In a previous blog, we talked about what Alopecia X is, and which breeds of animals are most affected. Today, we'll talk about how alopecia is diagnosed and treated.
The condition is diagnosed based on breed, history, clinical signs and ruling out other possible causes of the hair loss.
Your veterinarian will likely run a variety of tests (including a CBC, Chemistry panel, ACTH Stimulation test, Thyroid panel, a urinalysis +/- a urine cortisol/creatinine ratio, skin scrape and possibly a skin biopsy) in order to rule out other causes of alopecia. If your veterinarian finds any abnormalities, they will pursue these leads before determining that your dog truly has Alopecia X.
First and foremost, please understand that Alopecia X is an aesthetic disease. In other words, it is a disease that may look a little funny, but it is not causing your dog any actual harm. Therefore, if you choose to forego any treatment, that is a perfectly acceptable decision to make.
If you, however, wish to try some of the therapies that seem to be working, here are a few of your options, all of which are eligible to be covered by pet insurance. As usual, your dog’s veterinarian and/or veterinary dermatologist is the best source of information for what treatments are recommended for your individual dog.
In any case, here are some possible discussion points for you and your vet:
- If your dog is still intact, don’t be surprised if your veterinarian recommends that you spay/castrate your dog. Some patients will re-grow their hair a few months after neutering (be advised: the alopecia may return later in life).
- Melatonin: this is a relatively inexpensive and safe supplement that can be helpful in hair re-growth. It can take four months to see a response, so patience is essential.
- Some of the medications used to treat hyperadrenocorticism (i.e.: Cushing’s disease) have been used to treat Alopecia X. These medications should not be used lightly: they can have serious side effects. Make sure you discuss the use of these medications thoroughly with your veterinarian before deciding to go along this path.
When it’s all said and done, your dog is just as healthy as s/he was before, there is just a more unique look about them! This isn’t a condition to lose any sleep over; your dog’s already losing enough hair over it!
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