There is not a lot known about this disease that affects not only Pomeranians, but other breeds as well, so I will endeavour to impart some knowledge here for the Pomeranian fancier by adding text and photos from my own experience, plus researchers that are delving into the mysteries of this insideous disease, which has been around for a long time apparently, but so little was known of it here in Australia. If an animal was affected, then it was hushed up, but like good friends of mine say...its a disgusting 'gift' that keeps on giving..throughout the generations.
In the last 2 years or so, it sadly appears to be becoming more and more apparent in my own preferred breed of Pomeranians, as it seems we are importing a lot more animals from overseas to introduce into our lines.
As the registered owner of one of these 'balding' pomeranians that was bought in good faith as a 'show' dog, it is heartbreaking to notice in your adored puppy, that the coat was not growing and was changing colour. In my case, my little boy was a black pom, and parts of his coat started to go into a reddish and grey colour, and his tail has slowly disappeared into what is now a 'bit of string' with some feathering on the end. In one sense I was lucky that this BSD reared its ugly head early in the piece as my boy was only 6 months old when his coat ceased to grow, and now that he's 16 months old, his back legs and bottom are completely bald, his flank hair is just about gone, and the grey ruff around his neck is clumpy and horrible to touch, and in time will disappear...i.e. lucky in the sense that he was not bred from. He was neutered, and therefore unable to pass this horrid disease on to other unsuspecting pom lovers.
Whether our Australian breeders want to admit it or not, this problem is in most of their lines through the importation of stock from overseas kennels, and whilst nobody blames them for that, the blame for passing it on must lie with them, albeit whilst they may not see it in their own dog/bitch's coats, they most likely know that somewhere in their imported lines, or in puppies they have bred, there is a history of it, so to keep on producing with those same lines, they are knowingly passing the gene onto the progeny, some of which are sold to show or pet homes to unsuspecting buyers like myself. In my case, the dam of my dog had been produced down the line from 2 x USA kennels, both of which are now well known to have BSD throughout their lines, and as my dog's breeder would be well aware of this, the dam, and the sire,should be neutered so neither of them pass on the gene to any more of their progeny.
From what I have personally learnt through a lot of research into BSD, is that there is, at this stage, no way of knowing if the animal carries the gene, and there is no cure, yet the dog and/or bitch may very well both carry it, and it only manifests itself into fully blown Alopecia X when the animals that both carry this gene are mated and produce a litter.
I now understand that steroids can play a big part in producing profuse coats, and I know of one Asian country that is buying up any BSD poms quite cheaply, pumping them full of probably 'horse' steroids and when their coats are profuse, selling them for 'big' money. You can imagine of course, the unsuspecting buyer's horror at seeing his/her very expensive, fully coated show pomerian fade away fairly quickly, to a bald creature with just head/feet hair.
Once the breeder knows there is a problem, the only way to stop creating the likelihood of more BSD, is to neuter both the male and female animals that were responsible for the BSD progeny, and not to keep producing litters, either together again or with different matings, as both of those parents of the BSD puppy will pass on the BSD gene, but sadly this is not happening...as the mighty dollar is way more important to those breeders, than the betterment and subsequent continuation of a healthy breed.
Following is pictorial evidence of the decline of my little boy's coat.
3 weeks old / 6 weeks old - a fully coated puppy
6 months old - note the difference in colour - head and feet are very black, rest of coat is a reddish/brown
8 months old - Overall, coat is disappearing and body coat is 'clumpy'. Tail feathering also reduced
12 months old - Coat loss very evident, tail feathering has practically disappeared
14 months - He will only retain his head and feet hair, the rest of his body will be totally bald
Alopecia X is the name many veterinary dermatologists have given to the hair cycle abnormality that affects primarily Nordic breeds and Toy or Miniature Poodles. Other names for this condition in the veterinary literature have included Adult Onset Growth Hormone Deficiency, Growth Hormone-Responsive Alopecia, Castration-Responsive Alopecia, and, more recently, Adrenal Hyperplasia-Like Syndrome. You may be more familiar with the breeders’ terminology of Coat Funk of Malamutes or Black Skin Disease of Pomeranians. The term I prefer is Hair Cycle Arrest.
Alopecia X affects dogs of both sexes regardless of neuter status. The hair loss can first occur 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. Sometimes the guard hairs are lost first leaving a soft "puppy" coat. The skin may become intensely hyperpigmented. There are no systemic signs associated with this condition. If your dog is not eating or drinking or eating and drinking excessively, is depressed, or has elevated liver or kidney values, then it is important to look for another cause of the hair loss.
The cause of the hair cycle arrest is unknown at this time. It is our hope through research and clinical trials that we will gain a better understanding of the cause of the hair loss and perhaps develop a truly effective treatment.
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Does your dog suffer Black Skin Disease (Alopecia X)?
The term “Alopecia” is nothing more mysterious than the medical word for “hair loss,” originally from the Latin via Greek “Alopekia,” meaning “fox mange.” The disease itself, however, is little understood. This condition in animals is called “Alopecia X” because the cause(s) of this condition are still relatively unknown and the treatments tend to be by trial and error (or, as some would suggest, random).
The disease manifests initially as thinning hair, sometimes accompanied by itchy skin and sometimes not, followed by bald patches, followed by blackened or dark gray skin. Eventually, the dog can become completely bald with deep charcoal-gray skin. Often, the dog will smell really bad.