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The Pomeranian is a very healthy, hardy and long-lived breed. However, despite the fact that they have relatively few health issues, the Pom, like all breeds, do have some common health problems and genetic health issues.
Black skin disease (BDS in short) is also sometimes in correctly referred to as Alopecia X and is more commonly known as such, but this term simply means “unexplained fur loss”. Black Skin Disease is also sometimes referred to as “woolly coat syndrome”. Those who have dealt with this skin disease before dread hearing the term. However it is important for Pom owners to know as much as possible about Black Skin Disease.
Little is known about this condition or its cause. Factors such as obesity, hormonal imbalances, allergies and genetics have all been suggested as contributors. One theory is that affected dogs have a genetic predisposition to some sort of hormonal imbalance that was inherited, which somehow affects the function of cells at the level of the hair follicle. This theory is the most likely of all suggestions. Another hypothesis suggests that there is some inherited defect in the normal hair growth cycle. It may be that BSD is not a single disease but rather a combination of several, making diagnosis and treatment that much more difficult. Currently, there are no medical tests to definitely diagnose this disease and therefore other conditions can be confused with BSD. A veterinarian must rule out a number of other problems, particularly hypothyroidism, hyperadrenocorticism (Cushing’s disease), functional tumours of the gonads, infection and/or inflammatory disease of the sebaceous glands (sebaceous adenitis), Alopecia and other forms of hair follicle dysplasia, because this condition can mimic so many other disorders, before concluding that BSD is the cause of symmetrical baldness. This procedure is called “diagnosis by exclusion”.
BSD dogs have an increased chance of sunburn damage to the exposed areas. Most dogs characteristically retain hair on their heads and legs and re-growth of the hair is highly variable and difficult to predict. Some dogs will re-grow their coat partially or temporarily but most dogs may never re-grow their coats and if you are lucky and they do, the hyper pigmented skin usually peels away, exposing fairly normal-looking skin underneath.
Symptoms & Diagnosis:
Affected dogs typically have beautiful full fluffy coats that lack the harsh guard hairs and feel like “cotton” to touch. These puppies often do not shed puppy coat and do not go through the ugly stage like the majority of Pomeranians puppies. Coat loss usually occurs at around 14 to 16 months and these cases are referred to as the early onset version of BSD. They begin to develop signs of hair loss and hyper pigmentation (darkened skin) in the adolescence to early adulthood. But most Pomeranians will more likely only show signs of BSD by three years of age. However, signs may appear at any time at any stage of the dogs life. Dogs with this disorder lose their long, outer “guard” hairs first. Most cases start with gradual thinning of hair on the back of the hind legs and
along the top of the back. Hair loss also occurs commonly under the tail, on the belly and around the genitals. The soft fuzzy secondary coat becomes exposed and increasingly dries out to a “cottony” undercoat. Over time, even the secondary coat will fall out, leaving the skin bald. The hairless areas tend to spread and will sometimes be itchy or prone to infection, but is not painful. Darkening of the skin generally follows the hair loss but is not always the case as it sometimes remains pink in colour. The darkening may appear as small flecks of black skin, or the skin may become solid black.
Underlining conditions associated with BSD may create complications, so your veterinarian is always the best resource to successfully diagnose this condition. Faced with a dog whose hair is thinning gradually, a veterinarian will want to perform a thorough physical examination and take a detailed history from the owner. He will then take a skin biopsy and submit it to the pathology laboratory for analysis, but in the case of BSD, the result of the test will unfortunately be non-specific and provide little assistance in development of a treatment protocol.
Preventing BSD is not realistic at this stage, because the cause of the condition is so poorly understood. Weight management can certainly remove obesity as a contributor to the disease. Stress seams to intensify the signs of BSD and owners should do their best to remove stressors from the dog’s environment. Castration or spaying and other hormonal management protocols may help to relieve the effect and therefore reduce the hair loss and pigmentation changes associated with BSD. But the most important factor is that the breeder should try not to breed with dogs that are known to have this disease in their genetic history, in any way possible. If this disease is identified in a bloodline, all dogs that is used for breeding in that specific bloodline should be neutered at once!
Treatment protocols for BSD are at best a trial and error approach, since there is no cure, the underlying cause of this disorder is not known and there is no one treatment approach that will work for every affected dog. The overall therapeutic goal is to restore the dog’s coat and, hopefully, prevent recurrence of hair loss. Treatment options may vary, but a veterinarian is always the best resource to decide on how to treat this condition.
