Epidermolysis bullosa

What is ... ?: 

The term epidermolysis bullosa refers to a group of hereditary skin diseases that occur in people, and rarely in dogs. In all forms there is blistering of the skin in response to mild trauma. The 3 major forms are epidermolysis bullosa simplex, junctional epidermolysis bullosa, and dystrophic epidermolysis bullosa, classified based on the location of the structural defects (and associated blisters) within the different layers of the skin.

How is ... inherited?: 

From the few cases studied to date, the mode of inheritance is thought to be autosomal recessive.

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

Severely affected pups develop blisters and crusted erosive ulcers on the footpads, face, genital region and ears, and in the mouth. Mildly affected dogs develop occasional blisters in these areas, especially if there is friction or trauma to the skin. 

How is ... diagnosed?: 

Diagnosis is by skin biopsy. This is a simple procedure, done with local anesthetic, in which your veterinarian removes a small sample of your dog's skin for examination by a veterinary pathologist.

How is ... treated?: 

There is no specific treatment for epidermolysis bullosa, but dogs that are mildly affected can lead a relatively normal life with management of their surroundings to minimize  trauma, and appropriate treatment of occasional secondary infections.

Breeding advice: 

Affected dogs and their close relatives should not be used for breeding.


Scott, D.W., Miller, W.H., Griffin, C.E. 1995. Muller and Kirk's Small Animal Dermatology. p. 756.  W.B. Saunders Co., Toronto.