What Causes a Siberian Husky's Hair to Fall Out?

by Jane Meggitt, Demand Media Google
    This healthy husky shows no evidence of alopecia X.

    This healthy husky shows no evidence of alopecia X.

    Like other Arctic breeds, Siberian huskies are prone to alopecia X, which causes baldness. Alopecia X is also known as follicular dysplasia of the Siberian husky. It goes by several nicknames, including black skin disease and coat funk. Whatever it's called, its treatment might or might not allow for hair regrowth.

    Alopecia X

    Veterinarians don't know exactly what causes alopecia X, which is the reason the condition has that mysterious name. It might relate to sex hormones, problems with the hair follicles or mild hyperadrenocorticism. Another name for alopecia X is "post-clipping alopecia." Avoid clipping your husky's hair: Sometimes shearing leads to alopecia X; hair doesn't grow back in the affected area. Why that happens is another alopecia X mystery. While your husky might look funny if he's suffering from alopecia X, he's probably otherwise healthy.

    Symptoms

    Hair loss due to alopecia X generally starts when your husky is between the ages of 2 and 5 years old. Huskies are double-coated, so the top coat goes first, leaving only the undercoat. That eventually also falls out, leaving large bald areas that spread progressively over much of the body. While affected dogs have different balding patterns, generally the neck, tail and rump lose hair. Usually there's no hair loss on the head or front legs. Hair falls out bilaterally, meaning both sides of your dog lose hair in the same areas together. The skin in the bald areas become thin and might change color. Watch for signs of infection on bald patches, including lesions and pustules.

    Diagnosis

    Two common endocrine disorders -- Cushing's disease and hypothyroidism -- cause similar hair loss. Your vet rules these hormonal issues out via blood testing of your husky's thyroid levels, urinalysis and a skin biopsy. If she rules these out, she'll treat your husky for alopecia X.

    Treatment

    If your husky isn't spayed or neutered, your vet will likely recommend such surgery as soon as possible. Sex hormones influence alopecia X, so spaying or neutering might get hair growing again. If your husky's already fixed, your vet might recommend melatonin, a hormone available over-the-counter. Since it's commonly advertised as a sleep aid, you'll want to give it to your dog at night. After a few months of melatonin therapy, hair may regrow. If it doesn't work, your vet could put your husky on stronger medications with serious potential side effects. The vet should discuss with you the pros and cons of using such drugs to treat a purely cosmetic issue. Your vet might prescribe antibiotics, both topical and oral, for infections occurring in bald spots.

    Zinc-Responsive Dermatosis

    Your husky could inherit a rare disorder that decreases his ability to absorb zinc from his diet. This results in zinc-responsive dermatosis, which causes skin lesions and subsequent hair loss. In addition to antibiotic treatment for infected lesions and medicated shampoos, zinc supplementation usually clears up the problem. However, your husky might require supplementation for the rest of his life to keep the skin problems from recurring.

    About the Author

    Jane Meggitt has been a writer for more than 20 years. In addition to reporting for a major newspaper chain, her work has appeared in "Horse News," "Suburban Classic," "Hoof Beats," "Equine Journal" and other publications. She has a Bachelor of Arts in English from New York University and an Associate of Arts from the American Academy of Dramatics Arts, New York City.

    Photo Credits

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