Addressing kerato-seborrheic disorders (KSD) in canine and feline patients

With the right topical approach, you can maintain a healthy skin barrier in patients to reduce the discomfort associated with kerato-seborrheic disorders.

Dermatological issues have become a top concern for many pet parents. It is understandable that most clients prefer that their dogs and cats look and smell good, and aren’t afflicted by common problems including bad odors, hair loss, dandruff and/or a greasy coat. These problems, also called kerato-seborrheic disorders (KSDs) – are an increasingly common diagnosis seen in the veterinary setting. The key to combatting these disorders involves first pinpointing and targeting the cause, and then selecting an effective topical treatment that reduces symptoms by protecting and maintaining a healthy skin barrier.

Kerato-seborrheic disorders: a refresher

In animals affected with kerato-seborrheic disorders (KSDs), there is always an anomaly of keratinization characterized by abnormal exfoliation of corneocytes and/or an anomaly of sebum production1. Seborrhea can come in two forms: dry seborrhea (dry, dull skin and coat and hair that easily fractures) and oily seborrhea (greasiness). Both are often accompanied by keratinization disorders which are visible through dandruff.

Considering the causes

Kerato-seborrheic disorders can be primary or secondary to many skin diseases.

Primary seborrhea is inherited and usually occurs in certain breeds (eg. Cocker Spaniels, Basset Hounds) where mutations of genes have been identified. Secondary KSD can usually be traced back to many other underlying disorders such as hormonal imbalances, allergies, parasites (internal or external) or even fungal infections but the most common underlying causes remain endocrinopathies and allergies.


Treatment must be adapted to the case and cause but in general good results can be achieved by combining local and systemic options. Kerato-modulating shampoos, rehydrating lotions, essential fatty acids supplementation and immunomodulators can all play a role in returning the skin to a state of health.

Dermo-cosmetics can help moisturize and regulate sebum production and the keratinization process. They help limit dandruff, shedding and bad odors, keep the skin hydrated and work to maintain the functionality of the skin barrier.

Topical solutions are particularly convenient to help manage KSD. When applied directly to the skin, the ingredients are immediately and entirely available. Oral treatments are more indirect since nutrients are processed by the liver before being delivered to peripheral organs such as the skin. The results of topical application are thus faster and, as a bonus, do not induce any gastrointestinal intolerances. Moreover, they are easy to use which facilitates patient compliance.

Maintaining a healthy skin barrier

The skin barrier is composed of the stratum corneum, the hydrolipidic film and the microbiota. When these elements are fully functional, the skin is healthy and protected.

If the cutaneous barrier is impaired, it leads to several disorders including KSD and its components – scaling, dandruff, dehydration, hair loss, dull coat, seborrhea, bad odors, etc.

To further support the skin barrier, a topical care such as Essential 6® spot-on can be applied by the pet parent. “The natural active ingredients in the product – like hemp and neem seed oils – are rich in essential fatty acids which help reinforce the cutaneous barrier. It also contains ten essential oils which act in synergy to provide sebo-regulating, deodorizing and anti-dandruff properties.” says David Merrick, Vice President of Sales and Marketing at Dermoscent, Inc. “Its interest to help redress kerato-seborrheic disorders has been demonstrated in a large-scale study on 210 dogs and 79 cats conducted by veterinary dermatologists”2.

Kerato-seborrheic disorders are uncomfortable, but they’re not unmanageable. By addressing the root cause and choosing a topical solution that supports the skin barrier, your clients can rest assured knowing their pets smell and feel good.

  1. Bensignor E., Vidémont Handbook of Veterinary Dermo-Cosmetics. Editions MED’COM, 2016
  2. Bensignor E., Nagata M., Toomet T. Preliminary multicentric open study for dermocosmetic evaluation of a spot-on formulation composed of polyunsaturated fatty acids and essential oils on domestic carnivores. Pratique Médicale et chirurgicale de l’animal de compagnie (2010) 45, 53-57.

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Dr. Lionel Fabries graduated from Ecole Nationale Veterinaire de Toulouse in France in 1981 and completed a veterinary ophthalmology degree in 1982 prior to becoming a visiting scholar in the University of Florida as one of Prof. Kirk Gelatt’s staff during 1982-83. For over 30 years, he has been practicing medicine and surgery on small animals, mainly in ophthalmology and cardiology. He has played an active role as a member of the Board in the French Association of Small Animals Veterinarians and has given regularly lectures in the above mentioned two disciplines. As a member of the European Society of Veterinary Dermatology since 2004, Lionel attended numerous congresses and workshops, and has since developed his practice in dermatology. In 2003, he founded with two associates LDCA to offer a comprehensive range of dermo-cares for companion animals under the brand Dermoscent® to enrich veterinarians’ arsenal in addressing skin disorders.


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