Ichthyosis (Fish Scale Disease) Average Cost

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Average Cost


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What is Ichthyosis (Fish Scale Disease)?

This disorder is rare and appears to be breed specific. It can resemble many other skin conditions such as allergies, dermatitis, and localized reactions. It is most likely present at birth in your dog and can become painful if left untreated.

Your dog may present with thickened pads of his paws, irritated, flaking skin and other symptoms. He may not itch or scab and it does have some differences from other common conditions. This disorder can cause water loss in your dog as his skin is unable to maintain moisture.

Canine ichthyosis is also known as the “fish scale” disease. Your dog will have thickened skin with scaly and greasy patches and flakes. 

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Symptoms of Ichthyosis (Fish Scale Disease) in Dogs

Symptoms are very specific to this condition and while they can mimic other disorders, they are not caused by or related to other disorders. Some of the things to look for are:

  • Scaly skin – This symptom is why it is nicknamed the “fish scale” disease 
  • Dandruff
  • Thickening of the skin and footpads – His paws may even appear to become enlarged and irritated, possibly causing pain 
  • Thick, greasy flakes/scales – These will stick to his skin and hair and be difficult to remove



  • Limited to rare disorders (congenital or hereditary)
  • Genetic testing and skin biopsies are used to diagnose officially
  • General diagnosis can be done just with symptoms

Epidermolytic Ichthyosis

  • Keratin formation defect
  • Been found in specific breeds (Rhodesian Ridgeback and Labrador cross)
  • Skin biopsy used to diagnose

Nonepidermolytic Ichthyosis

  • Autosomal recessive traits
  • Still young in veterinary medicine
  • Breed specific

Golden Retriever Ichthyosis

  • Relatively common
  • Mild form of scaling
  • Areas affected are on a dog’s trunk predominantly
  • Diagnosed by 1 year of age
  • Can be diagnosed in adulthood

American Bulldog Ichthyosis

  • More severe form of ichthyosis
  • Puppies have a scruffy coat
  • Skin takes on a wrinkled appearance
  • Skin lesions are more severe than Golden Retriever ichthyosis

Jack Russell Terrier Ichthyosis and other breeds

  • Mutation cause
  • Large, thick, parchment paper like scales
  • More severe than other types

Causes of Ichthyosis (Fish Scale Disease) in Dogs

The cause of ichthyosis in dogs is:

  • A recessive trait that both parents will have 
  • The dog will be born with the condition
  • Breed specific :Golden Retrievers – most studies have been done on Golden Retrievers 
  • Cavalier King Charles Spaniel
  • Doberman Pinscher
  • Jack Russell Terrier
  • Norfolk Terrier
  • Yorkshire Terrier

Diagnosis of Ichthyosis (Fish Scale Disease) in Dogs

If you suspect that your dog is suffering with ichthyosis bringing him to his veterinarian will be necessary. Your veterinarian will want to know the breed of your dog as this disease can be breed specific. The veterinarian will also want to know when you noticed the signs as they are often present at birth and worsen over time.

To diagnose the disorder, a skin biopsy will be done to determine the exact nature of your dog’s skin issues. It will also be important for your veterinarian to rule out any other possible conditions even though the symptoms are very clear to ichthyosis. 

Lastly, your veterinarian can run the ICT-A which is a DNA test made for ichthyosis. This test can definitively identify the disorder or rule it out officially.

Treatment of Ichthyosis (Fish Scale Disease) in Dogs

Treatment options will be based mostly on maintenance of your dog’s symptoms. While the condition is not deadly, in more severe cases it can be very painful and uncomfortable for your dog. Treatment can be done by using shampoos and rinses for his skin, frequent brushing and grooming and possible medication treatment.

Skin Treatment

Mild anti-seborrheic shampoos and moisturizing rinses can be used frequently on your dog to help his skin and symptoms. Moisturizers can be used to create a protective layer on your dog’s skin and reduce his water loss. 


Frequent brushing can help your dog’s skin to rid itself of the greasy flakes that stick to his skin. This brushing can also allow the tightened skin to loosen up and allow your dog more comfort. 


Topical treatments tend to be the best bet and are often oil based. These treatment options provide a protective barrier on your dog’s skin also. The retinoid Isotretinoin has been shown to improve the symptoms of ichthyosis in dogs. This medication can cause eye infections, hair loss, vomiting and other side effects when used.  

The rate of relapse is high as there is no cure for this condition. It does tend to wax and wane over time even with treatment. Ongoing follow up with your veterinarian will be necessary.

Recovery of Ichthyosis (Fish Scale Disease) in Dogs

While some cases of ichthyosis are mild, they can be severe as well. Due to the severity of this disorder, ongoing and lifelong checkups will be necessary. These will be done to ensure there are no secondary infections of his skin and to see if any changes need to be made in his treatment to help prevent ongoing buildup of the scales on his skin.

Due to this being a lifelong condition some owners do choose to euthanize their dog if they are unable to give him a good quality of life. However, your dog can live with this condition if you are willing to be meticulous about his care. There may be times when his symptoms are minimal and when they get worse, so continuous care will be necessary to ensure a good quality of life.

