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What are Vitamin A-Responsive Dermatosis?

Although this disorder can become irritating for your dog, it is not painful. While the cause is unknown, genetics are suspected, and while it is not related to a dietary deficiency, it is known to be a lack of the vitamin in the skin itself. The condition responds well to treatment with large doses of Vitamin A. Your veterinarian is the best to advise you on treatment which is often required for the full extent of your dog’s life, and it is a fine line between the right amount and an overdose which could lead to more severe problems.

Vitamin A-Responsive Dermatosis is a rare condition that usually affects the skin predominately on your dog’s chest and abdomen, resulting in dermatitis-like scaly crusty skin.

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Symptoms of Vitamin A-Responsive Dermatosis in Dogs

  • Small crusty lesions that erupt on the surface of your dog’s skin around the hair follicles, usually on the abdomen, chest and some parts of the back
  • Care must be taken to ensure secondary infections from bacterial or yeast sources do not develop; these cause itching and sometimes a foul smell
  • Your dog’s ears may become inflamed and show excess wax 
  • Hair loss or balding patches 
  • Prominent comedones (small bumps)
  • Dull lifeless coat or hair 


Breeds of dogs usually affected by this condition are the Cocker Spaniel, Labrador Retriever, Miniature Schnauzer and the Shar-pei.

Causes of Vitamin A-Responsive Dermatosis in Dogs

  • The symptoms of this skin condition are very similar to other conditions affecting the skin, so your veterinarian must first rule out all possible causes
  • Dogs with this condition need lifelong treatment and should be removed from the breeding pool to prevent the passing onto the young pups 
  • Secondary bacterial and yeast infections are a concern as this can induce itching and an unpleasant odour 
  • It takes about six to eight weeks for treatment to take effect and clear this condition
  • Treatment for this condition is a lifelong necessity to prevent reoccurrence 
  • The cause for Vitamin A Responsive dermatosis has not been clarified although there is a an agreement that genetics may be part of it
  • Your dog’s diet is not deficient in vitamin A as such, but the paradox is that the condition responds to high doses of this vitamin 
  • The amount of vitamin A needed to treat this condition exceeds the normal dose required for your dog 
  • Veterinarian monitoring and advice needs to be heeded as an overdose could bring toxicity

Diagnosis of Vitamin A-Responsive Dermatosis in Dogs

The visual signs of the dull sometimes matted hair, and the dry crusty lesions on your dog’s body are the first signs of this condition. Because so many skin conditions have similar symptoms, your veterinarian will work at eliminating all the causes which will narrow the remaining complaints. For the most accurate diagnosis, he will do a skin biopsy to determine the cause of your dog’s disorder. To do a biopsy is a simple procedure, which the vet will do under a local anesthetic. This process entails the removal of a small sample of your dog’s skin for examination by a veterinarian pathologist. The biopsy will show the typical characteristics of the Vitamin A-Responsive Dermatosis that is infecting your dog.

Your specialist will also check your dog during his examination for secondary infections. The open scaling or lesions make ideal sites for bacterial or yeast infections, which can cause your dog a lot of irritation and will require additional medication to correct. While the Vitamin A-Responsive Dermatosis doesn’t hurt your dog, any secondary infection will become a problem and affect his health if not seen to immediately.

Treatment of Vitamin A-Responsive Dermatosis in Dogs

This disorder of the skin is not a systemic Vitamin A deficiency but a skin deficiency or a disorder of the skin to utilise the vitamin A. While treatment with high doses of vitamin A does work to correct the disorder, providing the skin a chance to recover, careful dosage needs to be administered. An over supplementation can result in a toxic result causing further difficulty and harm to your pet’s health. This is where your veterinarian’s advice is crucial to monitor and correct the dosage to get it right.

Combining the Vitamin A supplements with a medicated shampoo that contains benzoyl peroxide will clear the follicular area and remove crusting. Using this shampoo two to three times per week will remove the debris from around the follicle and hasten healing. Your dog’s ears may need attention, with extra wax and debris building up, needing a topical medication to clean them out. Any secondary infection such as bacterial or yeast infections will need medication to clear them up and enable your pet to return to good health.

Recovery of Vitamin A-Responsive Dermatosis in Dogs

Regular ongoing treatment with the vitamin A supplements will be required to keep this condition under control. Regular washing with a medicated shampoo will ensure your dog’s coat remains clean and free from scabs, and enables the balding patches to regrow and replenish. As this is thought to be a genetic condition, it is considered wise to remove your dog from the breeding pool.

Regular check-ups with your veterinarian to ensure that the dosage of vitamin A is correct is essential, and the supplementation will be a lifetime commitment to your dog. The condition will reoccur if the treatment is stopped. It will take between four and eight weeks for your dog to improve once he is being treated, and remission will last as long as treatment continues.