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bad hair day: petplan pet insurance explains follicular dysplasia

  • Dr. Kim
  • Posted by Dr. Kim Smyth on
    Staff Veterinarian and Pet Health Writer of Petplan



Follicular dysplasia is an inherited condition in which there is abnormal hair growth.  Affected pets may have hair that is prone to breakage, color change, abnormal retention, or decreased growth rates.  Clinical signs in dogs vary depending on the breed. 

In some breeds, like the Affenpinscher, Airedale, Boxer, English Bulldog, and Staffordshire Terrier, hair loss is located on the flank and upper back.  In these breeds, hair loss is seen when the dogs are young adults.

In the Curly Coated Retriever, Irish Water Spaniel, and Portuguese Water Spaniel, the hair loss is located along the back towards the rear of the dog.  Hair loss starts as hair breakage in young dogs and progresses to complete hair loss by the time they are adults.

In Doberman Pinschers, Miniature Pinschers, and Manchester Terriers, hair loss ranges from the flank region to the entire back in young dogs, and in unfortunate Weimaranars, progressive hair loss begins between one and three years of age and is diffuse (though it does spare the head and limbs).

The Arctic breeds of Alaskan Malamute and Husky aren’t spared; Huskies lose the long guard hairs of their trunk around three months of age and Malamutes do the same at about three years of age.  Affected hairs may turn a reddish hue before falling out.

Two breeds of cats are affected more than others.  The Cornish Rex and Abyssinian breeds are known to have follicular dysplasia in their lines, with hair loss being diffuse along the body, sparing the head and limbs.

Diagnosis of follicular dysplasia is obtained through biopsy of the affected region.  Several biopsies will be taken to ensure a correct diagnosis.  Follicular dysplasia will need to be distinguished from a few other kinds of symmetric hair loss, such as Alopecia X, endocrine alopecia, and color dilution alopecia.  Your veterinarian will pair clinical signs with the biopsy results to come to the conclusion of follicular dysplasia.

Follicular dysplasia has no cure, and treatment is generally not needed.  Oral melatonin may stimulate hair growth in some patients, and in others, sporadic hair growth may recur naturally.  Care should be taken not to over bathe or over groom patients with follicular dysplasia, as this may exacerbate the condition.  Follicular dysplasia is typically only a cosmetic condition; it generally causes no discomfort.

Because follicular dysplasia is inherited, affected dogs and cats should not be bred.

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Chris AshtonCo-Founder and Co-CEO of Petplan Pet Insurance
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