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What is color dilution alopecia (CDA) in dogs?

Color dilution alopecia (CDA) is a genetic skin condition that affects dogs bred to have coats that appear blue or light fawn (Isabella). CDA can leave your dog with patchy hair loss, and uncomfortable, itchy skin. Today, our Newtown vets explain the causes of CDA, which breeds are affected, and how it can be treated.

What causes CDA in dogs?

Color dilution alopecia (CDA), also known as blue dog disease, is a hereditary condition that causes patches of thinning hair and itchy flaky skin in dogs with a 'dilute' coat color. Dilute coat colors include fur considered blue (diluted from black) or light fawn (diluted from liver or chocolate-colored coats). 

Dogs with CDA often appear to have normal, healthy fur as puppies but begin to develop signs of the condition at around six months of age.

CDA is primarily caused by genetic factors. Dogs with dilute coat colors possess a recessive gene that results in the dilution of pigments in their coat, skin, and eyes. This genetic alteration can affect the structure and function of the dog's hair follicles, leading to hair loss and skin problems.

What breeds are prone to developing CDA?

While the disorder is most often seen in blue Dobermans, it has been recognized in other breeds, including:

  • Chow Chow
  • Dachshund
  • Great Dane
  • Irish Setter
  • Italian Greyhound
  • Standard Poodle
  • Saluki
  • Whippet
  • Yorkshire Terrier
  • Bernese Mountain Dog
  • Chihuahua
  • Shetland Sheepdog
  • Boston Terrier
  • Newfoundland
  • Schipperke

It's important to note that not all dogs with dilute coat colors will develop CDA, and the severity of the condition can vary in dogs that do develop the condition.

How is CDA diagnosed?

Your veterinarian will perform a thorough examination of your dog's skin and coat, noting the pattern and severity of hair loss as well as any signs of skin irritation or infection. In some cases, your vet may recommend that a hair analysis or skin biopsy be done in order to confirm the diagnosis and rule out other possible conditions.

How is CDA in dogs treated?

Color dilution alopecia treatment is focused on managing the condition and relieving your dog's symptoms. Treatment for CDA may include:

  • Topical therapies such as medicated shampoos and conditioners to help soothe irritated skin and manage secondary bacterial infections.
  • Oral medications, such as antibiotics or anti-inflammatory drugs, to manage skin issues and inflammation.
  • Omega-3 fatty acid supplements to help improve skin and coat health and reduce the severity of your dog's CDA symptoms.
  • Avoidance of environmental triggers. Dogs with CDA need to be protected from extreme temperatures and harsh conditions that may aggravate skin issues.
  • Regularly scheduled checkups to monitor the progression of your dog's CDA to alter your pet's treatment plan whenever necessary.

Can CDA be prevented?

The genetic nature of the disease means that CDA cannot entirely be prevented. If you are considering adopting a dog with a dilute coat be sure to do your research ahead of time, and speak to your breeder. Find out if your puppy's parents, grandparents, or older siblings have shown signs of CDA. 

Be sure to take your dog for regularly scheduled routine checkups so that your veterinarian can monitor the health of their skin and watch for early signs of CDA. Your vet may also recommend proactive steps to help protect your dog's skin health, such as a prescription diet that's high in Omega-3s or dietary supplements formulated to promote excellent skin health.

Note: The advice provided in this post is intended for informational purposes and does not constitute medical advice regarding pets. For an accurate diagnosis of your pet's condition, please make an appointment with your vet.

 If your dog is in need of emergency or specialist care Newtown Veterinary Specialists is here to help! Contact our Newtown veterinarians to learn more.

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