Today, I wanted to talk about a very unique condition we see in our Dachshund companions called primary acanthosis nigricans. Tongue twister, isn’t it? This condition is not very common and is most associated with short-haired Dachshund canine companions. It is believed to have a genetic component, although a definitive underlying cause has yet to be determined. So, what exactly is this condition?

What is acanthosis nigricans?

Primary acanthosis nigricans is a skin disease that afflicts the axillary region (upper chest underneath the front legs), but in severe cases, it can spread to the front legs, neck, abdomen, groin, perineum, hocks, around the eyes, and on the ears. It is characterized by a hyperpigmentation, or darkening, of the skin followed by skin thickening and hair loss. Secondary problems such as skin infections (both bacterial and yeast) may also develop.

This condition is not characterized by itchiness (unless there are secondary issues such as skin infections) but can be exacerbated if the dachshund is overweight. When a pet is overweight, there is greater friction created between the tissues as they rub together during normal activity like walking and running, thereby worsening the primary acanthosis nigricans.


There is no definitive method of diagnosing the condition, but it is important to rule out other possibilities. These include: food allergy, atopy, chronic pyoderma, allergic dermatitis, seborrhea, and infectious skin conditions. Taking biopsy samples and sending them off for histopathology can be helpful, but is not always as rewarding as we would like.

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Fortunately, primary acanthosis nigricans itself can usually be managed with maintaining a healthy weight and controlling any secondary infections or conditions. Some pets will require periodic courses of topical or oral steroids, antibiotics (topical or oral), and/or antifungals to control these secondary issues. There has been some success with vitamin E and melatonin supplementation to help control the primary acanthosis nigricans itself. If you have pet insurance that covers nutraceuticals, like Petplan, you won’t need to worry about covering the cost of all of this (supplements can be expensive!). And of course, you should discuss any supplementation and dosing with your veterinarian before giving anything to your pet. Human and animal dosing can be very different!

We are starting to see a decreasing trend in the frequency of primary acanthosis nigricans as breeders are more aware and are being more selective about their breeding pairs. As the name implies, there is also a secondary acanthosis nigricans that is associated with allergies and/or endocrinopathies. Although similar, these diseases differ in their underlying cause and therefore therapies. But that, my friends, is the topic of another blog!

Aug 17, 2013
Pet Health

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