Affecting primarily Shetland Sheepdogs and Collies, as well as their crossbreeds, this is a hereditary disease that affects a dog’s skin and muscle. There have been several possible theories including autoimmune deficiencies and infections along with “hereditary predisposition” for this disease in humans.
Signs and Symptoms
Symptoms of the disease are inflammation on the muzzle, alopecia (hair loss), a change in pigmentation that is either hypopigmentation or hyperpigmentation, ulceration and erosion of the skin – not to be confused with Dog Skin Disease. There may be some scarring associated with it as well. Signs of the disease can occur as early in the life of the pet as six months of age. Early lesions may appear around their ears and eyes as well as on their muzzle. As the disease progresses, lesions may occur on the tips of their tails and paws which eventually will lead to inflammation of the bed and degeneration of the claw. Itching and pain may be present as the disease progresses.
Subtle muscle involvement may occur and will generally be limited to facial muscles. Unfortunately this can lead to difficulty for the dog to swallow or chew. There may be growth retardation in dogs that are severely affected. Chronic Dog Vomiting may occur due to the esophagus enlarging. Also possible are muscle degeneration, stiff gait (similar to Dog Arthritis) and lameness. Severe dermatomysitis may even lead to infertility in the dog as well.
The diagnosis is done by skin scraping. Canine familial dermatomysitis has signs that are very similar to both dermatphytosis and demodicosis, primarily in younger dogs. The performance of an EMG (electromyogrophy) will detect any issues in the nerves and musculature of the dog.
If this diagnosis is confirmed, the dog should not be bred. By irresponsible breeding, the condition will be passed down to future generations of the dogs.
Sadly, there is presently no cure for this disease. Symptomatic treatment is the best you can hope for. Corticosteroids and vitamin E have been used with limited success. It may help with the itching and scaling on the dog but has no affect on the disease itself.
As with any potentially hereditary disease, scientists and researchers have been in the process of attempting to determine a specific gene that may be responsible. Finding a DNA based cause can lead to early detection and hopefully decrease the generational reproduction.
There have been times where there was a total recovery in a dog. Although that particular dog may recover, breeding should still not occur. The fact that it is a hereditary disease will mean the offspring will be just as affected because the harmful genes will be present in the puppies too.
By observing the dog closely and detecting any of the symptoms such as itching, scaling, immune deficiencies, etc. progression may be controlled. Visits to the veterinarian will assure prompt treatment and control. This disease will make a dog extremely uncomfortable. It will inhibit their ability to eat. The effects are significant and by not breeding affected animals, it will be further controlled.
Disease propagation is usually determined by a breeder who takes responsibility with the offspring of their animals. By having blood tests, cardiac exams, long bone x-rays and other tests, the dogs that are affected by Dog Heart Disease, Dog Glaucoma, Dog Hip Dysplasia and Dog Dermatomyositis can be prevented from breeding and consequently stop the regeneration of the disease in further lines.