Black Crusty Skin Dog

"Black crusty skin dog is also known as Alopecia X and psuedo-Cushings .The cause is unknown but is believed to be either hormonal orhereditary. In intact canine males, neutering has often beenrecommended , although there is only a 40% rate of success. There are several treatment options available, although it can't bedetermined which treatment will be effective for each dog."

Overview of Black Crust Skin Disease

There are other names for the Black Crusty Skin Disease, such as: such as alopecia X (alopecia is another name for hair loss) and pseudo-Cushing’s Syndrome. Canine black skin disease is suspected to be an inherited disorder, but that is not known for certain. It can be a difficult disorder to diagnose and treat.


Symptoms of dog black skin disease include severe hair lossanddarkening of the skin (hyperpigmentation). Dog black skin disease often begins with loss of hair.

Somebreeds are more susceptible to the condition than others, including theAlaskan malamute, poodle, chow chow, and Pomeranian. Male dogs are moresusceptible than females.


Many, though not all, dogs with canine black skin disease haveabnormally low levels of growth hormone. This can be determined withblood tests. If this is the case with your dog, it will help todeterminethe course of treatment.

If there is black skin on dog and growth hormone levels arenormal, other causes must be investigated. However, dog black skindisease can occur even when growth hormone levels are normal.

Thyroid problems and tumors on the adrenal gland (Cushing’sdisease) can cause similar symptoms. Your vet will need to do bloodtests to rule out these causes of black crust skin dog disorders.If these things are ruled out, your dog may be diagnosed with canineblack skin disease even if his growth hormone levels are normal.


Of course, the treatment of black crusty skin dog disordersdepends onthe cause of the disease. If it is canine black skin disease and growthhormone levels are low, treatment with growth hormone is indicated.Treatment with growth hormone can lead to diabetes, however, so carefulmonitoring of blood sugar is necessary.

In some cases, black crusty skin dog disease seems to berelated not to growth hormone but to sex hormones and getting your dogneutered or spayed will help solve the problem. It’s a good idea toneuter you pet anyway, so this is a good thing to try before resortingto medications.

If your dog has been neutered or spayed and the level ofgrowth hormones are normal, the condition is more of a cosmetic problemthan a health concern. Vets often recommend leaving it alone. It isusually not itchy and will not bother your dog.  Evenwith several treatment options available as noted below, not all dogswill respond to treatment.

Prescription treatments may include:

  • Mitotane
  • Trilostane - normally given at a dose rate of 3-4mg/kg per day for several months
  •  Ketoconazole
  • Prednisolone - not recommended by many clinicians
  • Growth hormone - can be expensive 
  • Testosterone
  • Melatonin - administered normally at an initial dose of 3-6mg twice daily (bodyweight can be a factor). Based on clinicalprogression over several weeks to months
  • Alpha-tocopheryl

If blood tests find that the problem is related to thyroid problems or Cushing’s disease then treatment for those conditions are,of course, needed.  A natural remedy such as Cushex may provide some support, as it contains ingredients associated withimproving adrenal gland health and function. Also, you can try givingyour dog melatonin, found at health food stores, which may help hair toregrow. Give a 3 mg tablet daily. Be aware, however, that this may havea sedating effect on your dog.


Unusual endocrine dermatoses in the dog and cat
Rory Breathnach MVB, PhD, MRCVS
University Veterinary Hospital, University College Dublin, Belfield,Dublin, Ireland

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