples both types of analysis failed to identify any regions of the genome which were significantly associated with the disease. 

We are confident that the genotyping data we generated was of a very high quality, so the likely explanation of our failure to identify a region of the genome associated with SA is because the disease is complex, and is either caused by more than one gene, or the interaction between gene(s) and the enviroment. Alternatively, our controls included a number of subclinically affected dogs whose skin biopsy results lead us to mis-categorise them. In either case, the solution is to collect and genotype more samples, and any new data can be added to what we already have, thus increasing the chances of success. 

This is a disappointing result, but as a result of this investigation we now can say fairly confidently that sebaceous adenitis in the Standard Poodle is not inherited as a simple autosomal recessive with a high degree of penetrance, and that more samples need to be analysed to identify a genomic region associated with the disease.

We are committed to continuing our study of SA in the Standard Poodle and will continue to collect and store samples to successfully analyse SA as a complex trait. Data generated during the current study will be saved, and added to additional data generated in this subsequent phase of the study.

Co-Principal Investigators: Cathryn S Mellersh and Mike Boursnell. 
Animal Health Trust, Newmarket


Sebaceous Adenitis is an important skin disease which may affect any breed of dog, but is more common in certain selected breeds. The importance of this disease is as a source of discomfort and poor appearance for the individual as well as having implications for the breeding of some dogs.

Sebaceous Adenitis may be a mild disease in some dogs, with clinical signs being limited to mild scaling and hair loss. However, at its worst, this disease can be very severe, with loss of much of the coat. In severe cases secondary bacterial infection may become a problem, leading to itching, discomfort and possibly euthanasia in extreme cases.



Sebaceous Adenitis has now been recorded in many breeds of dogs, and has been seen in rare occasions in cats. Whilst some breeds are over represented, almost any breed may be affected on occasions. The breeds I have personally seen are as follows:-

Standard Poodle, Old English Sheepdog, Springer Spaniel, Hungarian Vizsla, Cross Bred, Collie, Lhasa Apso, Samoyed, Border Collie, Japanese Akita.


Whilst this list is by no means exhaustive, it demonstrates the wide range of breeds affected with what is no longer a rare disease.


At the mildest, signs may begin as fine scaling over the head and body. Coat loss may not appear initially and some Standard Poodles may have slight discomfort on grooming the feet as the only sign.
The coat may be generally dry and difficult to groom. Tangles on the ears are common and more coat than normal may be lost on routine combing. Hairs that are lost may have small scales attached to the base.

In more advanced cases coat loss may be significant, again progressing from the head and withers to the whole of the trunk and legs. In some breeds the skin may appear red and inflamed. This is either due to secondary infection or due to the disease itself. 

The most serious forms of the disease are those in which secondary bacterial infection occurs. The first signs of this are usually the presence of an unpleasant odour. Redness and itchiness may ensue, with self trauma (scratching and biting) being a problem in some. Whilst antibacterial therapy may be of help, infection is often recurrent, leading to resistant bacteria. In some extreme cases, treatment is unsuccessful, leading to euthanasia.


It is important to have some understanding of how sebaceous adenitis occurs, and how it varies in some breeds. In essence, dogs affected with this problem send components of their immune defence systems to attack their follicles and in particular the sebaceous glands. These glands, which produces a fatty secretion which helps to defend and lubricate the hairs, are essential for normal coat production and loss.
There are two principle types of diseases produced. In breeds such as the Samoyed and Visla, the attack on the glands itself is to blame for the damage seen, whereas in the Standard Poodle, clinical disease is often seen after the active inflammation has gone, and is the result of the lack of sebaceous glands.

The destruction of glands in this disease is permanent, but in those breeds where the clinical signs are associated with the initial disease, hair re-growth often occurs once the glands have been destroyed, and the initial insult has settled. This is important as it gives hope to some dogs, but must not lead us to think that certain treatments are working in these dogs.



The inheritance of this disease has only been worked out in the Standard Poodle, where it is an autosomal recessive disease. This is important, as it infers that there are likely to be a lot of carrier dogs and bitches which show no signs of disease at any stage. Also there are no tests for any carriers.



Sebaceous Adenitis is diagnosed by the findings of typical changes in the skin by the examination of a skin biopsy. These biopsies are small punches of skin (6mm in diameter) which are removed under local anaesthetic by a Veterinary Surgeon.

Typically two 6mm skin punches are made in different areas along the shoulder/back. They are then sent to a Veterinary Pathologist with knowledge of the disease. Diagnosis is based on either finding active disease or a complete lack of sebaceous glands in severe biopsies. 

The technique Vets use to obtain a specimen is below. 

If your dog has SA confirmed or clear please report it here.


There is no reliable treatment for this condition. As described earlier, the disease has a waxing and waning course, and may appear to resolve spontaneously in some cases.
Treatment is based upon control of secondary bacterial infection, together with treatments to help the dog grow and shed coat normally.
Antibacterial therapy usually consists of long courses of antibiotics, often combined with shampoos.
Topical shampoos may also be used to try and help reduce the scaling and coat loss.
In the USA, applications of grooming or bath oils are thought to be helpful, especially in the Standard Poodle. I am currently assessing the use of essential fatty acids (Evening Primrose oil and fish oil) in this breed. In dogs where the initial disease is the main problem, powerful anti-inflammatory drugs such as steroids or retinoids have been tried with mixed success.


