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What is Alopecia X?

While there are various types of alopecia, each having various causes, alopecia X differs in several ways from the other types of the hair cycle abnormalities which have been found and treated in the canine body.  Alopecia X is known by a number of other names or terms but all of them describe a “hair cycle arrest” for which the exact cause has escaped scientific identification.

Alopecia X is a term given by many veterinary dermatology professionals to describe a “hair cycle abnormality” which is known to affect predominantly Nordic breeds, Pomeranians, Toy and Miniature Poodles.

Symptoms of Alopecia X in Dogs

As noted above, there are a variety of types of alopecia in dogs and the symptoms are similar in that there is hair loss for various reasons in various regions of the canine body.  Here are some symptoms which may be noted if the animal is afflicted with alopecia X:

  • Gradual or spontaneous symmetrical hair loss generally over trunk and rear thighs
  • Hair loss is generally followed by a “wooly” growth of coat (dull and dry in appearance)
  • Sometimes skin may become hyperpigmented

Types

 

Alopecia X in dogs is a hair loss condition which generally presents with no other symptoms in a healthy canine.  While there are no specific types of this condition, there are, however, a variety of names which have been associated with it:

  • Adult onset growth hormone deficiency
  • Growth hormone-responsive alopecia
  • Castration-responsive alopecia (name given for neutering and spaying)
  • Adrenal hyperplasia-like syndrome
  • Coat funk of Malamutes
  • Black skin disease of Pomeranians
  • Hair cycle arrest
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Causes of Alopecia X in Dogs

While there are no systemic signs for this particular canine condition, there are also no specific causes found for it.  If your canine family member is not eating and drinking, or is doing so excessively (out of his ordinary pattern), appears depressed or is showing increases in liver and kidney testing values, it is likely that there is a systemic underlying cause for the hair loss and your vet will likely need to do additional testing to ascertain that underlying cause.  Here are some of those underlying systemic causes for the hair loss which will need to be eliminated to get a more firm diagnosis:

  • Hypothyroidism
  • Cushing’s Syndrome
  • Cyclic flank alopecia
  • Pattern baldness
  • Post-clipping alopecia
  • Telogen defluxion 

These diseases and conditions can, since they are systemic in nature, affect your canine in ways beyond just the skin condition.  If any of them are found to be the cause of the hair loss afflicting your pet, your vet will treat accordingly.

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Diagnosis of Alopecia X in Dogs

Diagnosis of the cause for the hair loss or alopecia in your doggy family member will be a process of elimination as there is no specific testing process known at this time to confirm an alopecia X diagnosis as there are for other diseases and conditions in the canine species.  Your veterinary professional will need a complete history from you which will likely need to include many areas of your pet’s lifestyle, like dietary regimen, elimination habits, unusual behaviors noted, the duration of those unusual behaviors, and was hair loss gradual or spontaneous. 

Your vet will do a physical examination and will likely order at least a comprehensive blood chemistry panel (CBC) to see if any normal blood component values are out of line.  If he suspects an endocrine issue, there will likely be additional testing needed to clarify or eliminate diabetes, thyroid issues and Cushing’s Syndrome.  He may collect samples of scrapings from the affected areas for microscopic evaluation or even collect other fluid and excrement samples (urine and feces) for laboratory evaluation.  Once he has collected the results of the testing he has ordered, he will likely have been able to eliminate some of the endocrine-related maladies and he will have a better idea for treatment options.

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Treatment of Alopecia X in Dogs

Treatment of alopecia X in your canine family member will be dependent upon what the vet feels is the primary cause or contributing factor(s) of the initial hair loss.  The treatment options listed below may evolve into a process of trial and error in an effort to treat your pet:

  • Castration-responsive alopecia (if true to its name) will likely require a period of time to allow the hair to regrow following the neutering of males or spaying of females - this may take several months - additional treatment may follow if regrowth doesn’t occur

  • Growth hormones administration if that is suspected cause
  • Oral melatonin (over the counter) - don’t begin this on your own unless advised by your vet

  • Drugs which change the adrenal gland production of cortisol and sex hormones

These treatments, as you can see, may not necessarily be a “cure all” for alopecia X nor they are a “one size fits” all treatment for all dogs suffering from alopecia.  These treatments may allow the hair cycle to start again but, for alopecia X sufferers, the cycle will resume for one cycle only.  This means that your pet will lose his hair again and it can happen as quickly as one month later or as long as 3 to 5 years later.

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Recovery of Alopecia X in Dogs

If your veterinary professional cannot find a specific cause or contributing factor for the alopecia in your pet, for example, endocrine disorder, bacterial or fungal infections, and immune disorders, then it is likely that this condition will continue to repeat its cycle throughout the remainder of your canine family member’s life.  It might be a good idea to get used to the idea that extra precautions are needed when your pet is outside. Make use of doggy t-shirts and sweaters. With the hair loss, the skin of your doggy family member is exposed to the elements and will need some protection when outside.  If your pet is otherwise healthy, the prognosis is good for your pet who is afflicted with alopecia X.

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Alopecia X Questions and Advice from Veterinary Professionals

Need pet health advice? Ask a vet

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Ask a Vet

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louis

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mixed kelpie

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8 Years

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Serious severity

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Baldness

my dog has alopecia x for 5 years now, i am looking at supplementing his diet with sweet potato, chicken, tuna, brown rice, broccoli spinich, can you give me some advice on how much i would need daily for my 40kg 8 year old dog

June 23, 2018

louis' Owner

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Dr. Michele K. DVM

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1611 Recommendations

As a general rule, dogs need 30-40 calories per pound, so Louis would need to maintain about 3000 calories per day. That may change based on Louis's body condition, but is a good general guideline to help you when mixing those foods for him.

June 23, 2018

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Kazzie

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Standard Poodle

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6 Years

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Serious severity

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Missing Hair, No Licking Or Itching

I have a Standard Poodle in show trim. The Alopecia X is located near her hind end in between rosettes, ending at the jacket and base of the tail. I am wondering if the cause could be damage to the hair follicle due to clipping with a 40 blade. Her legs are also clipped with a 40 blade, but are fine. Thoughts?

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Chase

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Chow Chow

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2 Years

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Serious severity

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Hair Falling

hello, I need advice please, my chow chow is 2 years old and recently started to loss his hair in big amount around his shoulders and around his tale, we did all the test for him everything was normal, i started applying shampoo but nothing is working, please someone advice.

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