In pemphigus, the autoimmune system is
directed against the skin itself. Affected dogs have what looks like
a rash at onset that develops into blisters and then pustules.
Finally, the dog is left with crusty sores on the non-furred areas of
skin--the pads, nose, lips, and eye rims. Occasionally, all the skin
is involved, but this is less common. Because the produce
pigment-production cells in the skin may be affected also, color may
disappear from involved areas.
An affected dog may show signs that he doesn't feel well; he may
seem tired and depressed. He may also be stiff from swollen joints.
The disease shows no sex preference and is usually seen in mature dogs
Diagnosis is made by skin biopsy. Thyroid panels should be run also
because pemphigus is affected dogs often also have thyroid disease and
Affected dogs are usually maintained on steroids with the dosage being
adjusted with the severity of symptoms. If steroids alone are not
effective, then other immunosuppressors can be used. Treated dogs can
often live a fairly normal life, but the disease cannot be cured.
Affected dogs should certainly not be bred.
DERMATOPATHOLOGY SPECIALTY SERVICE
TEXAS A & M UNIVERSITY
Establishing A Tissue Bank for the Future
Study of Akita Skin Disease
This represents a preliminary attempt to
define two diseases that assumedly have a genetic basis in the Akita
Breed. Although relatively uncommon, both are devastating because
they affect young, adult Akitas: dogs that may already have been on
the show circuit or perhaps, may even have been used for breeding.
These diseases are also important to define as neither has a safe,
The first disease is a condition we call panepidermal pustular
pemphigus (also known as pemphigus erythematosus). This is believed to
be an autoimmune disease that generally starts on the bridge of the
nose with crusts (scabs) and loss of pigmentation. As the lesions
progress, the skin of the ears, around the eyes and, in severe cases,
the entire body may be affected.
The second disease, sebaceous adenitis is a condition whose cause
continues to elude us. The disease presents as scales (dandruff) that
typically start on the face and ear tips but may involve large areas
of the body, especially the back. The most characteristic lesion is
the presence of scales that tightly adhere at the base of hair
shafts. A disease with great variability in its presentation, cases
can range from mild scaling and hair
loss to a condition in which there is almost complete hair loss and
We want to study these two diseases, but before that is possible,
we need to have a bank of serum, whole blood and skin biopsies from
affected and non-affected dogs. The serum will be utilized to examine
for the presence of
circulating antibodies to the epidermis (pemphigus) or sebaceous
(sebaceous adenitis). The whole blood will be used to isolate DNA
be used to ultimately identify the gene(s) that are associated with
disorders. The skin biopsies will be used to confirm the diagnosis,
the presence of antibodies deposited on the skin and to serve as an
additional source of DNA.
We have thought a lot about how to get the materials we need to
study and have decided the best way is to work with Akita Breeders and
Akita Owners. We are doing this because the success of this study
depends on getting samples before any steroid therapy has been
instituted. By educating the Akita Owner, we believe that they can
inform their veterinarian about the study and by working with their
veterinarian, can assure that samples are taken correctly and before
steroids have been administered.
Samples should be sent to:
Akita Tissue Bank
Dermatopathology Specialty Service
College of Veterinary Medicine
Texas A & M University
College Station, Texas 77843-1147
Instructions and the answers to some faqs
are below. For further information or other inquiries, please email
Robert W. Dunstan, DVM
Dr. Kelly M. Credille, DVM
When should an Akita have skin biopsies
We would like you to consider
submitting samples to our tissue bank if:
You find that your dog is starting
to develop facial crusts, often in a symmetrical pattern (pemphigus)
or scales on the ear tips and trunk that are often adhered to
hair shafts (sebaceous adenitis), and
your dog has not had any steroid
therapy for over three months.
We recommend that the decision to
submit samples be made only after consultation with your
veterinarian, who can help you decide if either of these two
diseases should be considered as the cause of your dog's skin
How are tissue to be submitted?
There are three different samples that should be collected:
Frozen serum--(1.5 ml minimum).
Whole blood should be collected in a 5 ml orange top Vacutainer
tube, spun in a centrifuge, the serum removed and frozen.
Whole blood in EDTA--(2.5
ml minimum). Whole blood should be collected in a lavender top
Vacutainer tube and kept cold but not frozen.
There is a possibility that your
veterinarian may not believe that a
biopsy is needed initially and that therapy should be attempted
before any surgery. This should not pose a problem for our tissue
bank because if pemphigus or sebaceous adenitis is present, a biopsy
will eventually be needed to confirm the diagnosis. Thus, there is
no need to biopsy initially; however, if the lesions progress to
where a biopsy is necessary, we would like to be able to evaluate
the sample microscopically to confirm the diagnosis.
Note that if it turns out that the dog does not have pemphigus or
sebaceous adenitis, the samples are still of value because we can
use them as controls.
How do you send the samples?
The serum should be sent frozen
in a Styrofoam container. The best way to send frozen material is
by packing it in dry ice (if available). If not, the samples
should be wrapped in newspaper and packed with frozen cold pack.
Samples should be sent overnight delivery.
The EDTA blood should be sent
either frozen or simply cold. It should not be sent at room
The skin biopsies should be sent
in 10% neutral buffered formalin. If you are sending the biopsied
material during cold weather and the container might freeze, we
recommend mixing 1 part alcohol (ethanol, methanol or isopropyl)
in 9 parts formalin. If sending the formalin-fixed tissue with
the blood, you should put the blood in a separate, sealed, plastic
bag to avoid the hemolytic affect of formalin.
Samples should be sent with names and
addresses of veterinarian and owner, dog's age, sex and a
pertinent medical history including a description of the
distribution and appearance of the lesions.
What would this cost?
We will perform the organization of
samples and the isolation of
DNA from the EDTA tube at no charge. We will charge our usual rated
interpreting the biopsy sample ($35.00)
From Linda Wroth, chair of
the Health and Genetics Committee:
1997 (Note: In 1998, Dr. Dunstan began
researching at Texas A & M University, College of Veterinary Medicine)
In Spring/Summer Newsletter of The Genodermatosis Research Foundation
(GRF) has an article entitled "Pemphigus - The Other Congenital Skin
Disease of Akitas" by Dr. Robert Dunstan, DVM, MS, DACVP (who's head
of GRF's Research Committee and a veterinary pathologist at Michigan
State University). The article is short but has a plea for information
on this disease from owners of affected Akitas:
see much more pemphigus in Akitas and Chow Chow dogs than sebaceous
adenitis. Are we alone is this belief? Are there Akita and Chow Chow
owners who have suffered with their dogs through this disease who
are willing to share with the readers of this newsletter their
experiences? We would appreciate hearing from you. We, at GRF, have
long realized that before anything can be done to solve a problem,
there must at least be the admission that the problem is real.