The first step is to spay or neuter intact dogs. Hormonal changes associated with
those procedures might help the coat to re-grow, but sadly the hair re-growth might also not be permanent. In cases where the hair loss is mild, shampoos, which contain soothing ingredients, can help calm the symptoms. If the hormonal imbalances persist, then hormonal therapies can be helpful. The veterinarian may also recommend Melatonin therapy that must be given for at least three months as this treatment showed improvement in hair-growth. Be advised that melatonin is best described by a veterinarian according to the appropriate dose for the affected dog, as melatonin van cause drowsiness and even sedation in dogs, or affect diabetes.
Methyltestosterone therapy is also a treatment option and should only be implemented by a veterinarian after baseline blood testing and periodic blood work has been done to monitor the hormonal levels, as this treatment can be toxic to the liver. This treatment can also cause increased aggression in dogs. Lysodren is another option and is most often used in the treatment of Hyperadrenocorticism (Cushing’s disease). This treatment could be helpful as Lysodren acts by eroding the outer layer of the adrenal gland, thereby limiting the amount of adrenal (sex) hormones made and distributed throughout the body. This treatment could also be dangerous as BSD is not Cushing’s disease, thus there is not an overabundance of corticosteroids available and therefore it can cause an abnormally low circulating corticosteroid levels, creating a steroid deficiency know as “Addison’s disease”. Dogs treated with Lysodren should have regular blood tests to monitor their hormone levels.
Growth hormones may also be given as a treatment option, as many believe that BSD is caused by a deficiency of this hormone. Administration of Growth Hormone can contribute to diabetes and therefore the dog’s blood sugar levels should be carefully monitored. This treatment can last up to 6 months and might produce good results for several years. Other treatments that have been tried include administration of prednisone, anipryl, ketoconazole, leuprolide, cimetidine and other medications. Essentially, each of the treatments is an attempt to re-start the hair follicle growth cycle. Again, owners should consult with a veterinarian about which, if any, treatment protocols are best in any given case.
Furthermore, Poms with BSD should be protected against the element such as cold weather and the sun. When it is cold out, the dog should wear a soft sweater to help him regulate his body temperature. When he is out in the sun, it is very important to gently apply sun screen to any exposed areas of skin as this spots of exposed skin can quickly become sunburned, causing pain, blisters, etc. A complete change of diet will often help affected dogs. Avoid all bought dog food and only feed fresh nutritious home cooked meals. Supplement this diet with a couple of tablespoons of tinned salmon, two or three times weekly.
Black Skin Disease
Infectious canine hepatitis is a viral disease of that is caused by the canine adenovirus CAV-1, a type of DNA virus that causes upper respiratory tract infections. This virus targets the parenchymal (functional) parts of the organs, notably the liver, kidneys, eyes and endothelial cells (the cells that line the interior surface of the blood vessels).
The virus begins by localizing in the tonsils around 4 to 8 days after nose and mouth exposure. It then spreads into the bloodstream - a condition know as viremia (in the blood stream) - and localizes in the Kupffer cells (specialized white blood cells located in the liver) and endothelium of the liver. Ideally, these white cells, called macrophages, defend the body against infectious invaders, but some viruses have the ability to macropahages as vehicles for replication and spread. CAV-1 is one such virus, taking advantage of the Kupffer cells to replicate and spread, in the process damaging the adjacent hepatocytes (liver cells that are involved in protein synthesis and storage, and transformation of carbohydrates). During this stage of the infection, the virus is shed into the feces and saliva, making both infectious to other dogs.
All the diseases, known as Common diseases, is preventable by keeping your puppy's vaccinations up to date. These vaccinations are very affective and should be efficient to keep your puppy healthy for a long time. But keep in mind that it is best that the vaccinations should be administrated by an accredited veterinarian as this is live viruses being injected and could be fatal if done incorrectly or under suspicious circumstances.
A canine coronavirus infection (CCV) is a highly contagious intestinal disease that can be found in dogs all around the world. This particular virus is specific to dogs, both wild and domestic. The coronavirus replicates itself inside the small intestine and is limited to the upper two-thirds of the small intestine and local lymph nodes. A CCV infection is generally considered to be a relatively mild disease with sporadic symptoms, or none at all. But if a CCV infection occurs simultaneously with a viral canine, or an infection caused by other intestinal (enteric) pathogens, the consequences can be much more serious. There have been some deaths reported in vulnerable puppies.
Canine distemper is a contagious and serious viral illness with no known cure. The disease affects dogs, and certain species of wildlife, such as raccoons, wolves, foxes, and skunks. The common house pet, the ferret, is also a carrier of this virus. Canine distemper belongs to the Morbillivirus class of viruses, and is a relative of the measles virus, which affects humans, the Rinderpest virus that affects cattle, and the Phocine virus that causes seal distemper. All are members of the Paramyxoviridae family. Young, unvaccinated puppies and non-immunized older dogs tend to be more susceptible to the disease.
