Ever seen a balding blue Lacy? Sometimes it is just a couple patches here and there, other times it affects their entire coat. It is rare, but it does happen due to a genetic disorder called Color Dilution Alopecia (CDA).
Dogs with Color Dilution Alopecia are born with normal coats. Symptoms develop as early as six months or as late as three years. It often starts on the flanks or along the back, but bald spots can occur anywhere and may eventually spread to cover the entire body. Sometimes stiff guard hairs remain over dry skin. Even though dogs with Color Dilution Alopecia can be healthy, they are susceptible to sunburn, windburn and scaly skin. Because the hair follicles are damaged, they are also prone to bacterial skin diseases. But, for the most part, Color Dilution Alopecia is an aesthetic disorder.
This disorder is related to the double dilute gene, dd, that causes the blue coloration in Lacys. Not all blue dogs have Color Dilution Alopecia, and most blue Lacys will never have problems with their coats or skin. (Note: For the sake of this article, blue dogs refer to both traditional blue and tricolor Lacys.) But all dilute dogs, regardless of breed, can develop issues. All Lacys carry the dilution gene. The blues and tris express it more intensely and thus they are at greater risk for alopecia.
If you suspect your Lacy has Color Dilution Alopecia, make sure you get them checked for thyroid issues first. Hyperthyroidism can cause hair loss and is a serious but treatable condition. But if the dog appears healthy except for the coat issues, you’re most likely dealing with alopecia. Unfortunately there is no cure for this disorder. Supplementing fish oil capsules without soy or scrap salmon heads can help keep the skin healthy. Moisture rinses for dry skin and antibiotics for infections may be necessary. But make sure you avoid any harsh shampoos or vigorous grooming that could damage the remaining hair.
When it comes to breeding, this condition should not be overlooked just because it’s rare. It has been noted in other breeds, especially Dobermans, that lines heavily favoring blue dogs are more likely to have problems with alopecia. To capitalize on their unique appearance, some breeders may attempt to breed purely blue liters or purely blue lines of Lacys. They may also try to get more tri pups to fill the demand for this unusual pattern. If this practice continues for multiple generations, the risk of Color Dilution Alopecia significantly increases. But even dogs from ethical breeders and normal parents can develop alopecia. Effected dogs, their parents and their siblings should never be used for breeding. Once the problem pops up, all closely related kin should be spayed or neutered.
If you are getting a blue Lacy solely because they are beautiful, think twice. Will you still think they’re pretty when patches of hair start failing out? Are you willing to spend extra money on vet care and supplements? Remember, there is so much more to these dogs than the color of their coat, and you should love the whole package before you commit to a Lacy.
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