If your Akita appears moth-eaten, with large areas of hair loss, he could be suffering from sebaceous adenitis, an auto-immune disorder. While this inflammatory skin disease also affects other breeds, it can cause severe hair loss in Akitas. Although it's not curable, affected dogs can live normal, happy lives.
The good news is that sebaceous adenitis is fairly rare. The bad news is that there's no way to tell if a puppy will eventually have the problem. Basically, the dog's oil-producing sebaceous glands become inflamed, then die off. In a 2008 Swedish veterinary study of the disease in several breeds, the mean age of Akitas diagnosed with sebaceous adenitis was nearly 5 years. Because there is a hereditary component, affected dogs shouldn't be bred.
Along with hair loss, Akitas with sebaceous adenitis develop a strong, musky scent and thickened skin. Lesions might appear in balding areas, resulting from hair follicle infection. Usually, the loss of hair is symmetrical over the back, neck, head and face. The feet, abdomen and tail are generally spared. Your Akita might appear to have a bad case of dandruff. When infections are present, the lesions might itch. Your Akita might run a fever and become lethargic.
Because sebaceous adenitis looks like other inflammatory skin issues, your vet must take a skin biopsy in order to make a definite diagnosis. She might recommend dietary changes, fatty acid supplementation and special shampoos to slow the progress of the disease. If your Akita suffers from secondary bacterial infections, your vet will prescribe oral and topical antibiotics to clear them up. Other treatments include steroids and retinoids, the latter related to vitamin A and used in dermatology.
Sebaceous adenitis is far from the only potential cause of hair loss in Akitas. Besides the various types of skin problems that more commonly plague dogs, such as allergies and mange, Akitas sometimes are afflicted by another autoimmune disease, pemphigus, which causes pimples and lesions along with hair loss. Four types of pemphigus exist, most of which have similar symptoms that vary in severity. Pemphigus vulgaris, the most serious condition, often brings fever and appetite loss with it, because the blisters affect the mouth. Your vet takes a skin biopsy for diagnosis, along with blood work and a urinalysis. She might prescribe steroids to get pemphigus under control, as well as medications to treat the specific type of pemphigus afflicting your Akita. She may also recommend dietary changes.
- Vetstreet: Sebaceous Adenitis in Dogs
- WebMD: Skin Diseases with Hair Loss in Dogs
- VPI Pet Insurance: Akita Dogs
- PetMD: Scaly Skin in Dogs
- Akita Club of America:
- ACTA Veterinaria Scandinavica: Sebaceous Adenitis in Swedish Dogs, a Retrospective Study of 104 Cases
- PetMD: Skin Disease, Autoimmune (Pemphigus) in Dogs
Jane Meggitt has been a writer for more than 20 years. In addition to reporting for a major newspaper chain, she has been published 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.