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Epidermal Dysplasia

Epidermal Dysplasia is a congenital disease which is identified as among the “scaling diseases” of the skin. The condition is also termed as “seborrhea”, a general term used to denote extreme dryness of the skin.

Being a pathologic condition, Epidermal Dysplasia is not just simple dryness of the skin rather it involves the abnormal proliferation of the cells of the epidermis which is the outermost layer of the skin. As the cells multiply, they eventually flake off in large clumps that look like scales.

Inherited “scaling diseases” are also referred to as “keratinization disorders”. Compared to the other disorders, Epidermal Dysplasia is usually manifested within the first year of life which is considered relatively early. The disease has only been observed in West Highland White Terriers where it is passed on as an autosomal recessive trait.

Dogs which have inherited the trait for Epidermal Dysplasia often show early signs of the disease that includes increased pigment deposition (also called hyperpigmentation) of the ear flaps and underarms. This will later on worsen and spread towards the chest and abdomen which eventually become the most affected parts of the body. Hyperpigmentation in these parts are very pronounced and is a classical sign of the disease. The limbs will undergo hyperpigmentation in the long run, which will eventually result in reddening of the skin, scaling and alopecia or hair loss. The dog may also show intense itching and the skin may appear black and greasy. Oftentimes, the affected dog may have an offensive odor. There may also be inflammation of the ears (otitis) which is accompanied by heavy buildup of earwax.

The most common complications of epidermal dysplasia in dogs include secondary fungal and bacterial infection on the skin. Examination of affected dogs may reveal a concurrent yeast growth known as Malassezia infection.

Diagnosis is made based on clinical manifestations, microscopic examination of skin scrapings and skin biopsies. The dog’s medical history coupled with the breed and age of onset are helpful tools in the identification of the disease.
Being a congenital condition, the treatment regimen is aimed only at controlling secondary infections that may possibly set in. Long-term administration of potent antimicrobial medications in topical and oral preparations is usually prescribed. Antibiotics and antifungals are prescribed in potent doses and in frequent intervals to effectively manage the symptoms and provide long-term comfort for dogs suffering from this skin problem.

Shampoos with ketoconazone, an antifungal, can also help alleviate signs of the disease. Anti-inflammatory preparations have also been successful in easing itchiness and the formation of inflammatory lesions.

Dogs which are diagnosed with Epidermal Dysplasia should never be allowed to breed. Neutering and spaying should be done to prevent passing on to the defective gene to the offspring.