The disease with 1000 names.
Ok, so it’s not 1000 names, but Yorkie Black Skin Disease does go by a lot of different names.
11 different ones, by my count. There may be more.
With so many different synonyms, it must be a pretty horrific disease, right?
Not exactly. Black Skin Disease does have a highly visible affect on your dog’s appearance.
But it does nothing else to you dog.
What does that mean for you, if you have a Yorkie with Black Skin Disease?
Keep reading to find out. We will cover absolutely everything you need to know about this condition.
- 1 Yorkie Black Skin Disease
- 2 Black Skin Disease In Yorkies: Final Thoughts
Yorkie Black Skin Disease
Yorkie Black Skin Disease (BSD) is also known as alopecia X. Dogs with this condition start losing their hair followed by hyperpigmentation, or darkening, of the skin in affected areas.
Hair loss in Black Skin Disease usually starts around the dog’s neck and symmetrically progresses to other parts. The exposed parts of the skin appear black mainly due to sun exposure.
The condition is usually cosmetic. Affected Yorkies are generally healthy and do not show any symptoms other than hair loss and skin darkening.
Black skin disease is also called Pseudo-Cushing’s disease, hyposomatotropism, sex-hormone dermatosis, woolly syndrome, hair cycle arrest, an more. There are at least 11 synonyms for BSD!
Signs And Symptoms Of Yorkie Black Skin Disease
Black Skin Disease typically only affects the dog’s skin and coat. As mentioned before, these Yorkies are healthy and have no other health issues. All of the symptoms are cosmetic and only cause the dogs to look funny.
The condition begins with sparse hair loss of the primary coat or guard hairs. This causes the coat to appear dull and dry. Some dogs have generalized hair loss resulting in a puppy-like appearance. The coat also becomes lighter in appearance, due to the loss of the guard hairs.
Most Yorkie parents report seeing hair loss in frictional areas such as around the neck, caudal (inner) thighs, and the dog’s rear end. These areas become even more severely affected as the disease progresses.
In most Yorkies, the disease takes years to progress from the initial changes to complete hair loss. Some dogs also lose the retained secondary hairs, causing complete alopecia.
The exposed skin starts darkening due to sun exposure. Dog owners are advised to use clothing and other forms of sun protection to minimize skin darkening in their dogs with BSD.
How To Diagnose Black Skin Disease In Dogs
There are currently no clear diagnostic tests available for diagnosing canine black skin disease. Dog owners usually become aware of the problem when they notice their pet’s coat fails to regrow after clipping.
Vets often diagnose other issues such as telogen effluvium or color dilution alopecia. Often, they have to recommend blood tests and urinalysis to rule out thyroid disorders.
In most Yorkies with BSD, there is hypothyroidism (low total thyroxine levels), but other tests are usually normal. However, hair regrowth does not occur even if thyroid medicines are administered.
In many Yorkies with BSD, the age when the disease first appears is between 9 months and 11 years. Neutered male dogs are most affected, but sterilization could actually reverse the hair loss in non-neutered dogs with this disease.
Thus, BSD diagnosis is often tricky and needs to be based on the dog’s history, physical exam findings, and also ruling out other diseases (Cushing’s and hypothyroidism) proven to cause hair loss. In some dogs, a skin biopsy may also be needed.
Causes Of Alopecia X Or Black Skin Disease
There are no definite causes of Black Skin Disease. Certain breeds are generally more prone to developing it.
For example, Nordic dog breeds like Norwegian Elkhounds, Samoyeds, Spitz, Alaskan Malamutes, and Siberian Husky are more prone to alopecia X. Pomeranians are also one of the breeds afflicted with this condition.
In Yorkies, Black Skin Disease may be due to a genetic predisposition to hormone production defects. There may be abnormal hormone action on the hair follicle and a dog could inherit it from the parent.
In some cases, the sterilization procedure could impact a dog’s sex hormone production although, as mentioned before, one of the treatments for BSD is sterilization.
Can You Prevent Black Skin Disease?
It is important to neuter all dogs diagnosed with Black Skin Disease to prevent passing it on to offspring. Good breeders do not breed such dogs. Spaying or neutering your Yorkie at the right age can help hair regrowth, because of the hormonal changes involved.
Black Skin Disease Treatment
Since the condition is cosmetic, the treatment for Black Skin Disease is usually geared toward hair regrowth. Here are some options.
Neutering Or Spaying
Because sex hormones are involved in the disease (which is also the reason one of its many names is Castration Responsive Alopecia), vets recommend sterilization as the first step.
Intact females need to be spayed and males need to be neutered. Many dogs regrow their hair after sterilization surgery, although the effects may not always be permanent. If the dog is already spayed or neutered, vets put them on Melatonin.
Vets prescribe melatonin for BSD in neutered Yorkies. Melatonin is available in 3 mg doses in vitamin shops and health food stores. About 45% of dogs show considerable hair regrowth within 6 to 8 weeks of starting melatonin.
Your vet will advise you to stop melatonin once the hair growth seems to plateau. At times, they may taper the dosage to once a week for several months.
Unfortunately, in some cases, the hair starts falling out after the melatonin is stopped. It is important to understand that many dogs do not respond to melatonin a second time.
Melatonin can also have some side effects.
- For one, it could cause sleepiness in your dog, but you could always administer it at night, post dinner.
- Dogs with diabetes should not take melatonin, because it could create insulin resistance.
- Also, many Melatonin products contain xylitol which is toxic to dogs.
- Last but not the least, melatonin supplements are not regulated by the FDA, since they are health supplements and not prescription drugs. As a result, there are a lot of variations between brands.
If a Yorkie with black skin disease does not respond to sterilization or melatonin supplements, micro-needling is another option.
The skin biopsy diagnostic test used for diagnosing BSD often results in hair regrowth in the biopsied areas. This may be because the needle awakens the hair follicles in the area.
In humans, micro-needling procedures done by cosmeticians boost collagen formation resulting in smoother, younger-looking skin and hair regrowth on the scalp.
The same may apply to dogs. Micro needling could help hair regrowth by stimulating the follicles in the affected areas.
The procedure is done under general anesthesia or by numbing the dog’s skin with topical anesthetics. A roller with multiple needles is rolled on the affected areas. Studies have shown almost 90% improvement in coat coverage with micro needling.
Black Skin Disease In Yorkies: Final Thoughts
It is important to understand that Black Skin Disease is only a cosmetic issue. Affected dogs look funny, but don’t suffer an other negative effects. They continue enjoying a good quality of life without any problems.
So, if your Yorkie is generally healthy and happy and you don’t care how it looks, you may choose not to treat it at all for black skin disease. Just limit your pet’s exposure to the sun and it should be fine!