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BSD-Black Skin Disease-Alopecia X-Coat Funk



Hair loss (alopecia) accompanied by darkening of the skin (hyperpigmentation) is often termed "black skin disease" this is just a nickname and not a medical term the true medical name is Alopecia X. Other names applied to this condition include woolly coat, coat funk, pseudo-Cushings syndrome, and severe hair loss syndrome.

In Pomeranians, this condition is suspected to be an X-linked inherited disorder since many more males than females are affected, and research is being carried out to identify a linked gene marker so that dogs in this breed can potentially be tested for the condition. Other breeds with increased prevalence of black skin disease include the keeshond where a lot of research is taking place in the uk along with Alaskan malamute, keeshond, poodle, dachshund, chow chow, Samoyed and American water spaniel.

Many of the afflicted dogs are diagnosed with growth hormone responsive alopecia. Not all affected dogs have abnormal growth hormone levels though, and though many affected dogs develop abnormal signs after puberty, dogs of any age can be affected. In Pomeranians, late onset signs are sometimes associated with reduced 21-hydroxylase levels, enzymes which are involved with processing of some of the reproductive hormone precursors.

Currently, the condition is still considered to be of unknown cause since similar signs of hair loss and black skin are not consistently associated with a standard set of hormone changes.

Other conditions that can mimic this condition include Cushings disease, hypothyroidism, chronic skin infections, and reproductive hormone disorders that should all be ruled out by testing.

If the condition is due to a laboratory confirmed growth hormone deficiency, hormone therapy is instituted. Benefits last from six months to a few years. As hormone therapy can produce diabetes as a side effect, so the attending veterinarian will recommend close monitoring of the urine and blood sugars weekly during treatment.



if you have any pictures we could use please e-mail them, we don't need to know who you are or the name of the dog. Also if you you like to share your experiences with us please e-mail so i can add to this page to help others


Many young Pomeranians develop a luxurious puppy or first hair coat which fails to shed and is not replaced by an adult coat. As the puppy coat ages it breaks off and falls out and can result in a dog that is hairless over much of its body. This disease is sometimes called black skin disease, coat funk or woolly coat. It also occurs in Keeshonden and Alaskan Malamutes. Although females can have the disease, it is much more common in males.

There are many things which can cause Alopecia: Hypothyroidism; Cushing's Disease; Addison's Disease; contact and/or generalized allergies; excessive female estrogen (usually found in recently neutered males); stress; fleas; mites; mange; unknown (usually labelled Black Skin Disease).

Some of these problems are genetic, some are familial, and some are neither.

Interestingly, many of these conditions affect males much more often than females. You must rule out all other possibilities via skin and blood test before you can label a dog with "black skin disease".

Also, be aware that hypothyroidism will increase the dog's chances of having allergies and other diseases as the thyroid is an important part of the immune system.

Neutering will cause a decrease in testosterone over time and that may be why the coat renews. On the other hand, some dogs acquire Alopecia after being neutered. This is usually due to excessive female estrogen (due to the lowered testosterone to balance the estrogen) and is characterized by hair loss, excessively oily skin which smells, and usually very waxy ears.

Addisons and Cushings diseases both cause shortened life spans in dogs (and other mammals) but many can live well for years. They are characterized by hair loss along with a thickening and darkening of the skin all over with a definite cracking pattern. They are often called Elephant Skin Disease.

Nizoral shampoo. This is a shampoo made to treat human ringworm but I have heard several stories of it helping dogs with Alopecia even though skin scraping have proven that they do not have ringworm. Unfortunately the benefits of Nizoral are usually short-lived and the dogs return to their original coatless state. I have also heard of many dogs being helped with repeated tar/sulphur shampoos and their coat regeneration seems to be permanent. 

As you can see, one can make an occupation of studying Alopecia. Alopecia is the generic term and Black Skin Disease should only be used when all other options have been ruled out. One interesting fact about Black Skin Disease is that most breeders have already determined that it is genetic.


Pom Owners Experiences


I would like to share with you my experience with Alopecia in my pomeranian named Milo.

