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What is Cutaneous Asthenia?

Dogs that are affected are deficient in collagen. Collagen is a protein molecule that is needed for the skin and ligaments to be strong and have elasticity. Collagen is found throughout the entire body. This is a painful disorder for your dog due to their joints being unstable and they may easily become dislocated. 

The lack of collagen will also cause your dog’s skin to be prone to tearing and can become heavy on your dog’s frame. This is a rare disease with patients being diagnosed at a young age.  Cutaneous asthenia has been known to occur in Dachshunds, Boxers, English Setters, Beagles, German Shepherd Dogs, Greyhounds, English Springer Spaniels, Keeshonds, Manchester Terriers, Irish Setters, Springer Spaniels, Poodles, St. Bernards, Welsh Corgis and Red Kelpies.

Cutaneous asthenia in dogs is also known as Ehlers-Danlos syndrome. It is when the skin on your dog is unusually droopy or stretchy. It is part of a group of hereditary disorders that is caused by a genetic mutation passed from parents to their offspring. Cutaneous asthenia is diagnosed by observing your dog and feeling the excessively stretchy skin.

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Symptoms of Cutaneous Asthenia in Dogs

You may not notice symptoms of cutaneous asthenia when they first begin. As the symptoms become more obvious, you may notice that your dog is in pain or experiencing discomfort. They may be limping or have sagging skin. You will need to make an appointment with your veterinarian for an examination. Symptoms of cutaneous asthenia include:

  • Extra folds of skin
  • Soft, thin or delicate skin
  • Saggy skin
  • Skin tears easily and scars
  • Swelling at the joints
  • Bruising or bleeding under the skin
  • Cuts or lacerations on the head and back
  • Internal bleeding
  • Loose joints, especially in the hips and legs
  • Dislocation of the eye lens

Causes of Cutaneous Asthenia in Dogs

Cutaneous asthenia in dogs is hereditary and is caused by a genetic mutation. It is passed from parent to offspring. Both parents can carry the gene and pass it onto the offspring, making it dominant. If only one parent carries the gene, they can pass one copy onto their offspring, making it recessive. 

Dogs that carry the gene may not show any symptoms, but they can still pass the gene onto their offspring. If a dog shows no symptoms but passes the gene onto their offspring and the offspring exhibits symptoms, that dog should not be bred again.  Dogs that show symptoms should never be bred.

Diagnosis of Cutaneous Asthenia in Dogs

Your veterinarian will begin by taking your dog’s medical history and performing a physical examination. During the physical examination, your veterinarian will determine the extensibility of the skin by stretching the skin as much as it will. Your veterinarian will note any signs of discomfort and take measurements of the stretched skin. The measurements are based on the SEI or Skin Extensibility Index. 

Your veterinarian will also order a complete blood count, biochemistry panel, urinalysis and fecal exam. These tests will determine if there is any other problems that are inhibiting the collagen productivity.

Treatment of Cutaneous Asthenia in Dogs

There are no treatments for cutaneous asthenia. Your veterinarian will discuss treatments that can be given to make your dog more comfortable; however, your dog will never recover from cutaneous asthenia. Euthanasia is generally recommended to prevent your dog from living in chronic pain.  

Your veterinarian will discuss how to provide the safest environment for your dog to prevent them from being chronically wounded. Your dog will need to be isolated from other pets and from children. A safe environment will require that any hard surfaces, sharp corners or other hazards that could cause injury to your dog be removed from the area.

Any cuts or lacerations in the skin need to be repaired, cuts can cause infection. Antibiotics, usually both oral and topical, may be prescribed if your dog has lacerations. Your veterinarian may also suggest that you give Vitamin C to help improve the collagen function in your dog. 

Your dog will need to be spayed or neutered. A male dog that is diagnosed with cutaneous asthenia that breeds with a female can cause severe damage to the male. A female dog diagnosed with cutaneous asthenia will be unable to carry a litter.

Recovery of Cutaneous Asthenia in Dogs

Your dog’s prognosis is poor and in many cases euthanasia is recommended. Dogs that are diagnosed with cutaneous asthenia should never be allowed to play with other pets or with children. Other pets and children can inadvertently cause lacerations, bruising and internal bleeding by playing too rough or petting too hard. 

Your dog will need to have a padded, comfortable bed to help alleviate their joint pain. They will also need a safe environment without any sharp objects or other hazards that can cause harm to your dog.

Cutaneous Asthenia Questions and Advice from Veterinary Professionals

Rory
Pembroke Welsh Corgi
14 Weeks
Moderate condition
0 found helpful
Moderate condition

Has Symptoms

Loose skin on neck

I have a 14 week old Corgi purchased from a Breeder last week. I have previously owned a corgi before and know that they can have loose skin on the back of neck (ruff area) but this pup has extremely loose skin all down his spine, not on the back end or legs just along the spine and torso. I can pull it up about 3 1/2 to 4 inches away from body. It does not appear to be painful to pull out like that. I checked him for any lesions or cuts and found what I call a "hot spot" where the skin was red irritated and scabby where he has chewed to scratch it. When I saw an article about cutaneous asthenia I started to wonder if this is what this pup has. He also has a very pronounced sway when he walks his mid section/ rib cage sways to the left and then to the right. At first I thought it was just a cute puppy walk, but then I realized my first corgi never walked like that at that age. very worried about this little guy. I contacted the breeder about the sway and she dismissed it said all puppies walk funny, then when questioned about loose skin she said he will grow into it. My question, is cutaneous asthenia progressive, can it start out just in one area and spread or is it all over right from the beginning. Is it painful right from the beginning or does it develop. I will bring him to my vet to ask them to do the test and see what they think. Just wanted to get what ever info I can get before I go for the visit.

Dr. Callum Turner, DVM
Dr. Callum Turner, DVM
2955 Recommendations
Mildly affected dogs may live a normal lifespan but would be prone to injury and poor wound healing, severely affected dogs may need to be euthanised. Whilst it is relatively straightforward to diagnose, a skin biopsy may be taken to confirm the diagnosis. There is a lot of information online, some of it contradictory but discuss with your Veterinarian first and then discuss with the breeder since the carrier parent should be removed from the breeding pool. The condition itself isn’t painful but may become painful for various reasons, usually due to injury; I don’t know of a connection with the walk but you should discuss with your Veterinarian during the visit. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM

I have a Toy Poodle who is now 1 and a half,I have noticed that she is developing a lot of excess skin. I am able to stretch it out, and sometimes when she lays down you can see her lose skin on her back. It does not seem to hurt her, and it is not thin skin. She has had no tears or scaring, she is also very agile and plays with our German Shepherd fine without hurting herself. Should I be concerned? And could this later cause her pain?

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