Acanthosis Nigricans in Dogs: Blackening Skin

Acanthosis nigricans is also known as the blackening of the skin and may affect canines of all ages. The condition may be genetic and occur more predominantly in certain breeds, but may also be acquired. The secondary acanthosis nigricans may be treated while primary acanthosis nigricans may be controlled through medication.

Genetic Acanthosis Nigricans

If the acanthosis nigricans is genetic, it will most likely affect dog breeds such as the Dachshund. The condition will occur while the dog is a puppy, before the age of 1.

The skin will become darker and thicker and you will also notice seborrhea.

Aquired Acanthosis Nigricans

The acanthosis nigricans may also have a secondary form and may occur due to an excess of pigment or melanin in certain inflamed areas. Melanin makes the skin darker than normal.

The secondary acanthosis nigricans is more common than the primary form and may be caused by:

  • Obesity, which may cause skin friction and irritation of the skin
  • Hormonal imbalance
  • Hypothyroidism
  • Cushing’s disease
  • Hypersensitivity or allergies to food, inhalant agents or contact allergies

The secondary acanthosis nigricans typically occurs later in the dog’s life and not before the age of 1, as primary acanthosis nigricans does.

Acanthosis Nigricans Symptoms

In addition to the visible darkening of the skin you may also notice:

  • Inflammation of the skin
  • Thickening of the skin
  • Hair loss, often in patches
  • Itchiness
  • Seborrhea
  • Secondary infections (fungal or bacterial)

The dark patches may occur in different areas of the body and the areas may be small or larger.

Acanthosis Nigricans Detection

The diagnosis of acanthosis nigricans will be done through evaluating the dog’s history and by performing a biopsy of the skin.

If the vet suspects secondary acanthosis nigricans, he will perform a number of tests to determine the underlying cause.

A blood test may determine if there is a hormonal imbalance and which hormones are in excess or deficit.

Allergy testing or intradermal testing may also be performed to detect specific allergens.

Treatment Options

If the condition is primary, the darkening of skin cannot be healed, but the condition may be manageable. The dog may receive steroids and melatonin injections. Special shampoos to reduce the production of seborrhea may also be recommended.

For the secondary acanthosis nigricans there are several treatment options. The detection of the underlying condition causing the darkening of the skin must be detected and treated. An obese dog should follow a strict diet to lose some weight.

Hormonal problems may also be treated with thyroid medication or surgery in more extreme cases.

Allergies may not be treated but they may be controlled with steroid medication or antihistamines. Immunotherapy is also available if the irritant agent is discovered.

The supplementation of vitamin E may also be helpful to improve the condition of the skin. Omega 3 fatty acids may also be recommended for a healthier skin.