What Are the Causes of Saggy Skin in Dogs?

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If your full-grown dog with loose skin that is droopy and saggy, she may be suffering from one of several genetic disorders that reduce the levels of collagen in her body. Because the condition, also known as cutaneous asthenia or Ehler-Danlos syndrome, may cause your pet chronic joint pain and pain associated with skin tears, easy bruising, and scarring, you will need to speak to your veterinarian about the most humane treatment options or solutions for your pet.

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Sometimes, saggy skin is a genetic disorder.

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Causes of Ehler-Danlos syndrome

The lack of collagen that creates the condition of weak, loose skin on a dog and also affects the joints is caused by a genetic mutation. If both parents carry the genetic mutation, the mutation is considered "dominant," even though neither parent shows symptoms of the disorder. When the mutation is passed from only one parent showing no symptoms, it is considered "recessive." If any pup exhibits signs of cutaneous asthenia, the pup's parents should no longer be used for breeding purposes.

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Diagnosis of cutaneous asthenia

Cutaneous asthenia is easily diagnosed by using a mathematical formula to determine the amount of loose skin on a dog. Your veterinarian will simply grab a handful of your dog's skin on her back and measure how far the skin stretches. She will compare the measurement to the Skin Extensibility Index (SEI), dividing the number by the dog's length. If your dog's SEI number is higher than 14.5 percent, she may be diagnosed with cutaneous asthenia, or loose skin.

Cutaneous asthenia symptoms

Get your dog checked if her skin sags and tears easily.
Image Credit: Michael Roberts/Moment/GettyImages

You may wish to take your dog to the vet to check for cutaneous asthenia if she exhibits saggy, delicate, thin skin that is easily torn and prone to scarring. If your dog has swelling, bruising, and bleeding under her elbow area, she may be suffering from the condition and should be given a thorough medical examination. Cutaneous asthenia may also cause pain, weakness, fractures, and swelling of the joints, and because internal organs are also affected by the lack of collagen, the affected dog is also vulnerable to internal injury or bleeding.

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Breeds commonly affected

Cutaneous asthenia is a rare condition that can occur in any breed of dog, but several breeds have a higher incidence of the genetic mutation. These include beagles, boxers, miniature and standard Dachshunds, English setters and springer spaniels, German shepherds, greyhounds, Irish setters, keeshounds, Manchester terriers, poodles, red kelpies, springer spaniels, St. Bernards, and Welsh corgis.

Treatment options and considerations

Because cutaneous asthenia is not curable and can lead to a lifetime of pain and injury for the afflicted dog, many pet owners choose to euthanize their dog. If your dog is diagnosed with cutaneous asthenia, your veterinarian may suggest that you have it neutered or spayed to avoid passing the gene mutation on to another generation of dogs.

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If you decide to keep the dog, you will need to carefully monitor her surroundings and activities to ensure that no harm comes to her skin. Keep children and other pets away from your dog, and take care when putting her on a leash or any type of restraint, as the friction involved could rip her skin and cause pain and scarring.

Your dog will need extra care if he has cutaneous asthenia.
Image Credit: Jeremy Woodhouse/Photodisc/GettyImages

Use child-proofing materials to protect your dog from sharp edges in furniture, and be sure her bedding is plump and soft, to avoid bruising that could easily occur from lying in one position too long. Treat all wounds promptly to keep your dog's skin from becoming infected.

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