Bald Is Beautiful
Color Dilutional Alopecia

by Margot B. Schwag, VMD

** Permission of author is required for use of this article.**

You think you have problems with hair loss? Wait till you see my dog Henry. The good news is that Henry hardly sheds and is easy to bathe. The bad news is he will be prone to secondary skin disorders for life.


 Henry is affected by color dilutional alopecia (CDA), also known as color mutant alopecia. Henry is not a mutant; he is a blue Doberman. Blue Dobermans are a color dilution of black and rust Dobes. Fawn’s, a color dilution of the red and rust Dobes, also suffer from CDA. This disorder appears to be genetic; it has been reported in eleven breeds but is most common in blue and fawn Dobermans. Age of onset is typically between 3 months and 3 years.


CDA results when the hair shaft pigment, melanin, clumps, and the abnormal hair cuticle leads to weak and easily broken hairs. Diagnosis is fairly straightforward, only the blue or fawn hairs are lost, the rust color points areas still have hair. Along with the hair loss, these dogs also have a tendency to suffer from bacterial infection of the hair follicles, i.e. bacterial folliculitis and seborrhea (dry flaky skin). Over time, these dogs can become totally bald.


 Definitive diagnosis is achieved by microscopic examination of the hair (trichogram). Skin biopsies are most accurate, but often unnecessary. Differential diagnoses include demodectic mange, Malassezia canis, and endocrine disorders such as hypothyroidism, etc.


There is no treatment for the hair loss. In a perfect world, affected dogs would be neutered. Since breeders don’t wait till the dogs are 3 years old to see if they affected, CDA will be around in the future. Instead we are left managing the secondary plugged hair follicles, bacterial pyoderma, and seborrhea.

Therapy consists of topical (skin) treatment which includes benzoyl peroxide shampoos (to clean the plugged hair follicles), moisturizers (to prevent dry scaly skin) and antibiotics (to treat secondary skin infection). Occasionally, some dogs respond well to synthetic retinoids - soriatane or etretinate. However, be cautious, these drugs can cause considerable side effects i.e. the treatment could be worse than the disease. More uncertain is the use of melatonin.


Back to Henry, I adopted him from DPR of PA in September 2003, when he was 3 ½ years old and already “follicularly challenged.” Presently he is 80% bald, but as we all know, “bald is beautiful.”


© 2005 Margot B. Schwag, VMD. All rights reserved. For permission to reprint contact author at Landisville Animal Hospital, 3035 Harrisburg Pike, Landisville, PA 17538.L