Mar Vista Animal Medical Center

3850 Grand View Blvd.
Los Angeles, CA 90066

(310)391-6741

www.marvistavet.com

SEASONAL FLANK ALOPECIA

ALSO CALLED "CANINE FLANK ALOPECIA," "CYCLIC FLANK ALOPECIA," AND "RECURRENT FLANK ALOPECIA"

WHAT IS THIS? 

(original graphic by  marvistavet.com) 

 

Seasonal flank alopecia is exactly what it sounds like, though it helps to know that the word "alopecia" means hair loss. With seasonal flank alopecia, a dog loses hair in the flank area on a seasonal basis. Different dogs seem to choose different seasons to lose their hair (fall and spring are popular) and when the season changes the hair generally grows back. Sometimes a dog will skip a season only to lose hair again the next year. Most affected dogs are Boxers, Airedales, and English bulldogs though numerous other breeds have been affected.

The hair loss is generally confined to the flanks (area just ahead of the rear legs) though sometimes the bridge of the nose is involved. The skin typically is darkly pigmented in the areas of hair loss. Both flanks are generally affected symmetrically and sometimes there is skin infection present in the balding areas. Sometimes the hair re-grows in a different color than the original hair. Some dogs never re-grow their hair.

Diagnosis is generally made by the classic appearance of the pigmented bald spot and the the history of recurrence. Diagnosis can be confirmed with skin biopsy if more confirmation is desired.

 

WHY DOES THIS HAPPEN?

At the present time no one knows why this occurs. It is felt to relate to the effects that daylight cycle and light exposure have on the pineal gland. Breed predisposition suggests a genetic factor as well. Dogs of any age can be affected but the average age is about 4 years.

 

IS THERE TREATMENT?

Melatonin, a natural biochemical which is important in the regulation of circadian (daily) rhythms has been used successfully in many patients. In the U.S. this product is available as a dietary supplement. A more effective method seems to involve the use of melatonin implants under the skin but such implants are not available in the U.S. Melatonin is sometimes used as a sleep aid in people and the only known side effect is drowsiness. Dosing regimens must be obtained from the veterinarian treating the dog in question.

It is important to realize that nutritional supplements are not regulated in the same way that prescription drugs are. This means that the manufacturer of a nutritional supplement is not required to prove that the product actually contains the amount of active ingredient it claims to have. A study on melatonin products done at the University of Tennessee found tremendous variability in content among different brands of melatonin. The most consistent and accurate brand was found to be Nature's Bounty (as shown) so this is the brand that most dermatologists recommend.

Page last updated: 1/14/2016