Sebaceous Glands

Full Title: Sebaceous Glands

Author: Kristen Castelluccio

Date of Publication: June 20, 2013


Research Paper Text:

Sebaceous glands are found in the skin of mammals. Sebaceous glands produce an oily/waxy secretion called sebum. Sebum is secreted into the hair follicle and makes its way out of the follicle and onto the skin surface and hair. On hairless areas the sebum is delivered to the skin surface by ducts. These oils give the hair coat its shine, forms a barrier to protect the skin below, keeps the skin lubricated, and helps to waterproof the skin and coat. Sebum is a complex lipid material that has antimicrobial properties.

Problems that can occur with the sebaceous glands include but are not limited to over and under production of sebum, blocked glands, and tumors. Blocked glands can lead to sebaceous cysts. They are benign, non painful growths that can occur on a dog of any age, breed or sex. The cysts develop primarily on the dorsal areas of the body. What to look for are smooth round firm growths. These growths should not be squeezed as that can lead to it imploding and causing infection. Typically sebaceous cysts will resolve on their own, erupt, or become walled off. If a cysts becomes walled off it will feel like a hard pea sized lump under the skin that will not go away. If a cysts has erupted or other changes are noticed a veterinarian should take a look.

The over production of sebum is called Seborrhea, there are two types of seborrhea. Seborrhea in dogs can be primary or secondary. Primary seborrhea is most commonly seen in American Cocker Spaniels, English Springer Spaniels, West Highland White Terriers, Basset Hounds, Irish Setters, German Shepherds, Chinese Shar-peis, and Labrador Retrievers. It can be seen in young dogs and continues through the dogs life. Dogs with primary seborrhea may have dry flaky skin, or oily greasy scaly skin, or a combination of both. They also have a distinctive doggy odor. The most commonly affected areas include the elbow, hocks, neck and chest, and hair along the borders of the ears. Dogs with primary seborrhea often have chronic ear infections. Secondary seborrhea has all the same symptoms as primary but is caused by another underlying condition such as allergies.

Sebaceous gland tumors appear to be wart like growths that are most common on older dogs of either sex. Most often they grow outward but can grow through the dermis. The majority of sebaceous gland tumors are benign. These wart like growths can occur all over the body. A veterinarian should be informed of all growths to make a proper diagnosis.

Inflammation of the sebaceous glands is called Sebaceous adenitis, it occurs in young to middle aged dogs of only a few breeds. It is genetically inherited and runs in families primiarly in Poodles, Akitas, and Samoyeds. Vizlas, Lhasa apso, German Sherpard Dogs, and the Bernese mountain dog are also breeds at risk for this condition. The disease leads to the destruction of sebaceous glands. Symptoms of this condition include hair loss (alopecia), skin infections, poor condition of coat, itching, scaling, and musty odor. The condition is mostly cosmetic and does not impact the over all health of the dog. There is no cure but a veterinarian can suggest various treatment options.

Canine sebaceous glands are important for maintaining skin health and coat shine by producing the oily/waxy substance called sebum. Routine brushing of the hair coat can help distribute the sebum evenly over the skin encouraging healthy production. While doing canine massage it is important to be aware of symptoms that could indicate problems with the sebaceous glands such as hair loss, dry patches, warts, lumps, odor,oily areas, and itchy spots. These areas should be pointed out to the dogs owner so that their veterinarian can be informed.


  • “Sebaceous gland.” The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.. 2012. 19 Feb. 2013
  • kahn, Cynthia M, and Scott Line The Merck Veterinary Manual, 9 edition, New Jersey, Merck and Co., 2005
  • MICHAEL ALLABY. “sebaceous gland.” A Dictionary of Zoology. 1999. 19 Feb. 2013
  • “Sebaceous Glands in Dogs” 2012. 18 February 2013

Leave a Reply