Sagging Skin on Dogs

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Some breeds of pups, like the Chinese shar-pei, basset hound, bulldog, mastiff and bloodhound, naturally have loose, saggy or wrinkly skin. Unfortunately, if your pup appears to have sagging skin and isn't a breed in which this is normal, he could be suffering from a hereditary medical condition. A group of skin conditions known as cutaneous asthenia can affect dogs from a young age, causing pain and loose, weak skin which is droopy and saggy.

Cutaneous Asthenia

The term cutaneous asthenia, also known as Ehlers-Danlos syndrome, refers to a group of hereditary genetic disorders, which decrease your pup's collagen levels. Collagen is a type of protein that helps to maintain the strength and integrity of your dog's skin and other tissues, such as his tendons and ligaments, according to petMD. When your pup doesn't have enough collagen in his body, his skin becomes heavy, droopy and saggy because it loses its elasticity. It also becomes much weaker and thinner than normal and is easily injured, cut or otherwise damaged. Your pup may also experience dislocated or loose joints due to a weakening of the ligaments that hold his joints together.


Dogs Affected and Symptoms

The main symptoms of cutaneous asthenia are loose, saggy skin that doesn't bounce back when extended, primarily around his legs and throat, according to Oklahoma State University. Your pup also may experience lameness due to his loose joints or eye disorders such as cataracts, according to the University of Sydney. Although somewhat rare, cutaneous asthenia usually is diagnosed at a young age in dogs, which is why it's sometimes referred to as rubber puppy disease. The most common breeds affected with this condition include beagles, Manchester terriers, springer spaniels, dachshunds, Saint Bernards, German shepherds, boxers, Welsh corgis and mixed breeds, according to the "Atlas of Small Animal Wound Management and Reconstructive Surgery."


Veterinary Diagnosis

If you notice that your pup has loose, saggy skin, bring him to a veterinarian, who will examine him for signs of cutaneous asthenia. The main test for this is how far the dog's dorsal skin on his back will stretch without pain when raised above the spine. This figure and other body measurements are used to compute a score on the skin extensibility index. Dogs whose SEI score is greater than 14.5 percent are considered positive for cutaneous asthenia, according to petMD. Your vet also may perform biopsies on your pup's skin to check on its collagen structure and determine whether it's abnormal.


Treatment and Management

Unfortunately, there is no cure for your pup's cutaneous asthenia, although there is anecdotal evidence that vitamin C supplements may help, because Fido's body uses this vitamin in collagen production, according to the "Muller and Kirk's Small Animal Dermatology." Dress your pup in a body suit to protect his skin from injury and carpet your floors to prevent him from slipping and falling. Keep your pup away from other dogs who could injure him and have your vet trim his nails to prevent him from scratching and injuring his delicate skin. Spay or neuter your dog to prevent him from mating; the mating process can harm him and he'll pass on this genetic condition to his offspring.


By Susan Paretts

petMD: Stretchy, Saggy, Painful Skin in Dogs
University of Prince Edward Island: Cutaneous Asthenia
Nordisk Veterinaermedicin: Cutaneous Asthenia in the Dog -- A Report of Two Cases
The University of Sydney: Disorder -- Cutaneous Asthenia
The Merck Veterinary Manual: Defects of Structural Integrity
Muller and Kirk's Small Animal Dermatology; William H. Miller Jr. et al.
Atlas of Small Animal Wound Management and Reconstructive Surgery; Michael M. Pavletic
The Merck/Merial Manual For Pet Health; Cynthia M. Kahn and Scott Line Vetstreet: 8 Most Wrinkled Dog Breeds
Oklahoma State University -- Center for Veterinary Health Sciences: Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome, What is it and is There a Cure?


About the Author
Based in Las Vegas, Susan Paretts has been writing since 1998. She writes about many subjects including pets, crafts, television, shopping and going green. Her articles, short stories and reviews have appeared in "The Southern California Anthology" and on Epinions. Paretts holds a Master of Professional Writing from the University of Southern California.