Acanthosis Nigricans In Dogs, Aka The Disturbing Black Spot

Last Updated on July 14, 2021 by Marco

Dachshunds and other short-legged breeds are prone to some unique conditions such as acanthosis nigricans in dogs, aka the disturbing black spot. It’s often not as horrible as it sounds but it can have some very unpleasant effects if left untreated. It also comes in two different sub-types, each with its own specifics.

So, what do you need to know about acanthosis nigricans in dogs and how can you help your pup through this condition?

What Is Acanthosis Nigricans In Dogs?

This condition is essentially a type of hyperpigmentation which be quite unseemly to look at. There are many hyperpigmentation conditions in both dogs and other mammals, including humans. Acanthosis nigricans is one of the more famous ones in the canine world, however, and it’s more common in some breeders compared to others.

Acanthosis nigricans in dogs doesn’t always have especially unpleasant side effects and can often be harmless and inconsequential to the dog’s well-being. Sometimes it can progress quite a bit, however, and can significantly impact the health of the skin. It’s not uncommon for this type of hyperpigmentation to even lead to pain and other health risks.

What Does Acanthosis Nigricans Look Like?

These black spots on dog skin look exactly as they sound like. Color-wise they can range from anywhere between light brown to black. We usually find these spots at places where the skin folds and chafes, as well as in other areas. Some common symptoms include:

  • Hairless skin
  • Thicker, leathery skin
  • Raised wartlike areas
  • Itchiness
  • The darker spots can become crusty, greasy, and even develop a foul smell
  • Painful inflammations can only start developing

 Acanthosis Nigricans in Dogs

Primary Vs Secondary Acanthosis Nigricans In Dogs

Acanthosis nigricans can appear in two different types in dogs – primary and secondary. These two variations are actually much more different than they may appear at first

Primary Acanthosis Nigricans

This type of condition is almost exclusive to dachshunds. It can appear in other breeds as well but that’s exceptionally rare. The reason this condition is contained within the Doxie breed is that it’s hereditary and it’s passed from a parent to the child. What’s more, it’s speculated that it’s due to a recessive abnormal gene (or a combination of genes). This means that a dachs can carry the gene and pass it to its child without the parent having black spots.

To make matters even more complicated, the exact gene(s) isn’t yet identified so it’s difficult to test for it. What’s worse, primary acanthosis nigricans isn’t curable either – the condition can only be managed.

The good news is that, with the right care, this variant of the condition can be managed pretty easily. So, even a dachs with a primary acanthosis nigricans can still live a long, happy, and loving life.

Secondary Acanthosis Nigricans

We can see the second variant of this canine type of hyperpigmentation in many other breeds as well as dachshunds. It’s not passed hereditary, however, and is instead the result of other, underlying health problems.

In essence, the second variant of this skin condition has nothing to do with the primary type – it just looks similar so it bears the same name.

As to what health issues can lead to secondary acanthosis nigricans, there are several main suspects:

There can be other causes too such as Malassezia dermatitis or Staphylococcal pyoderma (Staph infection) but they are typically the result of one of the seven common issues above.

At What Age Can You Encounter Acanthosis Nigricans In Dogs?

Secondary acanthosis nigricans can typically occur as soon as the first birthday of the dog. The primary variant can appear even sooner in dachshunds. Both types can happen much later in the dog’s life too, however. So, even if everything seems normal at first, you should still be vigilant and take good care of your pup’s health and skin.

Is Acanthosis Nigricans In Dachshunds A Common Problem?

There doesn’t seem to be a concrete statistic as many cases of acanthosis nigricans are left undetected and/or untreated. So, we can’t really know how common this condition really is. If scientists ever identify the recessive gene that causes the primary type of the disease, this can change.

What we can say, however, is that the primary type is not prevalent but is not too uncommon either. So, while it is something to watch out for, it’s neither that frequent nor that disastrous to make dachshunds a less awesome or desirable breed.

Treatments For Acanthosis Nigricans

While vets can’t cure primary acanthosis nigricans, you can manage it very effectively with many of the same treatments you’d use for secondary acanthosis nigricans. The most common solutions include:

  • Shampoo therapy with a good anti-seborrheic shampoo
  • Topical corticosteroid ointments
  • Vitamin E supplements
  • Allergy relief medication
  • Thyroid medication
  • Antibiotic therapy
  • Flea and mites control
  • Weight control (to reduce the stress on the skin)
  • Melatonin injections (for managing the primary type)

Which type of treatment will be recommended by the vet depends on the underlying condition that caused the secondary acanthosis nigricans or the severity of the primary acanthosis nigricans. If the problem is caught early and treated well, improvement can be observed in a matter of days with either type.

Preventing Or Avoiding Acanthosis Nigricans Altogether

You can’t really prevent the primary type of the condition as it’s genetic. At best, it can just be caught early which would make treating and managing it much easier. To catch acanthosis nigricans in a dachshund early just peek under its skin while you brush the dog. The most common initial areas include the groin and the upper legs.

You can fully prevent secondary acanthosis nigricans by just keeping your dog from developing any of the conditions that can cause these black spots.

Learn more about: What Are The Main Dachshund Hind Leg Problems and What Can You Do About Them?

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