Evidence Based

Blue Dog Syndrome – Everything You Need To Know

Written by: Bojana Radulovic
Blue dog syndrome or color dilution alopecia (CDA) is a genetically inherited condition that causes patches of hair loss or thinning, and may also include itchy or dry skin. This article will help you identify this condition in your dog.

Blue Dog Syndrome is another name for Color dilution alopecia (CDA).

This condition is inherited and it’s more common in dogs that have been bred for diluted coat color. It is also considered to be a form of follicular dysplasia. (1)

As a condition, a blue dog syndrome is often found in dogs with a blue coat or with a fawn coat. These two coat colors have been diluted from reds, browns, blacks, and tans.

Blue Dog Syndrome Introduction

What is CDA in dogs? CDA or blue dog syndrome is typical to dogs who have a dilution of normal coat colors as well as various other body parts.

Alopecia is a specific disorder that causes permanent and complete hair loss, resulting in a patchy appearance. (2)

Blue dog syndrome has also been known as:

  • Blue or fawn Doberman syndrome
  • Fawn Irish setter syndrome
  • Blue dog disease
  • Blue balding syndrome
  • Blue doberman syndrome
  • Color mutant alopecia
  • Congenital alopecia

This disorder directly affects the hair follicle that are located at the level below your dog’s skin.

This direct influence makes the growth of new hair impossible. Hypotrichosis is often mixed with alopecia.

However, the main difference is that with the first condition (hypotrichosis) the loss of the hair coat is not total.

Color dilution alopecia (CDA), or blue dog syndrome causes patchy hair loss and numerous skin problems, including itchy skin and scaliness. In addition, it can present recurring bacterial infections.

Good to know: Your dog’s health is not at risk with this condition.

Blue Dog Syndrome Symptoms

Shortly, blue dog syndrome means hairlessness.

Dogs that are affected with this condition will have a patchy and poor coat that can usually progress until permanent hair loss.

There are even some abnormalities of the hair follicles and uneven clumping of pigment (melanin) granules in the hair shafts that can be seen in affected areas, observed from a cellular level.

There are a few signs that can lead you to the conclusion that your dog inherited this condition.

The most common signs are:

1. Hair Loss

Hair loss in dogs is usually the first sign when it comes to identifying blue dog syndrome in dogs. However, this won’t appear until the dog is six months old at least.

In some cases, it won’t appear until the dog is even three years old.

2. Broken Hairs

Broken hair is also known as stubble alopecia that can be seen in scaling skin, papules (swollen bump not producing pus), and pustules (a small blister or pimple producing pus) (3)

3. Dry and flaky skin

Dry and flaky skin is one of the most common signs that there is an underlying problem with your furry buddy.

4. Recurring bacterial infections

This sort of infection is usually seen on your dog’s back. In most cases it can be identified by infected hair follicles, looking like tiny bumps.

5. Pruritus

This sort of infection can lead even to pruritus (severe itching). (4)

This condition can affect many breeds, although it is known that it can affect only certain dogs within specific breeds.

These ‘special’, or individual dogs are recognized by the color of their lips, eye rims, or even their noses. They may be lavender, blue-gray, blue, or flesh-colored. In addition, their coat may vary from bronze, fawn, blue, blue-fawn, or taupe.

In general, some breeds are more prone to blue dog syndrome that others, including:

Dogs with blue or fawn haircoats are at the biggest risk when it comes to catching this blue dog syndrome.

Good to know: Doberman Pinschers are often most severely affected. It occurs in 93 % of blues and 75 % of fans.

Alopecia is known for being a common and rather frustrating problem in dogs. This condition is usually just a cosmetic concern for owners, especially if a dog is a show dog.

Nevertheless, this condition is usually a clear sign that there is an underlying external or internal disease process.

When it comes to clinical signs of this condition symptoms are clear – hair loss and hair breakage will show in late puppyhood or young adulthood and may progress all the way to total hair loss over a period of a few years.

In this case, underlying skin is usually normal and healthy, while the hair follicles can become occluded with skin cells and fragments of broken hairs.

All of it can lead to a secondary bacterial skin infection that’s known as folliculitis. Itching is usually not included unless a secondary skin infection occurs, and also – there are no systemic signs of illness.

In a nutshell: Color dilution alopecia (CDA) can occur in dogs with dilute coat color and leads to hair loss.

Blue Dog Syndrome Causes

The first and primary reason that leads to blue dog syndrome is inheritance, although dogs with this condition are born with a healthy-looking coat and just after a few months you can diagnose this condition.

Some believe that the amount of dilution in the dog can lead to the severity of the blue dog syndrome.

Any disbalance in the D-Locus gene can lead to hair loss, as the D-Locus gene is responsible for the vibrancy of your dog’s coat.

The initial cause for color dilution alopecia is not entirely understood.

Therefore, it is difficult to occur when fractured hair releases its formation of coloring which is in most cases deadly to the hair follicles.

As mentioned before CDP can be a cause of the underlying problem and therefore a number of parasites, bacterial or fungal infections, as well as allergy and hormonal disease or any sort of hormonal imbalance that can contribute to alopecia.

If a dog is being evaluated for alopecia it is important to its age of onset(congenital or acquired), pattern(focal, multifocal/patchy or diffuse/symmetrical), location, duration, degree of pruritus and whether complete (no hair at all) or partial (stubble/broken hairs) alopecia exists.

All in all, blue dog syndrome is a genetic defect that can affect the proper way of pigmentation. Basically, it affects the way pigment is distributed in the hairs of affected dogs.

