Follicular dysplasias

What is ... ?: 

Follicular dysplasias are a group of syndromes which have in common abnormal hair loss and changes in coat quality. Hair loss starts at an early age and progresses very slowly. The changes are consistent in the different breeds affected (see below), suggesting a genetic connection.
Black hair follicular dysplasia is a rare inherited disorder that is seen in mixed-breed and purebred dogs. Hair loss occurs at a very early age in black areas on black, or black and white dogs.

How is ... inherited?: 

Black hair follicular dysplasia is believed to be inherited as an autosomal recessive trait. The modes of inheritance for other follicular dysplasias are unknown.

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

In most cases, the coat changes are very slowly progressive and permanent, and have little effect on your dog's health. There may be  an increased susceptibility to bacterial infections. The dryness and scaliness of the coat can be treated symptomatically (see below).

How is ... diagnosed?: 

In black hair follicular dysplasia, the early onset and typical pattern of hair loss (black areas only) make diagnosis straightforward. For other follicular dysplasias, endocrine causes of hair loss must be considered. Your veterinarian will take a skin biopsy from your dog, which will show changes typical of follicular dysplasia. 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. The biopsy will show changes in the skin consistent with this condition.

How is ... treated?: 

Generally the coat changes are permanent. Your veterinarian will likely suggest symptomatic treatment, such as shampoos and fatty acid supplements, for dry scaly skin. Skin infections that may develop are treated with antibiotics.

Breeding advice: 

It is preferable not to breed affected animals.


Scott, D.W., Miller, W.H., Griffin, C.E.  1995.  Muller and Kirk's Small Animal Dermatology. pp 773, 780.  W.B. Saunders Co., Toronto.

What breeds are affected by ... ?