Date: 01/14/2013

Dogs Can Itch Too
By Moureen Wenik

Recently a friend of mine had to take her dog to a veterinary dermatologist for allergies that her dog was having.  I was thankful for her beloved dog, Jack that this specialty existed in the canine world.  Dogs are much like humans, and suffer from the same conditions; ichthyosis is one of those conditions.  Throughout the year, FIRST receives a number of emails from dog owners trying to find help for their dog affected with ichthyosis.  Thankfully, Dr. Margret L. Casal and Dr. Elizabeth Mauldin, from the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine, are always available to answer questions FIRST might have regarding ichthyosis and dogs.

In the most recent update from Dr. Casal we know, just as in human patients, there are many different forms of ichthyosis in a variety of dog breeds.  All of them have a cornification defect in common that affects the outer layer of the skin.  These types of cornification disorders have been observed in a variety of breeds including the Golden Retriever, American bulldog, Norfolk and Jack Russell terriers, Rottweiler, Labrador retriever and Siberian husky.  Currently, the American bulldog is the object of their studies. They know the mutation causing this form of ichthyosis, called autosomal recessive congenital ichthyosis.  Ongoing detailed studies in these dogs are examining how the barrier functions of the skin are disrupted, which will give a better understanding of the disease mechanism.  With this new knowledge, novel therapies can be developed for future use in dogs and humans.

To read more from Dr. Casal and Dr. Mauldin, click here.

Those affected with ichthyosis know that there is not a cure, but only treatments; and this holds true for those sweet dogs that suffer in the same way, with itching, flaking, infections, and discomfort. Dogs present with ichthyosis at birth with skin that is wrinkly and flaky and need baths and oil to keep comfortable.

Ichthyosis in the canine world is being researched with success at University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine, as well as by Catherine André, head of the Canine Genetics team at the Institut de Génétique et Dévelopment de Rennes, Judith Fischer, head of the Institute for Human Genetics at the University clinics of Freiburg, and Dr Eric Guaguere, veterinary dermatology specialist in Lommes, France.  Their colleagues took advantage of the unique breeding history of dog populations to identify the genetic alteration(s) responsible for this skin disorder in golden retriever dogs. They identified a unique mutation in the PNPLA1 gene, perfectly segregating on a recessive transmission mode.

What does all of this mean for humans?  Perhaps our canine counterparts can do more than give unconditional love, and warm our hearts, but help investigators learn more about ichthyosis in humans and our canine companions, and to some day find the cure we hope for.

The European Commission: CORDIS, recently published a finding of the mutation in the PNPLA1 gene in Golden Retrievers, and the full article can be found here.

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