For the first few months of life, puppies have very thin, fragile skin that can be vulnerable to a number of infectious agents and contact problems. Seborrheic dermatitis, or “cradle cap,” is disorder of the skin in which oil glands overproduce.
Cradle cap on puppies appears as thickening, inflammation, greasiness or crusting on areas of the skin that may have a distinct odor. Cradle cap can occur on the underarms, abdomen, back or around the ears of animals.
You can begin to suspect your puppy has cradle cap if you see dry, flaking skin in dry form, or an oily, crusting patch on the skin that has an unpleasant odor. Sometimes, an animal will develop both forms of the problem or may lose hair in the affected area.
The rash may be itchy, causing the puppy to scratch at it constantly, which can lead to secondary bacterial or fungal infections of the skin. The area may be flaky, like a bad case of dandruff or may appear like scales on the skin.
Cradle cap can be an inherited disorder that is common in certain breeds of canines. Dachshunds, Labrador Retrievers, West Highland White Terriers, Shar-Peis, Basset Hounds and Doberman Pinschers are some of the breeds that are known to pass on this condition.
If you are unsure whether your puppy has cradle cap, a video call with a veterinarian is an inexpensive way to get an accurate diagnosis, so you start a course of the proper treatment for this condition.
What Causes Cradle Cap on Puppies?
Cradle cap can be a result of a number of factors. Some of these may be internal in nature, while other may have external origins, and your veterinarian can help to determine the underlying cause of cradle cap in puppies.
If genetic issues are the cause of the cradle cap problem in certain breeds of puppies, your veterinarian can advise you of the best ways to maintain good control of the disorder.
Puppies that show symptoms of cradle cap often have undiagnosed allergies that must be investigated in order to properly manage the condition.
Food allergies are often a culprit, which may require the owner to provide an “elimination diet,” of offering one food at a time to see which item causes symptoms. However, allergic reactions to substances in the environment may also be a cause of cradle cap.
Dysfunction within the body of the animal can lead to hormonal imbalances that can contribute to a variety of skin problems, including cradle cap in puppies.
Your veterinarian can provide blood testing to detect abnormal hormone levels that might indicate disorders such as Cushing’s disease or thyroid problems that may cause problems with cradle cap.
Your puppy may not be getting sufficient amounts of omega-3 fatty acids in their diet, which can also lead to skin issues like cradle cap.
External factors, such as temperature and humidity levels can have an impact on the development of cradle cap and continuing problems with the disorder.
Similarly, if a puppy has internal or external parasites, they may cause poor resistance to skin problems such as cradle cap. Exposure to infectious agents, such as bacteria or fungus can lead to troublesome patches of cradle cap.
A careful evaluation of the puppy’s environment should be done to determine if additional hygiene methods are being performed.
How To Treat Cradle Cap on Puppies
Appropriate treatment for cradle cap on puppies depends upon the cause of the problem. If genetic factors are involved, the pup may require ongoing care with a variety of medications and products to maintain good skin condition.
More common cases can be treated with standard treatments until the condition improves.
Medicated shampoo is often recommended to help remove bacteria and fungus from the skin surface, to help skin cells return to a condition of normal replacement.
These products may contain sulfur, salicylic acid, propylene glycol, selenium sulfide or benzoyl peroxide, often in combination, along with fatty acids. Remove dry, flaking skin cells with a fine-toothed comb, such as is used for combing out fleas.
Regular bathing can help to keep the fragile skin of puppies healthy, but too much bathing can remove the natural oils that are necessary for a healthy coat and skin.
Topical agents help to eliminate pathogens on the skin surface. These may contain chlorhexidine, triclosan or other compounds to kill bacteria.
Miconazole, ketoconazole or iodine is used to eliminate fungus. In some cases, the veterinarian may also prescribe oral antibiotics to eliminate underlying infections that contribute to skin problems.
Is It Normal for Puppies to Have Scabs and Cradle Cap?
Although it’s not considered normal for a puppy to have scabs and cradle cap, skin problems are not that unusual in young animals.
Some puppies may have impairment of their immune systems, which can make them more vulnerable to bacterial or fungal infection.
Others may be smaller and more fragile, which can lead to small injuries from littermates or when being cared for by the mother.
Using good hygiene in the puppy’s environment can help to avoid a number of skin problems. However, when these problems arise, a consultation with a veterinarian can be the best way to counteract skin eruptions that do occur.
Careful attention to products you use to clean your home, or use on laundry that will be in contact with the animal, can help to limit outbreaks of cradle cap symptoms caused by allergic reactions.
If the reaction is related to foods the puppy eats, you will have to restrict the animal’s diet to prevent reactions to the various compounds. Your vet may recommend supplementing the puppy’s diet with omega-3 fatty acids to improve skin condition.
Skin flaking or unsightly, oily patches on skin can indicate cradle cap on puppies, but rest assured, it is not a life threatening condition. However, to keep the symptoms from being a stubborn issue, they must receive proper evaluation and appropriate treatment. Careful management in the form of keeping the animal clean, applying medications, dietary adjustments and treating underlying health problems will help to ensure that your puppy will not develop ongoing, secondary skin infections that can permanently affect coat growth and appearance.