Kennel cough, the common name given to infectious canine tracheobronchitis, is a highly contagious respiratory disease among dogs. As the name suggests, it is typified by inflammation of the trachea and bronchi. This disease is found throughout the world and is known to infect a high percentage of dogs at least once during their lifetime. It is also sometimes referred to as bordetellosis. Young puppies often suffer the most severe complications that can result from this disease since they have immature immune systems. Also at increased risk are older dogs, which may have decreased immune capabilities, pregnant bitches, which also have lowered immunity, and dogs with pre-existing respiratory diseases.
There is a vaccination available for Kennel Cough but is not compulsory. It will be wise to add this vaccination to your puppy's vaccination schedule.
The canine parvovirus (CPV) infection is a highly contagious viral illness that affects dogs. The virus manifests itself in two different forms. The more common form is the intestinal form, which is characterized by vomiting, diarrhea, weight loss, and lack of appetite (anorexia). The less common form is the cardiac form, which attacks the heart muscles of very young puppies, often leading to death. The majority of cases are seen in puppies that are between six weeks and six months old. The incidence of canine parvovirus infections has been reduced radically by early vaccination in young puppies.
Coccidia are small protozoan’s that live in the intestinal tracts of dogs and cats. They cause disease most commonly in puppies and kittens less than 6 months old, in adult animals whose immune system is suppressed or in animals that are stressed in other ways. This disease is more commonly known as Coccidiosis. As a puppy ages, he tends to develop a natural immunity to the effects of Coccidia. As an adult, he may carry Coccidia in his intestines, and shed the oocysts (name for the immature Coccidia) in the feces, but experience no ill effects. Puppies are not born with the oocyst organism in his intestines. However, once born, and if the puppy is frequently exposed to the mother’s feces, and if the mother is shedding the infective
oocyst in her feces, thepuppies will likely ingest them and Coccidia will develop in the puppy’s intestines that often will have severe effects. From the exposure to the Coccidia in feces to the onset of the illness is about 13 days. Most puppies who are ill from Coccidia are therefore two weeks of age and older. Once a puppy is infected, he can be contagious to the other puppies, therefore it is best to separate infected puppies from the rest. Stress can also play a part in the development of the Coccidiosis and therefore it is not uncommon for a seemingly healthy puppy to arrive at his new home and develop diarrhea several days later leading to a diagnosis of Coccidia.
Symptoms & Diagnosis:
The primary sign that a dog is suffering from Coccidiosis is watery and foul smelling diarrhea. Coccidiosis must therefore always be considered as a possibility in the case of diarrhea in the age group between 2 weeks to 12 weeks of age. The diarrhea may be mild to severe depending on the level of infection. Blood and mucus may be present, especially in advanced cases. Severely infected puppies may also vomit, lose their appetite, become dehydrated, and in some instances, die from the disease. As these symptoms are almost
exactly the same as the symptoms of Parvovirus, a microscopic fecal exam by a veterinarian will detect the oocysts confirming a diagnosis. But, since the oocysts are much smaller than the eggs of intestinal worms, a blood test is sometimes necessary to confirm Coccidia.
Because Coccidia are spread by feces of carrier animals, it is very important to practice strict sanitation and therefore all the mothers and the puppies’ feces should be cleaned promptly to prevent indigestion that can lead to infestation of the Coccidia protozoans. Care should be taken that the food and water cannot become contaminated with feces. Coccidiosis is very contagious and therefore infected puppies should be separated immediately and completely from any other animal. Most disinfectants do not work well against Coccidia, but a strong ammonia solution is the best method to kill the Coccidia. Care should be taken that you wash your hands thoroughly after working or touching the infected puppies to prevent spreading of the disease. Cockroaches and flies can mechanically carry Coccidia from one place to another. Mice and other animals can in digest the Coccidia and when killed and eaten by the dog, for instance, can infect the dog. Therefore, insect and rodent control is very important in preventing Coccidiosis.
Fortunately, Coccidiosis is treatable and drugs such as Sulfadimethoxine and Trimethoprim-sulfadiazine have been used effectively as a treatment and a prevention of Coccidia. Because these drugs do not kill the organisms, but rather inhibit their reproduction capabilities, elimination of Coccidia from the intestine is not rapid. By stopping the ability of the protozoa to reproduce, time is allowed for the puppy’s own immunity to develop and remove the organisms. Drug treatments of 1 to 3 weeks are usually required. A longer treatment period has the best results, since the run cycle for Coccidia is 21 days. Please note that this treatment is not recommended for the use on dogs that are pregnant as they can cause birth defects in the puppies.