Color Dilution Alopecia in Dogs

What is color dilution alopecia?

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 a “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 clinical signs of CDA may begin to manifest at six 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 Chow
• Dachshund
• Great Dane
• Irish Setter
• Italian Greyhound
• Standard Poodle
• Saluki
• Whippet
• Yorkshire Terrier
• Bernese Mountain Dog
• Chihuahua
• Shetland Sheepdog
• Boston Terrier
• Newfoundland
• Schipperke

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.

"Color-dilute individuals carry a recessive color gene (dd) and demonstrate blue, blueish grey, lavender, or flesh-colored lips, noses, and eyelids."

What causes my dog to lose hair?

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.

Can color dilution alopecia affect my dog's overall health status?

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 balding 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 color dilution alopecia curable?

"While CDA is not curable, it is fairly straightforward to manage."

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.

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