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Akita Skin Disorders

There are several skin disorders that can affect the Akita breed, both Japanese and American types.

Sebaceous Adenitis (SA)

This Akita skin condition most often affects puppies age 2 and under (55% of all cases), affects some adolescent Akitas (35% of documented cases) and rarely develops with older, senior dogs (%10).

This disorder is still being studied and its cause is unknown.  This enigmatic condition occurs when antibodies attack and destroys certain skin glands. The glands that are affected are called the sebaceous glands, which open into the hair follicles.  The glands are permanently destroyed and affects can be lifelong. There is no official cure, however there are treatments that can help an Akita recover to a certain extent.  

The head, neck, and back tend to be affected first, with a backward and downward spreading of the scaling, hair loss, and other lesions. Itchiness is not a primary component of the disease, but once the abnormal skin becomes secondarily infected with bacteria and/or yeast, the itching can become intense.

Symptoms are:
  • Often the head, back and neck are affected first. As this progresses, legs and underbelly are affected.
  • Fur becomes brittle and loses its shine
  • Hair falls out at varying rates.  You will notice a thinning at first and then as scaled develop sometimes quite large areas will permanently shed off.
  • There may be an odor secreting from the affected skin areas, often described as a musky type smell.
  • The skin may become very itchy
  • As this condition advances, there will be bald areas of complete fur loss and remaining areas on the Akita’s body will have damaged spots of fur (clumps of dry, coarse hair).
  • Bacterial infection can develop at the base of hair follicles
  • Scales may develop which are often shiny white in color.  These can be quite thick. There may also be sores and scabs.
  • Only with the Akita breed there can also be fever and discomfort.  Other dog breeds do not show these symptoms.
Diagnosis

This is diagnosed with a small biopsy.  Other skin problems such as Primary seborrhea (the body mass produces keratin causing flaking and itching), dermatophytosis (a fungal infection that causes dry flaking and itching) and mites (which causes hair loss along with itching and areas of swollen skin)

Treatment


There is no known cure for this and therefore a medication does not exist to treat this specific skin disease.  This strikes many different dog breeds and unfortunately, the Akita is one of the less responsive breeds in regard to treatment at home.  However, owners are encouraged to follow all treatment guidelines, under the advice of the dog’s veterinarian.
  • Brushing and Combing – Using a small plastic comb and a soft pin brush, the skin and coat can benefit from gentle grooming that works to remove flaking.
  • Supplements – Omega 3 and Omega 6 fatty acids can bring some relief.
  • Keeping fish in the diet – Cod, salmon, herring and mackerel (types of fish that are already normally recommended for the Akita) contain naturally found Omega fatty acids that will aid in skin and coat health.
  • Oils and Washes – The veterinarian may prescribe soaks in medicated oils and/or antimicrobial shampoos that will work to loosen flakes and scales while moisturizing.
  • For any areas of bacterial infection, antibiotics will be given.   
Note: Sebaceous Adenitis is a hereditary skin disease;  any dog diagnosed with this should (must) be pulled from any breeding program.

Pemphigus Foliaceus (PF)

This autoimmune disease strikes Akitas more often than any other purebred.  It is a serious disorder in which antibodies attack the connections that hold skin cells together. (unlike just the skin glands as with SA).   This affects the outermost layers of the skin (epidermal).

This affects both gender at the same rate of incidence and can develop at any age.  Researches tend to think the Akita breed (among a few other breeds) may be predisposed to this.

There are 3 forms of this skin disease:
  1. Idiopathic – It develops without warning and with no prior skin conditions
  2. Drug Reaction – A reaction to penicillin, sulfonamides and cephalosproins have been linked to the onset of Pemphigus Foliaceus.
  3. Secondary – This condition can occur secondary to another skin issues, often allergies.
Symptoms

This presents itself as pustules (pus filled lesions) that change into deep crusting sores. Pustules can burst and leak fluids very quickly, and for this reason most owners first notice the effect of this: crusted areas, red irritated skin, scaling and hair loss from the infected area.

