I have a blue Doberman pinscher who started losing patches of her hair when she was just over two years of age. I have been told she has a condition called color dilution alopecia, and that this is due to her breed and hair coat color. Just what is this disorder?
Color dilution alopecia (CDA) is a genetic recessive inherited condition that causes patches of hair thinning or loss, and may also include flaky and/or itchy skin. The condition is associated with individuals who have what is called “dilute” color, and is most commonly seen in dogs with a blue or fawn coat. These puppies are born with a normal looking hair coat, and the symptoms of CDA may begin to manifest at 6 months of age or older. While the disorder has been commonly described in blue Dobermans, it has been recognized in other breeds as well, including:
- Chow chows
- Great Danes
- Irish setters
- Italian greyhounds
- Standard poodles
- Yorkshire terriers
- Bernese mountain dogs
- Shetland sheep dogs
- Boston terriers
Color-dilute individuals carry a recessive color gene – dd – and demonstrate blue, blueish grey, lavender, or flesh colored lips, noses, and eyelids. Deeply colored individuals carry either DD or Dd genes and demonstrate either black or liver noses, lips, and eyelids.
What caused my dog to lose her hair in these areas?
The actual cause of CDA is poorly understood. Dogs with CDA tend to have abnormalities in the hair follicles themselves, causing them to self-destruct, making it impossible for them to grow new hairs.
Do I need to worry about my dog’s overall health status now that she has been diagnosed with CDA?
No. Other than her overall appearance, her health is not at risk.
That said, there may be some skin specific issues that will emerge and need to be treated. Your dog may develop scaly skin in the bald areas. She may also develop small bumps or even pustules associated with a bacterial skin infection. Some dogs with CDA will experience itching that may need to be managed.
Is CDA curable?
While CDA is not curable, it is fairly straightforward to manage. Your veterinarian will determine the best way to proceed. Management may involve shampoos, rinses, and/or ointments to manage dry skin, scaling or superficial infections. If needed, your veterinarian may prescribe oral antibiotics to treat a more severe skin infection. There may also be nutritional recommendations to maximize skin health in the face of CDA.
Due to the inherited nature of this disease, dogs with CDA, their parents, and their siblings should not be used in breeding programs.