Do puppies get cradle cap? Here’s how to properly treat it

Puppies, like every other animal, have a sebaceous gland, so they are very much able to get a cradle cap.

Cradle cap is a type of skin disease caused by the defect in the keratinization of the outer coat of the skin, inside the claws or hair follicles.

Keratinization is the process by which the outer protective layer of the skin is constantly renewed with fresh skin cells. 

Cradle caps cause scaling, sometimes excessively oily skin and coat, and often inflammations and infections.

With cradle caps, the skin creates too many epidermal cells, which are renewed each week instead of every three weeks.

Cradle cap is a skin condition caused by the sebaceous gland in the skin. This gland produces sebum in excess, which causes itchy, scaly, and flaky caps on the skin of the pups.

Types of cradle caps

Cradle caps that affect our dogs are of two types. There is the;

Dry cradle caps (seborrhea sicca):

This can be affected by all dogs; it causes scaly skin over their body and underarms. The skin is usually itchy, inflamed, and infected.

Oily cradle caps (seborrhea oleosa):

This leads to oily, smelly, itchy, inflamed, and infected skin on your puppies.

All puppies can be affected by oil cradle caps secondary to other skin diseases, such as allergic reaction, hypothyroidism, with Cushing’s disease.

Any form of cradle cap that is not primary is called secondary seborrhea.

Most puppies affected with cradle caps can have a blend of both dry and oil seborrhea at the same time.

Secondary skin infection

Puppies affected with cradle caps can develop secondary infections. The main diseases associated with cradle caps are Staphylococcus and Malassezia. 

This develops on the skin and in the ear canal. It can cause itchiness and a hostile odor.

Causes of cradle caps 

Cradle cap can either be a primary or a secondary disease.  

Primary cradle caps can be inherited from the parents, and such means of transmission is common in breeds like West Highland White terriers, Dachshunds, Labrador, Golden retrievers’ German shepherds, Basset hounds, and Cocker spaniels. 

When inherited, the symptoms usually start at a young age, not less than 18 to 24 months, and continue throughout its lifespan.

The main cause of secondary cradle cap is not yet determined, although it is the most common. It is a sign of underlying sickness.

Sometimes it can be caused by;

  • Change in temperature and humidity changes
  • Allergies
  • Hormonal imbalance 
  • Parasites that live both inside and outside the pups
  • Abnormal diet
  • Poor grooming

Symptoms of cradle caps in puppies

Puppies are normally affected in areas with excess sebaceous glands, like the area of the skin along the back of the pups.

The affected skin is normally red and swell. Cradle cap in puppies is associated with a bad odor. White scale-like dandruff is visible in areas where the puppies lie and on their beddings.

It is worse in areas like the armpit, feet, neck, lips, and thighs because the skin in these areas is folded.

Tests for cradle caps 

Your puppies can be tested for cradle caps through;

  • Complete blood cell count, electrolytes, and serum chemistries: this is used to search for sub-clinical, hidden underlying conditions and imbalances.
  • Skin cytology is the microscopic assessment of the skin. Any cells, scales, microbes, and hair shafts will be observed in a slide, thereby aiding in the diagnosis of cradle caps.
  • Skin Biopsy looks for inflamed cells, bacteria, yeast, and fungus. 
  • Skin scraping and plucking of hair.
  • Skin culture: this search for bacterial infections and fungus-like ringworms.
  • Hormonal test. 

Treatment of cradle cap

Proper treatment is required to keep your puppies comfortable. If the cause is known, the secondary skin conditions can be corrected.

Cradle cap is seen as a treatable skin condition. Treating the underlying conditions is the best approach for the non-hereditary type of the disease.

The symptoms must be treated progressively if you are to achieve total recovery as quickly as possible. In primary seborrhea, a symptomatic approach is the cornerstone of treatment.

Treatment for symptoms usually includes antibiotics for bacterial skin infections and antifungal drugs for yeast microbes. Topical and oral medications are needed if the infection on the skin is severe.

Topical treatment includes regular shampooing, usually every three to five days. Shampoos that are soap-free containing sulfur compounds and salicylic acid are recommended.

If grease or oil is present on the skin, shampoos containing benzoyl peroxide and tar must be required. Specific moisturizing formulas are recommended for the skin of dogs.

Attention should be paid to the diet of the dogs. Since Allergies may be one of the reasons for your puppy’s skin reaction, all previous foods should be changed. An all salmon diet with treats is advisable. 

Omega 3 and CBD may help in reducing inflammation and have been established helpful in reducing or eliminating cradle caps.

Oral therapy is, at times, necessary for serious cases. These may be oral fatty acid supplements that are recommended by a vet.

High dose of vitamin A, use of acne medications. Sometimes, corticosteroids/cyclosporine may be recommended to reduce inflammation.


Just like in humans, cradle cap is a horrible skin condition for a puppy to have. It causes lots of pain and discomfort to our pets the same way it brings concern to us. 

So many pet owners leave their pets in that condition without getting them treated, but a condition as little as this can cause a lot of harm to our puppies.

They can itch till it causes an injury which will, in turn, create a part for a new infection. This will only make treatment hard and more expensive.

You can treat your pups at home by getting the necessary drugs and shampoo but make sure you find out (that is, if you can) if the cradle caps were inherited from their parent.

If the case is severe or the home treatment isn’t working, then it is advisable to take the puppies to a veterinarian.


  • Brad

    Hi I'm Brad, the founder of Having been a vet of 6 years I work alongside our team to provide valuable insight into your dog's health. I have a frenchie myself named Senzu who is my pride and joy!