Ichthyosis (Fish Scale Disease) Questions and Advice from Veterinary Professionals

Golden Retriever
13 Years
Moderate condition
1 found helpful
Moderate condition

Has Symptoms


I have a 13 year old Golden Retriever who was finally diagnosed when she was about 3 with Lamellar Ichthyosis. Skin biopsy was done, after numerous other tests to find out why she had such bad flakey skin. A regiment of Vit A, and flax seed oil, helps to keep the flakes in check.
Frequent baths when she was younger also helped. Past few years have seen less baths, but more grooming to remove the flakes and dried skin. Fortunately our girl loves to be vacuumed, so that has helped immensely with keeping the flaking in check.
Unfortunately she has just been diagnosed with Squamous Cell Carcinoma, she has more than one area which is felt to be SCC, My question is there any research that links the two conditions, I have tried researching but have not found anything as yet.
Also when she was diagnosed with the Ichthyosis I could not find much info on the disease, I am glad more research is being done, and more information is becoming available.

In many breeds someone can now buy a genetic test from Animal Genetics for about $45 that uses a simple cheek swab to test for the disease.

My son has Lamellar Ichthyosis as well. We think our golden also has it. My son is 29. We were told he would die before he was 2 from infections, etc..they didn’t know what to do. He’s healthy and I haven’t heard that he is at higher risk for cancer either. I was wondering if you could use the lac-hydrin on dogs as well?

I have Ichthyosis and have had two Squamous Cell Carcinomas removed as well as Melanoma and many keratosis, etc. I adopted a five year old cream colored golden retriever that has Ichthyosis. I appreciate the information you posted to help control it.

David C.

I don't know about a tie in with lamellar & cancer in dogs, but I have lamellar ichthyosis myself and I know that there is no greater risk of cancer for me than anyone else.

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American Bulldog
5 Months
Mild condition
0 found helpful
Mild condition

Has Symptoms

Dry flaky skin

My english bull dog is 5 months old and has ichthyosis. Dry flaky skin everywhere. Her belly is also really dry and scally and red on half of her. How often do you bath them with the medicated shampoo and what type of rinse? It does not bother her.

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toy poodle
1 Year
Moderate condition
0 found helpful
Moderate condition

Has Symptoms

flaky scaly skin, thick foot pads

Medication Used


My dog is nearly a year old toy poodle, when we got him we thought he just had puppy dandruff. His skin is flaky and scaly and on his belly it's black. The skin will shed and get everywhere. His foot pads are thick and seem bigger than they should be, he also always smells terrible, even right after a bath. I think he has Fish Scale disease, what do I do to help him? And how severe is it?

Dr. Michele King, DVM
Dr. Michele King, DVM
1611 Recommendations
There are many possible causes for Ollie's skin condition including bacterial or fungal infections parasites, or allergies. Since I cannot examine him or diagnose his condition, he will need to see a veterinarian to have his condition diagnosed so that he can get proper treatment. I hope that all goes well for him!

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Golden Retriever
2 Years
Mild condition
0 found helpful
Mild condition

I adopted my 2 year old golden retriever in January. When we got him I noticed a bald spot on his back it was dry and had black spots on it. I checked his whole body thinking they were fleas but it was just dirt that had attatched to the dry skin from him itching. Over the last few month I have noticed these spots more and I thought they were maybe from him itching and biting himself constantly and I’m starting to get worried. They have spread he has 3 or more on his back and around his neck he has a few on his legs and his whole chest is red with these spots. They are dry and flaky.

Dr. Callum Turner, DVM
Dr. Callum Turner, DVM
3320 Recommendations
There are various causes for dry flakey patches of skin in dogs which may include infections (bacterial, fungal, parasitic), hormonal imbalances, allergies, chemical irritation, seborrhoea among other causes. You could try to bathe Archie with a medicated shampoo containing benzoyl peroxide; however due to the varied number of different possible skin problems it would be best to visit your Veterinarian for an examination. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM

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Golden Retriever
Moderate condition
0 found helpful
Moderate condition

Has Symptoms

flaky, scaly skin in affected areas

Medication Used


We have recently adoption a 3 year old english cream golden retriever. She has this skin disorder. Her skin is black and she has white hair. We have been brushing her frequently. She doesn't seem bothered by her skin condition. However, I have been doing a lot of reading and it mentions oils/lotion to apply. I am not entirely sure how to do this since a golden retriever has so much hair. What about a certain kind of shampoo. Is there anything from a systemic standpoint that would be helpful for her. Fish oil? Let me know if there is anything in addition we could be doing.

Dr. Callum Turner, DVM
Dr. Callum Turner, DVM
3320 Recommendations

There are many different types of skin conditions, it is possible that Layla has seborrhoea sicca where the skin produces an excess of keratinous material leading to dry flakes on the skin. Using a shampoo from your local pet store containing benzoyl peroxidase should help. If you don’t see any improvement, visit your Veterinarian for a diagnosis. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM

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