This skin condition generally appears first around the eyes, the edges of the ears and the bridge of the snout. As it progresses, it typically spreads down the dog’s body, groin area and even reaches the paws.  Skin pigmentation may be affected as well.

Unfortunately this is not just a cosmetic issue.  Affected

    
dogs often display weakness and/or depression and may have a fever. The gait may be affected with some dogs, as legs become stiff.

It is normal for this condition to have cycles of decreased and increased symptoms.


Diagnosing

A biopsy can confirm this disease. Sometimes a scraping is done to rule out mites. Fungal cultures are sometimes done to rule out ringworm.  However, when biopsied, affected skin cells are usually identifiable.

Treatment


Cases of pemphigus foliaceus caused by a drug reaction can often be cured. Idiopathic and secondary onset of this skin disorder cannot be fully cured, however treatment good results can be seen with ongoing treatments.

  • The Akita will be put on a regimen of prednisone (medication for swelling, inflammation and irritation) and immunosuppressive medications (these work to inhibit the destructive activity of the immune system that is attacking the structure of the skin cells).
  • Azathioprine and/or cyclosporine may be prescribed (both are immunosuppressive medications)
With this treatment, good results can be seen after 1 to 4 months, however for most dogs non-steroid medications may be needed indefinitely.

Vogt-Koyanagi-Harada Syndrome (Uveodermatologic Syndrome)

Vogt-Koyanagi-Harada Syndrome occurs with humans; researchers have not yet discovered why it exists in canines and therefore this is technically referred to as Vogt-Koyanagi-Harada-Like Syndrome (VKH).

Over the years, there has been an increase of this autoimmune disease with the Akita dog breed (both Japanese and American types).  It affects many areas of the skin. This affects males slightly more than females (60/40 ratio).

Symptoms
  • Loss of pigmentation of the dog’s skin and coat. The fur will often turn white (90% of cases). Nose, paw pads, eye rims and lips will turn lose color (seen in 50% of cases)
  • Sores on and around the mouth, noise, and genital area.
  • Red patches of skin that lead to hair loss
  • Uveitis (inflammation of the inside of the eye which can lead to vision loss). This often begins with a clouding or color change to the eye and often the eye become bloodshot. Vision can decrease quickly, causing an Akita to only see shadows, leading him to bump into walls, etc.
Diagnosing

This is diagnosed via biopsy.

Treatment

Skin issues are treated with corticosteroid medication (usually prednisone) both oral and topical.   The use of steroid based medication are often at high levels which can cause negative side effects. Some owners have found that offering a spoon of Activia can help level out healthy bacteria in the stomach and intestines.   Keeping an Akita on a quality vitamin and mineral supplement will be important.

Veterinarians often consider the skin problems that occur with this condition to be secondary to the eye problems which often lead to blindness and that is usually the focus, to save the dog’s sight before he completely loses vision.

Eye drops (containing steroid medication) are usually given and the conjunctival membrane may be injected with steroids as well.

Thyroid Disease and Hypothyroidism

The Akita dog is very prone to this disease that attacks the dog’s thyroid gland tissues, causing many health problems.  Some of the signs of this include skin issues:  Sore spots, flaking, a dull coat, hair loss, and itching.  You can read about this in much more detail here: Akita Thyroid Disease

Allergies

Allergic reactions can wreak havoc on canines, causing everything from breathing problems to weight loss. However, the most common symptom is a skin reaction, and for some dogs it can be quite severe.  This can present as an itchy rash or sore spots and in some instances it can cause fur loss as well.  You can read more about this here: Akita Dog Allergies

Care of the Skin and Coat

A good grooming routine of bathing and brushing helps to keep both skin and coat healthy.  Feeding your Akita a good diet of wholesome food can only help to maintain good health.  If you notice any skin issues be sure to have your Akita examined by the veterinarian, since early detection is an important part of successful treatment.



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