Australian Shepherd Health & Genetics Institute

Australian Shepherd Health & Genetics Institute

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What is vitiligo?

Vitiligo is a loss of pigment in the skin and hair.  It can be autoimmune, secondary to uveodermatologic syndrome, or acquired.  The autoimmune form attacks and destroys melanocytes (pigment cells.)  Acquired vitiligo can be due to injury or other causes.

 How do I know if my dog has vitiligo?

Hair and skin turns white or gray, particularly on the face.  The disease is diagnosed by ruling out other possible causes and a biopsy.

 What does having vitiligo mean for my dog?

There is no established treatment, but folic acid and injectable cobalamin (Vit B12) may help.  Vitiligo is not painful and does not affect the general health of the dog though sun protection may be necessary if the dog lives somewhere with intense sunlight..

 How common is vitiligo in Aussies?

It is rare.  However, it is important to keep in mind that breeders should approach all chronic autoimmune disease as a single health concern; different types of autoimmune disease frequently occur in affected families.

 Is vitiligo inherited in Aussies?

Yes.  All autoimmune diseases are genetically predisposed:  The dog must have the genes to get the disease, but not every dog with the genes will become ill.

 What does vitiligo mean for my breeding program? 

Breeders should approach each autoimmune disease as part of an overall health and breeding issue because different autoimmune diseases frequently occur in an affected family.  See Autoimmune Disease & Breeding.