Dogs of a certain genetic makeup and color -- primarily blue or fawn -- may suffer from canine color dilution alopecia. That's a formal term for total or partial, permanent hair loss. There's no cure for color dilution alopecia, but the affected dog is usually just fine otherwise. However, the hair loss means the animal is vulnerable to sunburn, cold and secondary bacterial infections.
Canine Color Dilution Alopecia
Also know by the term color mutant alopecia, this disorder results from excess pigment collecting in the dog's hair shafts, causing the hair to either break off or cease growing. Hair loss often begins in adolescence, or about the age of 1, or may start a few years later. This loss is accompanied by dry skin. The hair may remain on the legs or head and disappear on the rest of the body.
Your vet must test your dog for other diseases causing hair loss, including hypothyroidism, demodectic mange or other skin diseases. Many of these conditions are treatable, and your vet must rule them out before diagnosing canine color dilution alopecia.
Breeds most affected by canine color dilution alopecia include:
- The Doberman pinscher
- The dachshund
- The chow chow
- The Chihuahua
- The Great Dane
- The Italian greyhound
Not every fawn or blue dog will develop canine color dilution alopecia, but there is a considerable risk. Much depends on the breed. A high percentage of fawn or blue Dobermans develop alopecia and lose their coats, while the numbers of affected dilute-coated Italian greyhounds are relatively low. A dog of any breed with exotic coloration is at increased odds for hair loss. Dogs with canine color dilution alopecia should not be bred.
Caring for the Dog With Alopecia
Look on the bright side -- your dog needs little in the way of grooming. In fact, brushing what few hairs he has can cause irritation and possible skin infections. Your vet may prescribe special shampoos to ease the melanin-plugged follicles and reduce the odds of infection. If your dog does develop an infection, take him to the vet immediately. She can prescribe oral and topical antibiotics.
Your vet also may recommend products to moisturize dry skin or offer sunburn protection. Your hair-deficient friend may require a coat in cold weather. Ask your vet about supplements containing fatty acids to keep his skin in good condition.