Cutaneous asthenia (Ehlers-Danlos syndrome)

What is ... ?: 

Cutaneous asthenia is a group of conditions where there are various underlying defects in the structure of collagen, the fibrous connective tissue of the body. Dogs with cutaneous asthenia have abnormally stretchy and fragile skin which tears easily, resulting in large wounds. Some dogs also have looseness in the joints and abnormalities of the eye (lens luxation, cataracts).

How is ... inherited?: 

Most forms of the disorder appear to have an autosomal dominant mode of inheritance, although an autosomal recessive form likely occurs as well.

What does ... mean to your dog & you?: 

The skin of affected dogs is soft and thin, extremely stretchy and often hangs loosely in folds. It tears easily with minimal cause, such as your dog scratching, and there is usually very little bleeding. Small tears heal rapidly leaving irregular white scars, or the tears may enlarge.
Less often, there is looseness of the joints or eye abnormalities with this condition.

How is ... diagnosed?: 

It is generally fairly easy to recognize this condition, typically in a young dog with stretchy, easily torn, excessively scarred skin and no history of recent trauma to account for it. Your veterinarian may submit a skin biopsy (a simple procedure, done with local anesthetic) for examination by a veterinary pathologist.

How is ... treated?: 

Your veterinarian will discuss with you lifestyle and housing modifications that are essential to the management of this condition. Activities that may lead to mild trauma, such as playing with other animals or running off lead in woody areas, must be avoided. Rough or sharp corners and objects in your house should be removed or padded. Your dog's resting places must be well-padded as well. Prompt veterinary attention will be necessary to suture any wounds that occur before they enlarge, or to treat any other skin conditions (which may cause your dog to scratch).
Many affected animals are euthanized due to the incurable nature of this condition, and the extensive care and attention that will be required life-long.

Breeding advice: 

With dominant forms of this disorder, affected dogs and the affected parent should not be bred. If the inheritance appears to be recessive (ie. an affected dog is born of apparently normal parents), then the parents (carriers of the trait) and siblings (potential carriers) of the affected dog should not be bred


Scott, D.W., Miller, W.H., Griffin, C.E.  1995.  Muller and Kirk's Small Animal Dermatology. pp 785.  W.B. Saunders Co., Toronto.

What breeds are affected by ... ?