ALOPECIA X IS A PROBLEM IN THE UK AND IS IN A NUMBER OF WELL KNOWN LINES, THERE IS A COLLECTION OF PEDIGREES AND WE ARE ALWAYS INTERESTED IN BEING SENT MORE PEDIGREES TO ADD TO OUR DATABASE TO HELP THOSE INTERESTED BREED AWAY FROM THIS PROBLEM
Hair loss (alopecia) accompanied by darkening of the skin (hyperpigmentation) is often termed "black skin disease". Other names applied to this condition include wooly coat, coat funk, pseudo-Cushing’s syndrome, and severe hair loss syndrome.
In Pomeranians, this condition is suspected to be an X-linked inherited disorder since many more males than females are affected, and research is being carried out to identify a linked gene marker so that dogs in this breed can potentially be tested for the condition. Other breeds with increased prevalence of black skin disease include the Alaskan malamute, keeshond, poodle, dachshund, chow chow, Samoyed and American water spaniel.
Many of the afflicted dogs are diagnosed with growth hormone responsive alopecia. Not all affected dogs have abnormal growth hormone levels though, and though many affected dogs develop abnormal signs after puberty, dogs of any age can be affected. In Pomeranians, late onset signs are sometimes associated with reduced 21-hydroxylase levels, enzymes which are involved with processing of some of the reproductive hormone precursors.
Currently, the condition is still considered to be of unknown cause since similar signs of hair loss and black skin are not consistently associated with a standard set of hormone changes. Other conditions that can mimic this condition include Cushing’s disease, hypothyroidism, chronic skin infections, and reproductive hormone disorders that should all be ruled out by testing.
If the condition is due to a laboratory confirmed growth hormone deficiency, hormone therapy is instituted. Benefits last from six months to a few years. As hormone therapy can produce diabetes as a side effect, so the attending veterinarian will recommend close monitoring of the urine and blood sugars weekly during treatment.
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Research project on Alopecia X
>>> Alopecia X has been described in several breeds including Keeshonds,
Pomeranians, Alaskan Malamutes, Chow Chows and Miniature Poodles. Affected
animals suffer from hair loss, which usually starts at the neck and body of
the animal, whereas the head and front legs are typically spared.
Additionally, darkening of the affected skin areas may also be observed.
Symptoms typically show up between 1-5 years of age.
We would like to investigate the genetic causes of Alopecia X. For our
research we need DNA samples from affected dogs as well as their healthy
relatives. If you would like to participate in our research project, please
follow the instructions shown below. <<<
if you have any pictures we could use please e-mail them, we don't need to know who you are or the name of the dog. Also if you you like to share your experiances with us please e-mail so i can add to this page to help others mailto:email@example.com
Many young Pomeranians develop a luxurious puppy or first hair coat which fails to shed and is not replaced by an adult coat. As the puppy coat ages it breaks off and falls out and can result in a dog that is hairless over much of its body. This disease is sometimes called black skin disease, coat funk or woolly coat. It also occurs in Keeshonden and Alaskan Malamutes. Although females can have the disease, it is much more common in males.
There are many things which can cause Alopecia: Hypothyroidism; Cushing’s Disease; Addison’s Disease; contact and/or generalized allergies; excessive female estrogen (usually found in recently neutered males); stress; fleas; mites; mange; unknown (usually labeled “Black Skin Disease). Some of these problems are genetic, some are familial, and some are neither.
Interestingly, many of these conditions affect males much more often than females. You must rule out all other possibilities via skin and blood test before you can label a dog with “black skin disease”. Also, be aware that hypothyroidism will increase the dog’s chances of having allergies and other diseases as the thyroid is an important part of the immune system.
Neutering will cause a decrease in testosterone over time and that may be why the coat renews. On the other hand, some dogs acquire Alopecia after being neutered. This is usually due to excessive female estrogen (due to the lowered testosterone to balance the estrogen) and is characterized by hair loss, excessively oily skin which smells, and usually very waxy ears.
Addison’s and Cushing’s diseases both cause shortened life spans in dogs (and other mammals) but many can live well for years. They are characterized by hair loss along with a thickening and darkening of the skin all over with a definite cracking pattern. They are often called “Elephant Skin Disease”.
Nizoral shampoo. This is a shampoo made to treat human ringworm but I have heard several stories of it helping dogs with Alopecia even though skin scraping have proven that they do not have ringworm. Unfortunately the benefits of Nizoral are usually short-lived and the dogs return to their original coatless state. I have also heard of many dogs being helped with repeated tar/sulphur shampoos and their coat regeneration seems to be permanent.
As you can see, one can make an occupation of studying Alopecia. Alopecia is the generic term and Black Skin Disease should only be used when all other options have been ruled out. One interesting fact about Black Skin Disease is that most breeders have already determined that it is genetic.
Pom Owners Experiances
"Tangie" - Pomeranian with Alopecia X in the UK
Tangie, a small 5 years old Pomeranian, was referred to me by my colleague Mr Dunne because of a skin problem. Much to distress of his owners Mr and Mrs Gale, he was becoming increasingly bald.
From a skin specialist point of view, it is important to ask a whole range of questions, because there are more than 30 diseases that can cause baldness. Is the dog itchy? When did the problem start? Has he been neutered? Had there been any specific event or medication just before the problem started? Had there been any signs of regrowth of hair? Etcetera, etcetera….
Tangie had not been itchy. He had gradually lost hair for the last 18 months, but had a beautiful fluffy coat when he was a puppy. Apart from the fact that he was born with a hydrocephalus, making him walk in circles, and the broken leg he had as a pup, he had never been on any medication. However, Tangie was cryptorchid, which means that one of his testicles had not descended.
Physical examination of Tangie revealed that there were no other skin lesions, and that he was losing his coat in the collar area, on his sides and around the tail base. His head and legs were still fully haired. This typical localisation of the baldness is mostly seen in hormonal diseases.
The first step was to castrate Tangie, because undescended testicles have a bigger chance of becoming cancerous and can produce an excess of certain hormones, which can cause baldness. At the same time small biopsies of the skin were taken.
Tangie’s undescended testicle was send for examination to a pathologist, but no tumour was detected.
His skin samples showed changes seen in hormonal diseases, but also seen in alopecia X. Tangie then had blood tests to determine if he suffered from an underactive thyroid gland or Cushing’s disease. These tests were negative, and it is now believed that Tangie has got Alopecia X.
It is probably caused by an imbalance in the sex hormones of the adrenal glands, and is especially seen in male Pomeranians, Chow Chows, Keeshonds, Samoyeds and miniature Poodles.
Although the normal quality of life is excellent, and the dog is not bothered by his hair loss, it is of course very upsetting for the owners. Other people often think the dog is not being looked after. For that reason, we decided to try Tangie on some medication, and now, almost 4 months after we started it, Tangie is getting his hairs back. Just in time for the winter!!