All further information and the
SA Open Registry may be obtained from; 

Mrs Mary Nugent
6mm Biopsy punches have revolutionised the technique of taking skin samples for pathological examination. The technique is both quick and simple, with minimum stress for the patient.


Firstly the sites are selected. For assessment of apparently normal dogs for Sebaceous Adenitis, two sites are selected on the dorsal midline, one on the neck or shoulders, one from the mid back or rump. Using similar sites in all dogs allow subtle changes to be identified. These sites are selected for ease of access and because they are usually well endowed with sebaceous glands.
If the dog is in full coat, the hairs are parted over the side with grooming bands. The sites are then marked with a board marker pen. Then 0.5 -2ml of local anaesthetic is injected sub-cutaneously under the biopsy site. (This is similar to the volume given in an annual vaccination)

After two or three minutes the skin is tested for effective anaesthesia, and the 6mmpunch is applied to the skin surface. This is then rotated whilst pushing firmly. It is important to press until the punch has entered the full depth of skin. This takes only a few seconds. The punch is then removed and the sample lifted from the site using a fine needle(25g) -the one used for the local will do. Any attached fat is then snipped and the sample placed in formalin for shipping to the laboratory.

One suture is placed across the biopsy site. (A different colour to that of the dog's coat is wise!)
The process is quick and simple with sedation rarely being necessary.
Bleeding from the site is unusual, and a few moments pressure with damped cotton wool is usually enough to stop this.
David H. Scarff MRCVS


These procedure notes are intended to explain the Standard Poodle Club Open Registry for Sebaceous Adenitis and to provide helpful instruction to those entering dogs into the Register. These notes may be modified by future updates


Sebaceous Adenitis is a genetically transmitted condition. An autosomal recessive mode of inheritance has been suggested and this has been supported by pedigree analysis and breeding studies in the U.S.A.

The Scheme:

There are two components to the scheme:

1. Identification of affected dogs. These dogs will be identified by Kennel Club name and Registration numbers, together with the name of their Sire & Dam and tattoo or chip number if any.

2. A list of dogs biopsied and declared free of SA at time of biopsy. Individuals will remain on the main list for a period of two years 
following a clear biopsy when they will be transferred to a historical list.


Inclusion Of Affected Dogs To The Register:

Names of the affected dogs should be submitted on Submission Form 'A' to be completed by the owner of the dog. Included on the form will be the dog's K.C. name, number and names of both Sire and Dam. A copy of the pathologist's report will also be necessary. This Form is available from the Standard Poodle Club Health Administrator. Names of the affected dogs will stay on the register always.


Submission Form 'A' (Adobe Acrobat Reader Required) 
Submission of Dogs Biopsied Clear of SA.
Submission of names of dogs biopsied clear of SA will be automatic following the submission of skin biopsies under the scheme.

Skin biopsies are submitted to a Veterinary Pathologist registered under the scheme (See Page 4), together with the dogs KC name, number and the names of both Sire and Dam using submission form 'B'. This form obtained from the Health Administrator of the Standard Poodle Club. The owner must complete and sign the submission form in full (the Owner's Declaration) verifying that the details given in that section relate to the dog being tested, that details are correct and granting permission for the results to be used in the way specified. The biopsies are examined and then the results are sent to the owner, their Veterinary Surgeon and the SA Register, where they are listed, whether affected or clear, to the relevant list. Any equivocal results are withheld until a further biopsy is able to clarify the status of the dog involved. The names of dogs biopsied clear of SA are removed from the main register two years after the date of inclusion, but may be kept on a historical register.


Reference: Dunstan R.W. and Hargis A.M. (1995)
The diagnosis of Sebaceous Adenitis in Standard Poodle Dogs




List of participating laboratories Vets send biopsies to one of these for analysis


Abbey Veterinary Services

89 Queen Street

Newton Abbot

Devon TQ12 2BG

01626 353598



Blacksmith Forge

Brookfield Farm

Selby Road

Garforth W Yorks. LS25 1NB


Rest Associates

30 Greenhead Road

Swaffham Prior

Cambridge CB25 OJT


Finn Pathologists

The Veterinary Laboratory

One Eyed Lane

Weybread, Diss

Norfolk 1P21 5TT


IDEXX Laboratories Ltd.

Grange House, Sandbeck Way

Wetherby, West Yorkshire, LS22 7DN

United Kingdom


SA is a skin disease that is inherited in the Standard Poodle

it has complicated inheritance.

This means that genetically there are three distinct types of Standard Poodle:

1. A poodle that has got two normal genes is genetically clear
(and is clinically clear)

2. A poodle that has one normal gene and one disease causing gene is 
genetically a carrier (but is also clinically clear)

3. A poodle with two disease causing genes is genetically (and clinically) affected.

The Standard Poodle Club SA Open Registry is a list of Standard Poodles that were skin biopsied either clinically normal or affected at the given date.
A dog or bitch that is found to be clinically affected, must have inherited a disease causing gene from both of its parents.
Therefore, both parents of an affected must be at least carriers of the condition.
Affected animals should not be used in breeding programmes, and, wherever possible, breeding from carriers should be avoided. 
Dr. J. Sampson BSc., Dphil.,
KC Genetics Co-ordinator


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