Follicular Dysplasia in Dogs

Follicular Dysplasia in Dogs

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Overview of Follicular Dysplasia in Dogs

Follicular dysplasia is a condition caused by an abnormality in the canine hair follicle. It typically manifests as hair loss or abnormal hair growth that progresses over an animal’s lifetime.

Several types of follicular dysplasia have been identified, all of them presumably genetic in origin. The most well understood of these, black hair follicular dysplasia, appears as hair loss in black-haired dogs or in black-haired patches in black and white colored dogs. This latter form of the disease is known to be inherited as an autosomal recessive trait. Symptoms generally begin before 1 year of age.

Affected breeds include:

  • Affected breeds for black hair follicular dysplasia include: American Cocker Spaniel, Basset Hound, Bearded Collie, Beagle, Dachshund, Gordon Setter, Papillon, Pointer, Saluki and the Schipperke.

For other affected breeds, the following clinical signs are evident:

  • Doberman Pinscher: progressive Flank and back alopecia starting at age 1-2 years.
  • Siberian Husky and Malamute: Hair loss over trunk, post-clipping alopecia and undercoat crimping along with reddish discoloration beginning at age 3-4 months
  • Airedale Terrier, Boxer, English Bulldog, Staffordshire Terrier: Alopecia beginning at 2 to 4 years of age in a saddle pattern; hair loss may not be permanent but may recur in a cyclical pattern
  • Portuguese Water Dog, Irish Water Spaniel, Curly-coated Retriever: Starting at 2 to 4 years, progressive back and trunk alopecia

The Chesapeake Bay Retriever, English Springer Spaniel, German Short-haired and Wire-haired Pointer and Rottweiler may also be affected by this disease.

What to Look For:

For black hair follicular dysplasia, symptoms include:

  • Progressively worsening, permanent hair loss over black areas of the skin that begins at about four weeks of age
  • Scaling and flaking of the skin
  • Secondary infections
  • Skin odor
  • Itching

Diagnosis of Follicular Dysplasia in Dogs

Follicular dysplasia can often be diagnosed by breed and symptoms alone, however skin biopsy is strongly recommended for definitive diagnosis.

Treatment of Follicular Dysplasia in Dogs

Follicular dysplasia is not treatable. Management of the scaling and secondary infections is usually undertaken via supplements, shampoos, topical applications and topical antimicrobials when necessary. Some clinical evidence exists that melatonin may stimulate hair growth in some dogs.


The mainstay of prevention of follicular dysplasia involves genetic counseling. Affected dogs and their first degree relatives should not be bred.


Dogs with follicular dysplasia can live a normal life. The impact is cosmetic in nature. Dogs with follicular dysplasia are prone to secondary infections and sunburns.

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