Sebaceous Adenitis (SA)

By: Judy King

A hereditary autoimmune skin disease, the mode of inheritance is believed to be simple autosomal recessive, requiring a single defective gene from both sire and dam. It 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.

SA has been diagnosed in many breeds to include, Airedale, Akita, Chow Chow, Collie, Dalmatian, Dachshund, German Shepherd, Golden Retriever, Irish Setter, Lhasa Apso, Maltese, Miniature Piinscher, Old English Sheepdog, Pomeranian, Poodle, Samoyed, Springer Spaniel, St. Bernard, Vizsla, Weimaraner and mixed breeds.

Sebaceous Adenitis is most frequently seen in younger dogs but does effect dogs of senior age as well. Treatment is relatively inexpensive, with the most difficult aspect of SA usually being a cosmetic one. Most dogs with SA can live happy lives free of pain and suffering, however, secondary conditions can be problematic to both dog, medical care giver and owner.

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. In Akitas, systemic illness (weight loss and fever) appears more common.

In SA the sebaceous glands that adjoin the hair follicles become inflamed and gradually are destroyed. Accurate diagnosis requires punch biopsy. A local anesthetic is injected into the site to be biopsied (usually near the withers or affected area). When numb, a tiny 6mm BakerÌs Biopsy Punch is used to remove a tiny plug of skin, usually only one to two sutures are needed to close. The sample will then be gently placed (without squeezing) in formalin and sent for evaluation by a dermatopathologist.

A parent may or may not show clinical symptoms, instead being what is known as subclinically affected meaning some inflammation may exist but hasnÌt progressed to destruction of the glands and the subsequent loss of hair or they may have been described as having some skin allergies. But they are carriers none the less.

Currently there is no cure for SA but with good care, the affected dog can be kept comfortable, healthy and happy, giving and receiving love just as before developing SA. The treatment includes antibiotics when secondary skin infections are present. Oil baths, a non perfumed oil is rubbed well into the skin ensuring saturation (baby oil or a bath oil i.e., Alpha Keri, Redken products have proven beneficial), this is allowed to soak on the dog for about an hour. The oil loosens the scales and lubricates the skin, now compromised from absence of sebaceous oil glands. Palmolive dish washing detergent is good at removing the oil which often takes several shampoos. Finished with a mild dog shampoo and creme rinse. This procedure is repeated biweekly or month as needed. Some dogs grow new hair after treatment, others do not. The hair loss and regrowth is cyclical.How can we rid our breed of this disease?

We now understand with certainty the mode of inheritance. Strive to breed away from this disease by using the objective diagnostic protocol on breeding stock. Register affected dogs with the GDC (Institute for Genetic Disease Control in Animals), P.O. Box 222, Davis, CA 95617, Tel. 916-756-6773. Participate freely with the Open Registry for SA. Share your knowledge of the mode of inheritance with other breeders and owners. For a subscription to Progress in SA Research, write GRF (Genodermatosis Research Foundation) at 1635 Grange Hall Road, Dayton, OH, 45432, Tel. 513-426-7060.