At the age of about 2  1/2  I notice that Milo's hair was thinning on this tummy. He also

seemed to have a few mole-like spots on his tummy.  I was not concerned at this time as

I put it down to normal casting and was not sure if the spots had been there before as normally

 he had so much hair that his skin was not visible. Sometime later he was completely bald

underneath but otherwise was ok.  I took him to the vets and he was not overly concern and

told me not to worry as he seemed healthy. But to bring him back if he lost anymore hair.  

Over the next 18 months he started losing firstly from his hind legs then his sides and eventually 

all his back. Only the top of his head, face the and bottom on his legs were unaffected. (as seen in photo)  

I visited the vets many times and he did various tests, thyroid, and parasite tests. 

He then referred milo to a dermatologist who did skin scrapings biopsy's, and more blood tests.

Result Alopecia X -sex hormone imbalance and might respond to castration.

If not then we could get some sort of medication which may or may not work and would

probably have side effects and make Milo ill. 

We decided to try castration first. I took him to be castrated. Nothing happened for about 4 months

and just as I was giving up hope of Milo ever having hair it started to grow.

It took about 1 year to get back to the stage you see in the photos enclosed.

He has still got a bald line down his spine and the back of his hind legs are still bald.

I have noticed that the skin on his hind legs are starting to turn pink.

I hope this is a good sign. I have been warned that he may lose his hair again, there is just no way of knowing.


Apart from the hair loss Milo is a healthy happy dog.

I am happy for you to give out any of this information to anyone who needs it or to post it on your site.

I know when I was looking for information a lot of the help was on USA sites and

I was beginning to think that I was the only one in the UK with a pom with this problem.

Milo with no hair-February 2006





Milo with new hair growth-February 2007





Thank you so much for sending this in maybe more people will come forward and we can get more information

on this and try to learn how to avoid and reduce it and test for it.

I have had a number of people in the UK contact me about poms with this condition and it is a problem in the UK which needs to be addressed and talked about. 

"Tangie" - Pomeranian with Alopecia X in the UK

Tangie, a small 5 years old Pomeranian, was referred to me by my colleague Mr Dunne because of a skin problem. Much to distress of his owners Mr and Mrs Gale, he was becoming increasingly bald.


From a skin specialist point of view, it is important to ask a whole range of questions, because there are more than 30 diseases that can cause baldness. Is the dog itchy? When did the problem start? Has he been neutered? Had there been any specific event or medication just before the problem started? Had there been any signs of regrowth of hair? Etcetera, etcetera….

Tangie had not been itchy. He had gradually lost hair for the last 18 months, but had a beautiful fluffy coat when he was a puppy. Apart from the fact that he was born with a hydrocephalus, making him walk in circles, and the broken leg he had as a pup, he had never been on any medication. However, Tangie was cryptorchid, which means that one of his testicles had not descended.


Physical examination of Tangie revealed that there were no other skin lesions, and that he was losing his coat in the collar area, on his sides and around the tail base. His head and legs were still fully haired. This typical localisation of the baldness is mostly seen in hormonal diseases.


The first step was to castrate Tangie, because undescended testicles have a bigger chance of becoming cancerous and can produce an excess of certain hormones, which can cause baldness. At the same time small biopsies of the skin were taken.


Tangie’s undescended testicle was send for examination to a pathologist, but no tumour was detected.


His skin samples showed changes seen in hormonal diseases, but also seen in alopecia X. Tangie then had blood tests to determine if he suffered from an underactive thyroid gland or Cushing’s disease. These tests were negative, and it is now believed that Tangie has got Alopecia X.


It is probably caused by an imbalance in the sex hormones of the adrenal glands, and is especially seen in male Pomeranians, Chow Chows, Keeshonds, Samoyeds and miniature Poodles.


Although the normal quality of life is excellent, and the dog is not bothered by his hair loss, it is of course very upsetting for the owners. Other people often think the dog is not being looked after. For that reason, we decided to try Tangie on some medication, and now, almost 4 months after we started it, Tangie is getting his hairs back. Just in time for the winter!! 

Ingrid Segboer MRCVS



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