Ichthyosis in Dogs

By Malcolm Weir, DVM, MSc, MPH; Robin Downing, DVM, DAAPM, DACVSMR, CVPP, CRPP

What is ichthyosis?

Ichthyosis is a very rare skin condition in dogs that is the result of a genetic mutation. The mutation prevents the outer layer of skin from developing properly.

What are the clinical signs of ichthyosis?

Affected skin is rough and covered with thick, greasy flakes that stick to the hair. The term ichthyosis comes from the Greek word for fish because the skin of these dogs resembles fish scales. In addition to the flakes and scales on the body, there may be areas of thickened skin with increased pigment, as well as thickening of the footpads.

"...the skin of these dogs resembles fish scales."

Are there risk factors for ichthyosis?

Breeds that have been recognized with ichthyosis include:

• West Highland White Terrier
• Golden Retriever
• Great Dane
• American Bulldog
• Cavalier King Charles Spaniel
• Doberman Pinschers
• Jack Russell Terriers
• Norfolk Terriers
• Yorkshire Terriers

There is no sex predilection for this condition, though it tends to affect young dogs.

How is ichthyosis diagnosed?

Your veterinarian may suspect ichthyosis in your dog based on clinical signs and the diagnosis is confirmed by performing a skin biopsy. Genetic testing is available to test for the mutation responsible for this condition.

What is the prognosis?

"Ichthyosis is chronic and there is no cure."

Ichthyosis is chronic and there is no cure. Once a dog is diagnosed with ichthyosis, the symptoms may be controlled with frequently applied medicated shampoos and rinses to control the itching and to maintain both skin hydration and skin barrier function. The disease worsens with age and some dogs are more severely affected than others. Unfortunately, severely affected dogs may ultimately be euthanized due to their disease. Affected dogs, their parents, and their siblings should not be used for breeding.

Related Articles