Blue Doberman pinschers aren't truly blue, like canine Smurfs. Their color is actually a steel gray, with the rust markings common to all Dobie colors. Due to a hereditary skin condition, some blue Dobies start balding at a young age.
Color Dilution Alopecia
While color dilution alopecia occurs in many breeds, it also goes by the term "blue Doberman syndrome" since it's so common in this breed and shade. Another term is "blue balding syndrome," which sums up the symptoms. Among Dobies, fawn-colored dogs are also affected. According to the University of Prince Edward Island, color dilution alopecia occurs at the cellular level, with hair follicle abnormalities and uneven melanin pigment clumping granules in affected hair shafts.
Affected blue Doberman puppies appear to have normal skin and hair at birth, but the skin eventually becomes scaly, canine acne appears, and sections of the coat fall out. Even the remaining coat hair looks thin and raggedy. Symptoms may appear in puppies as young as 4 months, or in older dogs. Most cases have appeared by the time the Dobie turns 3. Generally, the lighter the Dobie's coat, the earlier the symptoms begin. Although his skin and coat might look bad, the condition doesn't affect his health.
Since the syndrome is so common in blue Dobies, your vet will probably recognize it immediately. However, since other skin problems such as mange also cause hair loss and rough skin, testing is necessary to ensure that it is indeed blue Doberman syndrome. The vet may take skin scrapings, or determine the condition by examining hair samples under a microscope, looking for the uneven pigment clumps.
While color dilution alopecia can't be cured, treatments are available. Keep your dog's skin and hair very clean. Your vet can recommend antibacterial shampoos to keep skin grunge at bay. The Doberman Pinscher Club of America recommends supplementing affected dogs with melatonin, fish oil, folic acid and vitamin B50. Consult your vet before giving any supplements to your dog. Use soft brushes to avoid further hair breakage, and be aware that your dog is more susceptible to cold and sunburn. Depending on the climate where you live, you may want to invest in some protective threads for your Doberman.
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.