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What is CDA in Dogs & What Causes It

Primarily affecting Dobermans, color dilution alopecia (CDA) is a genetic skin disorder that leads dogs with 'blue' or 'light fawn' (Isabella) fur to experience patchy hair loss and itchy skin. Here, our Bartlett vets discuss the causes of CDA, other breeds affected, and treatment.

What is color dilution alopecia in dogs?

Color dilution alopecia—CDA in dogs—also known as Blue Dog Disease, is a hereditary condition that causes patches of thinning hair and itchy flaky skin in dogs with a 'dilute' coat color. Dilute coat colors include fur considered blue (diluted from black) or light fawn (diluted from liver or chocolate-colored coats). 

Dogs with CDA often appear to have normal, healthy fur as puppies but begin to develop signs of the condition at around six months of age.

What causes color dilution alopecia?

CDA is primarily caused by genetic factors. Dogs with dilute coat colors possess a recessive gene that results in the dilution of pigments in their coat, skin, and eyes. This genetic alteration can affect the structure and function of the dog's hair follicles, leading to hair loss and skin problems.

What breeds are prone to developing color dilution alopecia?

While the disorder is most often seen in blue Dobermans, it has been recognized in other breeds, including:

  • Chow Chow
  • Dachshund
  • Great Dane
  • Irish Setter
  • Italian Greyhound
  • Standard Poodle
  • Saluki
  • Whippet
  • Yorkshire Terrier
  • Bernese Mountain Dog
  • Chihuahua
  • Shetland Sheepdog
  • Boston Terrier
  • Newfoundland
  • Schipperke

It's important to note that not all dogs with dilute coat colors will develop CDA, and the severity of the condition can vary in dogs that do develop the condition.

How is color dilution alopecia diagnosed?

Your veterinarian will perform a thorough examination of your dog's skin and coat, noting the pattern and severity of hair loss as well as any signs of skin irritation or infection. In some cases, your vet may recommend that a hair analysis or skin biopsy be done in order to confirm the diagnosis and rule out other possible conditions.

What is the most common color dilution alopecia treatment?

Color dilution alopecia treatment is focused on managing the condition and relieving your dog's symptoms. Treatment for CDA may include:

  • Topical therapies such as medicated shampoos and conditioners help soothe irritated skin and manage secondary bacterial infections.
  • Oral medications, such as antibiotics or anti-inflammatory drugs, to manage skin issues and inflammation.
  • Omega-3 fatty acid supplements help improve skin and coat health and reduce the severity of your dog's CDA symptoms.
  • Avoidance of environmental triggers. Dogs with CDA need to be protected from extreme temperatures and harsh conditions that may aggravate skin issues.
  • Regularly scheduled checkups to monitor the progression of your dog's CDA to alter your pet's treatment plan whenever necessary.

Can color dilution alopecia be prevented?

The genetic nature of the disease means that CDA cannot entirely be prevented. If you are considering adopting a dog with a dilute coat be sure to do your research ahead of time, and speak to your breeder. Find out if your puppy's parents, grandparents, or older siblings have shown signs of CDA. 

Be sure to take your dog for regularly scheduled routine checkups so that your veterinarian can monitor the health of their skin and watch for early signs of CDA. Your vet may also recommend proactive steps to help protect your dog's skin health, such as a prescription diet that's high in Omega-3s or dietary supplements formulated to promote excellent skin health.

Note: The advice provided in this post is intended for informational purposes and does not constitute medical advice regarding pets. For an accurate diagnosis of your pet's condition, please make an appointment with your vet.

Are you concerned about your pup's skin or coat? Our Bartlett veterinarians have experience in treating a range of dermatologic conditions. Contact Hillcrest Animal Hospital today to book a dermatology appointment for your pup.

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