Dogs with unusual coloration such as fawn or blue are its primary target.

Melanin which is known as abnormal pigment clumps up in the hair shafts and subsequent changes towards light refraction which are responsible for the unusual coloration.

In animals that are severely affected by excessive pigment, clumping causes breakage of the hair shafts and abnormal or even stunted hair growth.

Blue Dog Syndrome Diagnosis

If you are a pet owner you probably know how easy it is to notice any change in your pet’s coat. If you notice that your pet’s fur becomes rough, broken or brittle you should contact your veterinarian.

Make sure that you tell your veterinarian if your dog suffers from any kind of bacterial infection. (6)

Don’t be surprised if your veterinarian orders a trichogram.(7)

Trichogram is basically a microscopic evaluation of your dog’s hair.

Usually, this is one of the best ways for your veterinarian to set a diagnosis, as this method can reveal any large grains of melanin or even problems in the hair shaft and follicle.

A dermatohistopathology test shows everything that one veterinarian needs to know in order to diagnose CDP. The test shows easily if any hair follicles are filled with cystic keratin.

In addition, it can show any clumps of melanin that may be hidden in the deepest layer of cells of the epidermis, and in the shaft and also follicle of the hair.

If your veterinarian is not sure what your dog’s condition is you may expect additional tests, like a skin sample using a local anesthetic.

The skin sample will be sent to a veterinary pathologist to show if there are any hidden changes in the condition.

Also, a veterinarian can run a test for skin mites to ensure that mites are not the cause of hair loss. Also, an additional test may be run – for a healthy functioning thyroid. (8)

Blue Dog Syndrome Treatment

How to treat CDA in dogs? Bear in mind that CDA is not a serious issue that can affect your dog’s health. You can look at it as an esthetic shortage.

How to treat color dilution alopecia in dogs? Know that there is no specific cure when it comes to this condition because primarily this is a genetic predisposition.

Luckily, although you can’t cure your dog of this you can treat it right. It basically means that you can treat the symptoms of color dilution alopecia.

The first and most important thing when it comes to treating your dog is to contact your vet and ask for the best methods of treatment. Don’t attempt any treatments on your own.

You can expect for your veterinarian to prescribe some dog shampoos that are rich in Vitamin A, some antibiotics, and even some rinses that can be used to relieve the scaly, itchy and dry skin that may be bothering your dog.

Antibiotics are mainly prescribed to treat any bacterial infection that may occur.

Important: Make sure that you always finish the prescribed medication.

As stated before color dilution alopecia can’t be cured, there are treatments that are available to you if you choose them wisely.

Bear in mind that you should keep your dog’s skin clean all the time, and you shouldn’t use any antibacterial shampoo without contacting your veterinarian first.

The Doberman Pinscher Club of America recommends supplementing affected dogs with a proper dose of melatonin, vitamin B50, fish oil, and folic acid. Bear in mind that you shouldn’t give your dog any supplements without professional guidance.

When it comes to maintaining your dog’s coat make sure that you use a soft brush, and avoid extreme cold and sunburn as your dog can become vulnerable with lack of a coat to protect him or her.

If you are living in a more extreme climate you should think about investing in some protective threads for your blue dog.

There are some veterinarians that may direct you to a non-medicine way and push you toward the homeopathic path.

If you are not sure that this is the best solution, you should ask for other veterinarians’ opinions.

Blue Dog Syndrome Recovery

The key to your dog’s recovery is to manage the infections and dry skin.

Those two things are the two main reasons for your canine’s full recovery. Whatever you do, do not use any of the human hair loss remedies.

They are harmful to your dog, and not beneficial in any way. Also, there are no specific steps when it comes to preventing this condition or lower risks at all.

The only 100% effective prevention would be not breeding dogs that are anyhow carrier or affected.

The question here would be is it even necessary considering the fact that this condition doesn’t lead to any fatal health problems?

Since this is a genetic disorder, prevention involves avoidance of breeding-affected or carrier dogs.

Frequently Asked Questions On Blue Dog Syndrome

1. Do Blue Dogs Have Skin Problems?

Skin problems are often found in dogs with a blue coat or even fawn. These two coat colors have been diluted from tans, blacks, browns, and reds.

2. Are Blue French Bulldogs Healthy?

One thing is mutual to every responsible dog breeder and that’s – they will never risk a dog’s health. Furthermore, a good owner has the responsibility of researching the breed they are getting.

Blue coat hair tone in French Bulldogs is simply the most common in their breed. (9)

3. What Is The Blue Gene In Dogs?

Non-dilute pigment will come to a dog who has a Dd or DD.

The dilution gene affects eumelanin (black and liver), although phaeomelanin (red) may be lightened as well. (10)

However, if one dog has two copies of the d allele, a black dog will become blue. On the other hand, a liver dog that has two copies of the d allele will become Isabella (aka lilac).

4. How Do You Know If Your Dog Has Blue Dog Syndrome?

You need to look for signs like:

  • Symmetrical hair loss
  • Varied hair loss
  • Patches
  • Bold patches
  • Crusting around affected area
  • Inflammation around affected area
  • Presence of lesions
  • Scaling of the skin
  • Redness of the skin

5. Can Alopecia In Dogs Be Cured?

Once the hormonal disorder is diagnosed, it’s time for proper treatment of the underlying disorders.

Treatments may include medication, supplements, hormone therapy, or in some cases neutering or spaying your pet. There is no specific time for new hair growth.