AKA.....Sheltie Skin Syndrome, Sheltie Skin Disease
DM in Shelties should NOT be confused with Demodectic
Mange. This is a totally separate disease.
DM is known by several names in the Sheltie world.
But most of us call it "DM".
First and Foremost, DM is not a death
sentence. Nor is it a good reason to not adopt a Sheltie who has
it. Shelties with DM are just as sweet and loving as any other
Sheltie and just as deserving of a home. Often they are given up
because of the owners lack of understanding the disease, or because an owner
does not want a dog with scars on his face. It is so sad.
DM is NOT contagious, so no need to worry
about people or about your other animals contracting this disease.
Repeat: It is not contagious.
Dermatomyositis is an inherited disorder that
can cause skin lesions and in severe cases, affect the muscles of shelties
and collies. DM primarily affects Collies and Shetland
Sheepdogs, although is seen occasionally in other breeds.
DM is hereditary. Any Sheltie with this
disease should NOT be bred. All infected Shelties should be spayed and
neutered. If you know of anyone, knowingly, breeding DM affected
dogs... please write to us and let us know.
DM will usually begin on the head and ears
and the front legs of a sheltie. The dog will have hair loss and a
small lesion will appear. The lesions may have a white or yellow crust
or they may appear to be an area of dry flaky skin or just a small bald
spot. Dm outbreaks can be quite mild or very severe.
If the outbreak is mild enough, some owners may not even notice the small
patch of hair loss. But a more severe outbreak usually sends
most pet owners to the vet's office. More than likely, the vet
will do a scrape for mange, and discuss allergies and may try a wide range
of things............all that will do nothing (if it is DM).
Often the vet is left with no idea what is wrong with the dog, which sadly
sends the owner of to yet another vet still seeking answers.
Fortunately, many internet users can get online and find pages like
this one and get the answers they need.
Sadly, many vets have never heard of this
disease, let alone seen or worked with it. Since it mainly
appears in Shelties and Collies, it is not something vets have much chance
to learn much about. This is not unusual or a sign of a bad vet,
so please do not blame your vet for not recognizing it. Vets are
required to learn diseases of all animals, and seldom see diseases that only
occur in one or two breeds. Instead, please have your vet
contact one of the DM experts listed on one of these websites. By
enlightening your vet to this disease, you could save the next Sheltie owner
from going through the frustration that you have.
Skin lesions occur in areas of trauma. The
gums, tips of the ears, skin on the bridge of the nose and face, around
and under the eyes, skin over the joints and toes of the limbs, and tip of
the tail are common sites of involvement.
Most often, and in this writers opinion,
the very tip (end) of the tail is a pretty sure sign of DM. In true
DM cases, I almost always find a bald tail-tip.
Skin lesions can heal rapidly without
treatment or persist and worsen with time. In dogs which don't heal
rapidly, it can take months before the extent of the skin lesions is
Skin lesions are variable in size and are
hairless, red, and scaly or crusty. In most dogs, the lesions are not
itchy. The skin lesions seen in Dermatomyositis are not unique to this
disease. Dogs with ringworm, bacterial skin infection, Demodectic mange,
and discoid lupus, to name a few, can have similar lesions. No one can
make the diagnosis of Dermatomyositis or exclude that diagnosis simply by
looking at the dog. Diagnostic tests must be performed. Skin biopsies are
very important especially if the dog or any of its relatives are to be
used for breeding.
Diagnosis: The only way to diagnose DM is
through a skin punch biopsy evaluated by a dermapathologist. The biopsy
needs to be done on an active lesion. An active lesion need not be crusty,
it may just be an area of hair loss. DM is probably often overlooked or
misdiagnosed as allergies or Demodectic mange. There are a number of
conditions that produce similar symptoms, which is why it is so important to
do a biopsy. A positive skin scraping for Demodectic mange does not rule out
DM, as it is possible for the dog to have both. Research is currently being
done to try and identify the gene(s) responsible for DM. Once the gene(s)
are identified, hopefully a DNA test can be developed.
Treatment: There is no cure for DM. The usual
treatment is with steroids. Mild cases may clear up without treatment, but
more severe cases may require long tern steroid use. "Clear up"
however, just means going into remission. There is no cure for this
DM legions will come and go. Stress
seems to aggravate DM. Stress can be defined as having surgery,
new family members, coming into season, illness, or prolonged fear (being a
Information on Dermatomyositis is available
to veterinarians and the lay public in a variety of veterinary publications.
The newest and most widely available is in Muller and Kirk's: Small Animal
Dermatology - 5th ed. Philadelphia: W.B. Saunders, 1995, pages 759-764. If
the information below is published, please put that reference as the source
so your readers and their veterinarians will know where to go to get more
complete details. There is also
some more information here at the Dogpatch, courtesy of Kim Schive.
If you or your vet would like more information on
DM.....our suggested contact(s) are: