By Judy King
note: The author gives permission for and encourages distribution of
this article for education purposes.
Sebaceous Adenitis is a hereditary autoimmune skin disease whose mode of
Inheritance is believed to be simple autosomal recessive, requiring a
single Defective gene from both sire and dam. SA is not sex linked. A
genetic disease of this type cannot be cured, but can be treated and most
definitely can be bred away from.
been diagnosed in many breeds including Airedale, Akita, Chow Chow,
Collie, Dalmatian, Dachshund, German Shepherd, Golden Retriever, Irish
Setter, Lhasa Apso, Maltese, Miniature Pinscher, Old English Sheepdog,
Pomeranian, Poodle, Samoyed, Springer Spaniel, St. Bernard, Vizsla, and
Weimaraner, as well as in mixed breeds. Sebaceous Adenitis is most
frequently seen in younger dogs but does effect dogs of senior age as
well. A parent of a SA dog may or may not show clinical symptoms, being
what is known as subclinically affected, meaning that some inflammation
may exist but has not progressed to destruction of the glands and the
subsequent loss of hair. They may have been described as having some skin
allergies, but they are carriers none the less.
the sebaceous glands that adjoin the hair follicles become inflamed and
gradually are destroyed. Symptoms of SA can resemble allergies and can
often go improperly diagnosed for some time. The most common symptoms are
excessive dandruff (scaling) and hair loss, which can be from moderate to
severe. The hair loss is usually patchy, giving a moth-eaten look.
Itchiness is not indicative of SA, but can accompany secondary skin
infections, which can flare up and are often accompanied by a musty odor.
The treatment includes antibiotics when secondary skin infections are
Accurate diagnosis requires punch biopsy. A local anesthetic is injected
into the site to be biopsied (usually near the withers or affected area).
When the area is numb, a tiny 6mm Baker's biopsy punch is used to remove a
tiny plug of skin. Usually only one to two sutures are needed to close the
biopsy site. The sample will then be gently placed (without squeezing) in
formalin and sent for evaluation by a dermatopathologist.
Akita's, systemic illness (weight loss and fever) appears more common and
is suspect as being indicative of a secondary underlying
disease/condition. However, this is not to say all SA-affected Akita's
have accompanying ill health. Many owners have claimed relative ease of
maintenance of their SA-affected Akita, provided they stay on top of the
situation by careful monitoring the condition of the skin and the overall
appearance of their Akita's health.
Currently there is no cure for SA but with good care, the affected dog can
be comfortable, healthy, happy, and capable of giving and receiving love
just as before developing SA. Dogs with SA can live happy lives free of
pain and suffering. Treatment is relatively inexpensive, the most
difficult aspect of SA usually being a cosmetic one. Some recommend oil
baths, rubbing well into the skin a non-perfumed oil (baby oil, bath oil
i.e., Alpha Keri, and Redken products have proven beneficial) to ensure
saturation and allowing it to soak into the skin for about an hour. The
oil loosens the scales and lubricates skin compromised by the absence of
sebaceous oil glands.
Palmolive dish-washing detergent is good for removing the oil, and often
requires several shampoos. Finish with a mild dog shampoo and creme rinse.
Repeat this procedure bi-weekly or monthly as needed. Some dogs grow new
hair after treatment; others do not. The hair loss and regrowth is
cyclical. Many Akita owners have disclaimed this treatment, not having
seen significant improvement, preferring instead to gently brush affected
areas a few times a week with a very soft bristle brush, thus removing the
scales that harbor bacteria, which can lead to secondary, skin infections.
How can we rid our breed of this disease? We now understand with certainty
the mode of inheritance. We can strive to breed away from this disease by
using the objective diagnostic protocol on breeding stock.
can register affected dogs with the GDC (Institute for Genetic Disease
Control in Animals), P.O. Box 222, Davis, CA 95617; Phone: 916-756-6773.
We can participate freely with the Open Registry for SA and share our
knowledge of the mode of inheritance with other breeders and owners.
but not least, (and the point of this page) you can contribute to SA
research by purchasing the '98 Challenge Pin. Funds from the sale of the
'98 pin are dedicated toward SA research.
To receive updates about SA
research, subscribe to Progress in SA Research, published by GRF (Genodermatosis
Research Foundation). Write to 1635 Grange Hall Road, Dayton, OH, 45432
USA or phone 513-426-7060 for subscription information.