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What are Adrenal Sex Hormone Dermatosis?

The most commonly affected breeds are the Chow Chow and the Pomeranian. Other breeds also affected by adrenal sex hormone dermatosis include Miniature Poodles, Toy Poodles, Keeshonds, Samoyeds and American Water Spaniels.

Adrenal sex hormone dermatosis is also sometimes referred to as alopecia x since your dog will experience hair loss and skin problems. It occurs when the adrenal glands function abnormally and can be difficult to diagnose because of the many other possibilities that can cause the same symptoms. Hormonal abnormality such as adrenal sex hormone dermatosis cause hair loss and skin problems and is usually not itchy. There may be a change in the color of your dog’s skin or hair.

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Symptoms of Adrenal Sex Hormone Dermatosis in Dogs

If you suspect your dog is suffering from adrenal sex hormone dermatosis, you will need to make an appointment with your veterinarian. Symptoms may seem mild or take a long time for you to become fully aware that your dog may have a problem. Generally, itching is associated with hair loss. With adrenal sex hormone dermatosis, there is no itching or inflammation where the hair loss occurs. Things to watch for include:

  • Uncharacteristic floor wetting
  • Symmetrical alopecia on your dog’s sides, neck, tail or thighs
  • Darkening of the skin where hair loss has occurred
  • Dry, brittle hair
  • Blackheads on the skin
  • Secondary dandruff
  • Abnormal shape of the nipples, vulva, mammary glands, testicles, prostate and/or ovaries
  • Secondary bacterial infections
  • Ear wax build up
  • Inflammation of the outer ear

Causes of Adrenal Sex Hormone Dermatosis in Dogs

Adrenal sex hormone dermatosis is a relatively new disorder that is diagnosed in dogs.  The disorder is thought to be caused by a deficiency in glucocorticoids which will result in the accumulation of adrenal sex hormones. These hormones then begin to produce too much progesterone. Adrenal sex hormone dermatosis is predisposed in Chow Chows and Pomeranians.

Diagnosis of Adrenal Sex Hormone Dermatosis in Dogs

When you go to your veterinarian appointment, have your dog’s full medical history as well as a list of any medications and vitamins that your dog may be currently taking. Your veterinarian will begin the appointment by asking you when the symptoms first appeared and the severity of the symptoms. 

Your veterinarian will perform a thorough physical examination including a complete blood count, urinalysis, fecal exam and biochemistry panel. These standard tests will allow your veterinarian to rule out other possible conditions that could be causing the symptoms. Thyroid testing will also need to be done to ensure that your dog’s thyroid is functioning properly. A skin scraping will be taken to look for external parasites or mites that may be causing the symptoms.

Treatment of Adrenal Sex Hormone Dermatosis in Dogs

Once adrenal sex hormone dermatosis has been diagnosed, your veterinarian will speak with you about the treatment options that are available. While the treatment options are being discussed, be sure to ask questions so you can make an informed decision.

Growth hormones may be prescribed to help your dog grow new hair. This can occur when the adrenal glands are stimulated and hormone production increases causing new, healthy coat growth. Dogs treated with growth hormones must be closely monitored while being given the growth hormones as serious side effects can develop. 

Your veterinarian may wish to try certain medications such as mitotane, OPDDD and ketoconazole. These medications increase hair follicles and therefore hair growth. Each of these medications is not without risk and you should speak with your veterinarian regarding the side effects of each medication. 

Spaying or neutering your dog is an option to help their adrenal glands begin functioning normally. The hormonal imbalance that is occurring will resolve itself once their reproductive organs are removed. Some veterinarians may suggest natural remedies before beginning medications that can have serious side effects. These natural remedies may include vitamins, minerals and diet change.

Recovery of Adrenal Sex Hormone Dermatosis in Dogs

While the hair loss and discolored skin do not cause any serious health problems for your dog, it can be unsightly. Also, extreme hair loss can leave your dog susceptible to the cold and heat. Sunburn is a concern for dog’s that are suffering from adrenal sex hormone dermatosis. 

Be sure to follow all dosing instructions on any medications that are prescribed. If you are concerned about side effects, ask your veterinarian and make notes of any changes that your dog experiences while on the medication. Do not over-bathe your dog if they are suffering from adrenal sex hormone dermatosis. Bathing too often, especially when using a harsher shampoo, can cause their skin to dry out and lose more hair. It can also cause itching.