What is Coat Funk (Malamute)?
Coat funk commonly develops in dog breeds with a thick coat or undercoat. Alaskan malamutes are one of the more common breeds to develop this condition due to their thick undercoat. It may present as gradual fur loss, especially where your dog’s collar rubs his neck, and then develop into more extensive fur loss anywhere on the body.
The exact cause is unknown, making treatment a trial and error type of process. Not all dogs respond to treatments the same way which means there is no specific treatment protocol for this condition. If you choose to treat it, your dog may or may not respond to the common therapies tried in this diagnosis. Choosing to not treat the coat funk is a viable option as well as it does not cause any type of systemic illness. Prognosis of recovery will be dependent on how your dog responds to the treatment put into place.
Coat funk can cause your dog to experience partial or complete fur loss. If your dog is losing fur, especially if he is a breed with a thick coat or undercoat, he may be experiencing a case of coat funk.
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Symptoms of Coat Funk (Malamute) in Dogs
Symptoms of this condition may include:
- Gradual hair loss
- Hair loss around areas of friction (collar region, tail head region, caudomedial thighs)
- Partial or complete alopecia of tail, trunk, forelimbs, head
- Scaling of the skin
- Superficial pyoderma
Systemic signs of illness are rarely noted.
This condition can affect any gender of dog whether intact or altered. The onset of the symptoms can occur anywhere between one year of age all the way into adulthood. This condition is known by many other names including follicular dysplasia, follicular growth dysfunction, hair-cycle arrest, castration-responsive dermatosis, and hyposomatotropism of the adult dog. In the Alaskan malamute, this condition is known as coat funk.
Causes of Coat Funk (Malamute) in Dogs
Coat funk is commonly seen in dogs with thick undercoats or double coats as well as miniature Poodles. The Pomeranian, Chow Chow, Keeshond, Samoyed, Alaskan Malamute, Siberian Husky and miniature and toy Poodle are the most commonly affected breeds. The cause of this condition is unknown but overall it is progressive, non-inflammatory, acquired alopecia. It has been hypothesized there is a genetic predisposition associated with the condition related to an unidentified hormonal imbalance. It is also thought maybe it is associated with the hair follicle receptor sensitivity level.
Diagnosis of Coat Funk (Malamute) in Dogs
To come to a proper diagnosis of this condition, your veterinarian will need to rule out other alopecic disorders. Diagnostic testing will need to be completed to rule out conditions such as hypothyroidism, hyperadrenocorticism, and hyperestrogenism. Other conditions to rule out include telogen defluxion, sebaceous adenitis, and other follicular dysplasia.
To begin her diagnostic process, your veterinarian will begin by collecting a verbal history from you. She will want to know when your dog’s symptoms started, how they have progressed since, if other pets in the household are experiencing similar symptoms, and any other details that may help with her diagnosis. She will continue by performing a physical exam on your dog. While his issue may be associated with his skin, she will want to check him over entirely in order to check for other simultaneous symptoms he may be experiencing that seem unrelated to the untrained professional. She will note all of his symptoms as it will assist her with her diagnostic process.
Laboratory diagnostic testing will consist mainly of blood work and dermatologic testing. A complete blood count (CBC) and chemistry panel are typically the first blood work performed when doing diagnostic testing. It gives an evaluation of your dog’s internal organ function and blood levels. If your veterinarian suspects thyroid related issues or adrenal issues, she may then perform those blood tests which are more specific and therefore, a completely different test. Your veterinarian may also want to collect a urine sample from your dog to perform a urinalysis. This will provide more information on kidney and bladder function.
As for skin testing, there are multiple tests she may want to perform in order to come to her diagnosis. A skin scraping to rule out skin mites or parasites is a common test to run in dogs with fur loss and scaly skin. She may also collect a sample of fur and skin to rule out skin diseases such as ringworm. She may recommend collecting a skin sample for biopsy in order to check for characteristic changes. This can rule out or confirm the condition your veterinarian suspects your dog is presenting with.
Treatment of Coat Funk (Malamute) in Dogs
Treatment will vary depending on your dog’s symptoms. There are many different types of therapies your veterinarian can offer your dog but each patient responds differently. This means there is no exact treatment for coat funk. Your veterinarian will start with the most common treatment; if your dog does not respond, then she will proceed to the next treatment to try and get a response.
If your dog is intact, having them spayed or neutered is typically the first treatment suggested. In 50 to 75% of the cases, altering alone can cause the hair to regrow. If this is unsuccessful or if the hair loss began after being neutered/spayed, treatment with melatonin is the next therapy suggested. If this is also unsuccessful she will continue on with other medications that have seen responses in some patients.
Coat funk does not hurt your dog’s health; it is more of a cosmetic issue the owner does not like to look at. If you choose to not do any treatment, this is an acceptable choice for your dog. However, if for some reason your dog develops a secondary skin condition or infection of any type, your veterinarian will send you home with medications to treat it. If your dog’s skin is scaly or flaky, she may send you home with a medicated ointment to apply to the affected areas. If it is all over your dog’s body, she may send you home with a medicated shampoo to clear his skin and hair follicles. Additional treatments and therapies will be administered and prescribed in accordance with your dog’s condition.
Recovery of Coat Funk (Malamute) in Dogs
The majority of cases of coat funk in dogs responds to one type of treatment or another, it just may take a few tries to find the therapy that works best for your dog. If he does not respond to any type of treatment, it will not affect his health, he just may not look very cosmetically appealing. Dogs diagnosed with coat funk live a perfectly normal life with or without treatment. Prognosis of recovery will be determined by how your dog responds to treatment.