Hair loss, or alopecia, is often the first sign of an endocrine disease like Cushing’s.
Other skin related signs of endocrine disease in your dog could be the following:
- Thinning of the skin
- Skin infection or hot spots
- Comedones (blackheads)
- Calcinosis cutis (calcium deposition in the skin)
Frequently, however, hair loss is the first clinical sign noted.
Is your dog losing hair?
Hair loss in dogs with Cushing’s disease affects the trunk, sparing the head and distal extremities.
Furthermore, Cushing’s is often associated with other systemic signs, such as polyuria, polydipsia, and polyphagia, and is often accompanied by elevated ALP levels.
A middle-aged dog with truncal hair loss sparing the head and distal extremities should always be evaluated for possible endocrine disease.
However, if the dog is negative on the Cushing’s test, other diseases should be considered, including Alopecia X and hypothyroidism.
Alopecia X is a clinical disease that affects primarily Nordic breeds and Toy or Miniature Poodles.
Another name for Alopecia X is Adrenal Hyperplasia-Like Syndrome, thus the relationship to Cushing’s.
Hair loss occurs as early as 1 year of age or as late as 10 years of age.
The primary clinical presentation is the symmetrical gradual loss of hair over the trunk and caudal thighs, sparing the head and front limbs.
Frequently, the skin may become hyperpigmented.
The clinical differentiating factor between Alopecia X and Cushing’s disease is that the only sign of Alopecia X is hair loss. No other signs are noted with Alopecia X.
Treatment of Alopecia X includes spaying or neutering, melatonin therapy, and in extreme cases Trilostane.
Another endocrine disease, called hypothyroidism, is the most common endocrine disease causing hair loss in dogs.
Hypothyroid dogs exhibit the following signs:
- Weight gain
- Scaly skin
- Hair loss
- Muscle loss
- Cold intolerance
- Slow regrowth of clipped hair
- Rat tail
Diagnosing thyroid disease in dogs is fairly straightforward.
Total T4 (TT4) concentration is a sensitive but nonspecific screening test and values are low in most hypothyroid patients.
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