Greasy Coat

Your pet hasn't been in the bathroom lately, but you are beginning to suspect that he has been swiping the Brylcreem. His coat feels slick and greasy, and he is starting to smell like old french fries. What is making his coat so greasy?

Except when they have been playing in the dirt, dogs and cats usually have smooth, clean coats. But some pets, like humans, naturally have oily skin. If they are not bathed regularly, they get greasy coats. Some cocker and springer spaniels are particularly prone to getting this problem. In addition, pets with a condition called seborrhea can produce tremendous amounts of skin oil, which can result in sores and patches of missing fur as well as a greasy coat.

Dogs and cats will sometimes get greasy coats when they have fleas, mites, or even allergies, all of which can cause the skin's sebaceous glands to work overtime and secrete more oil than usual. Less often, a greasy coat can be a sign of internal problems such as diabetes or a hormonal imbalance.

"A lot of times, they will get almost a rancid type of an odor to them, which is unpleasant," says Karen L. Campbell, D.V.M., associate professor of dermatology and small animal internal medicine at the University of Illinois College of Veterinary Medicine at Urbana-Champaign. A greasy coat can be more than a cosmetic problem. It makes a comfortable breeding ground for bacteria and other organisms. As a result, pets with greasy coats are prone to skin infections, which can make their skin itchy and sore.

See Your Vet If...

  • Your pet is scratching a lot
  • His fur has a rancid odor
  • Your pet is drinking much more water than usual
  • Your pet is shedding or scratching more than usual
  • He has scales, bald patches, or a rash
  • He has severe dandruff or dry skin
  • His fur is greasy or smelly even after baths
  • Your pet has broken out in hives and is having trouble breathing
  • He has a bad sunburn
  • There has been a significant change in skin color, or the skin seems loose
  • There is a lump or swelling beneath his skin
  • Your pet has a sore on the skin that won't heal
  • The skin of the lips, abdomen, or rectal area is yellow
  • There are red or purple dots or splotches on his skin

Next Steps:

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