Seasonal flank alopecia is exactly what it sounds like, though it helps to know that the word "alopecia" means hair loss. With seasonal flank alopecia, a dog loses hair in the flank area on a seasonal basis. Different dogs seem to choose different seasons to lose their hair (fall and spring are popular) and when the season changes the hair generally grows back. Sometimes a dog will skip a season only to lose hair again the next year. Most affected dogs are Boxers, Airedales, and English bulldogs though numerous other breeds have been affected.
The hair loss is generally confined to the flanks (area just ahead of the rear legs) though sometimes the bridge of the nose is involved. The skin typically is darkly pigmented in the areas of hair loss. Both flanks are generally affected symmetrically and sometimes there is skin infection present in the balding areas. Sometimes the hair re-grows in a different color than the original hair. Some dogs never re-grow their hair.
At the present time no one knows why this occurs. It is felt to be a hormonal problem disrupting hair follicles.
Melatonin, a natural biochemical which is important in the regulation of circadian (daily) rhythms has been used successfully in many patients. In the U.S. this product is available as a dietary supplement. A more effective method seems to involve the use of melatonin implants under the skin but such implants are not available in the U.S. Melatonin is sometimes used as a sleep aid in people and the only known side effect is drowsiness. Dosing regimens must be obtained from the veterinarian treating the dog in question.
It is important to realize that nutritional supplements are not regulated in the same way that prescription drugs are. This means that the manufacturer of a nutritional supplement is not required to prove that the product actually contains the amount of active ingredient it claims to have. A study on melatonin products done at the University of Tennessee found tremendous variability in content among different brands of melatonin. The most consistent and accurate brand was found to be Nature's Bounty (as shown) so this is the brand that most dermatologists recommend.
Page posted: 1/4/2014