Color Dilution Alopecia in Dogs

Color dilution alopecia is a rare, hereditary canine skin disorder. This disease affects dogs with fawn or blue coats. Genetic irregularities in the transfer and storage of melanin, the pigment that gives color to skin and fur, are responsible for this condition. This disease affects young dogs and some breeds are more susceptible than others.

Breeds at Risk for Color Dilution Alopecia

Breeds with fawn or blue colored coats are at the highest risk for this hereditary illness. Breeds vulnerable to this illness include the Doberman Pinscher and the Irish Setter, who are at the highest risk. Dachshunds, Poodles, Chow Chows, Miniature Schnauzers, Great Danes, Whippets and Yorkshire Terriers are also among the breeds at highest risk for this disease.

Symptoms of Color Dilution Alopecia in Dogs

Dogs typically develop the first symptoms of this illness between the ages of six months and three years. Fur falls out in patches on the head and ears as well as along the spine. Wrinkled skin, allergic reactions and dermatitis can occur. Secondary bacterial infections are common; color dilution alopecia causes itchiness, which can lead your dog to scratch and damage his own skin, leaving the door open for bacteria to infect the wounds.

Color dilution alopecia typically causes dry, scaly, flaky skin. Papules and pustules can occur when hair follicles become infected. Hair loss and skin irritation occur most severely on the torso, and less so on the head, legs and tail. Any tan points on your dog's coat will generally remain normal.

Diagnosing Color Dilution Alopecia in Dogs

Your vet will consider your dog's age and breed when making a diagnoses of color dilution alopecia, since age and breed are major factors in this illness. The disease is hereditary, so if your dog's parents or grandparents suffered from this illness, your dog is at a higher risk of developing it himself.

Your vet will perform a physical examination of your dog's skin to diagnose color dilution alopecia. Biopsies of the skin and hair follicles can clarify the nature of any changes wrought by the disease.

Treating Color Dilution Alopecia

Color dilution alopecia is chronic and irreversible. It's difficult to treat as well. Vets have not yet found a way to make the fur grow back. Management of this disorder involves keeping the skin and hair follicles clean.

Your vet will recommend bathing your dog in benzoyl peroxide shampoo to keep hair follicles clean and prevent bacterial infection. A moisturizing rinse after the bath can help combat the dry skin common in cases of color dilution alopecia. You may need to bathe and moisturize your dog daily, depending on the severity of his condition.

You'll need to monitor your dog closely for bacterial infections of the skin and administer antibiotics when your vet deems them appropriate. Comorbid diseases, such as hypothyroidism, can worsen the symptoms of color dilution alopecia. If your dog has color dilution alopecia, he shouldn't be bred, since this is an hereditary disease.