What is Follicular Dysplasia?
Although follicular dysplasia is rare in dogs, it is able to be diagnosed by microscopic examination of the hair shaft. As alopecia can be a symptom of many degenerative or progressive diseases it is important that if your pet is seen by his veterinarian if he is experiencing this.
Follicular dysplasia in dogs is a poorly understood condition that leads to alopecia, predominantly on the trunk of the animal. There are a number of types of follicular dysplasia in dogs which can have varying ages of onset and appear to affect various breeds, particularly those that are bi or tri-colored.
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Symptoms of Follicular Dysplasia in Dogs
Follicular dysplasia has a gradual onset that may increase and decrease over the first three years of life. This condition is characterized by the “moth eaten” appearance that occurs due to alopecia across the dog’s trunk. As well as the hair loss pets’ may present with scaly skin, a coat that is fuzzy with localized color changes in affected areas. In some cases, secondary conditions such as pruritus may develop, leading to excessive scratching and self-trauma.
- Self-injury due to extreme itching
- Patches of hair loss
- Dry, scaly skin
- Red skin
- Secondary infection
Causes of Follicular Dysplasia in Dogs
Cyclic follicular dysplasia - This type of follicular dysplasia is thought to be caused by the amount of daylight exposure to the dog due to the onset in late fall or early spring with recovery generally 6 months from onset. Unlike other forms of dysplasia the onset is rapid and the pet is likely to recover, in some cases melatonin treatment may provide faster recovery.
Color dilution dysplasia - This type of follicular dysplasia is very poorly understood however, appears to be caused by macromelanosomes of the hair shaft, leading to brittleness and fracture. This condition has a gradual onset from the ages of 1-3 years old and often leads to complete hair loss in all dilute-colored areas of the coat, but mainly affects the trunk.
Complications that may arise from this form of follicular dysplasia are papules and pustules in the affected areas of the coat and in some cases pyoderma and pruritus. Breeds that may be predisposed to this condition are mainly those that have a blue or fawn coat and include Doberman Pinschers, Yorkshire Terriers, Chihuahuas, Italian Greyhounds, Newfoundlands, Salukis, and Miniature Pinschers
Black Hair Follicular dysplasia – This condition is thought to be caused by a genetic defect affecting the formation of the hair shaft and transfer of melanin. This condition has an earlier onset, with puppies usually becoming affecting by 1 month of age. This condition causes hair loss specific to black hairs and in affected dogs, complete black hair alopecia occurs by 8-9 months of age. Breeds that may be predisposed to this condition are those with bi or tri-coloured coats.
Follicular lipidosis of Rottweilers - This is a rare, breed specific condition that affects the tan areas of the animal’s face and legs causing localized alopecia. This condition causes clinical signs to develop and progress early in life and over the first 9 months of age.
Diagnosis of Follicular Dysplasia in Dogs
Your veterinarian will carefully examine your dog and discuss his clinical history with you. The age of your dog during onset of the condition will have particular importance when diagnosing this condition. As there are many conditions that can lead to alopecia in pets, your veterinarian will need to rule out a number of diseases that present with similar symptoms, such as parasitic infection or food allergies. Skin biopsies may be performed to test for other conditions such as fungal infections, hypothyroidism, and hyperadrenocorticism.
If your veterinarian suspects follicular dysplasia, dermatohistopathologic testing can be performed to examine the hair follicle. This investigation may indicate the following abnormalities:
- The distortion of the hair follicles, hair shafts or hair bulbs
- Clumping of melanin on the hair cells
- Macromelanosomes visible on the hair shaft
Treatment of Follicular Dysplasia in Dogs
If your canine is suffering from cyclic follicular dysplasia, oral melatonin may be effective as treatment, however your veterinarian may recommend providing no treatment due to the likelihood of the self resolution.
Unfortunately, due to the permanent and progressive nature of the other forms, there is no cure. However, there are treatments available for reducing the symptoms caused by this condition such as over the counter emollient shampoos available to reduce scaling and provide the skin with moisturization. Gentle grooming may also be beneficial for your companion’s coat health.
If secondary pyoderma has occurred, your dog may require treatment with systemic antibiotics or mild antiseborrheic or antibacterial shampoos and conditioners.
Recovery of Follicular Dysplasia in Dogs
The prognosis for your pet is good, although in most cases of follicular dysplasia alopecia will not resolve, your dog’s life quality should not be affected by this condition. Due to the genetic component of this disease affected dogs should not be bred.