Allergies is the focus of the Allergies, Hairloss, and Dermatology Committee.  

By its name, three areas of interrelated concerns / interests are assigned to this committee.

Allergy: Portuguese Water Dogs, as most if not all other breeds of dogs, can suffer from as many allergies as people do. There are contact allergies, inhalant allergies and food allergies. In dogs, allergies present primarily as itchiness, skin eruptions and irritations, digestive upsets, coughing, sneezing and irritated eyes. Allergies can first present themselves when the dog is a puppy but may not develop until later when the dog is an adult or even a senior citizen. Allergies are debilitating and negatively affect the quality of life of an affected dog. "Treatments" include avoiding the aggravating allergens. Allergens can be food ingredients, ingredients in shampoos, dust, fleas and other parasites, pollens, molds, etc. Changes in diet, shampoo, etc. can help reduce or eliminate the allergic symptoms. Holistic and standard medicines maybe recommended by veterinarians to alleviate symptoms.

Hairloss - Follicular Dysplasia: Individual Portuguese Water Dogs can exhibit a genetic form of hairloss expressed as follicular dysplasia. It presents itself as patterned hairloss generally on the torso of the dog but can affect larger and larger regions of skin over time. The follicles of the hair are abnormal, or dysplastic, allowing the hair to fall out. In the early stages of this genetic hairloss, the hair will re-grow. Episodes of hairloss are often associated with environmental stress factors; such as but not limited to, inoculations, surgery, and / or illness. Many different breeds (Dobermans, Malamutes, Irish Water Spaniels, Boxers, etc.) have a follicular dysplastic condition. Some are structural follicular dysplasia like the PWD, while some are cyclic. Breeds with the cyclic problem produce normal hairs but the hair cycle is abnormal so that hairs fall out. Dogs with structural follicular dysplasia, the PWD, Doberman Pincher, etc., produce abnormal hairs that become more abnormal with time. After numerous episodes, the hair ceases to regenerate. It has been found that all Portuguese Water Dogs with genetic hairloss have follicular dysplasia. It appears to primarily present itself in curly dogs produced from the mating of a curly sire to a curly dam. To date there is no verification of a genetically wavy Portuguese Water Dog exhibiting this genetic condition.

Follicular dysplasia does not cause itching or scratching. If a dog is itching and scratching with possible skin lesions and eruptions these are not caused by follicular dysplasia. The cause of these symptoms lies elsewhere; possibly parasites, allergies, tumors, sun exposure, dry skin or other causative reasons. The results of this itching and scratching are magnified in a dog that has hair loss due to follicular dysplasia as there is less or no hair to protect the skin on the affected areas of the body.

Dermatology: There are other causes for hairloss that are not this heritable form. Thyroid deficiency, Cushing's disease, allergies, parasites, environmental toxins and drugs are some agents that can cause the temporary loss of hair.

Another heritable hair coat issue in Portuguese Water Dogs is "improper coat". Portuguese Water Dogs with improper coat do not have the coat described in the breed standard. A wavy "improperly coated" PWD will tend to look like a Flat Coated Retriever or Border Collie. A curly "improperly coated" PWD will tend to look like an American Water Spaniel or Curly Coated Retriever. It is also possible for "improperly coated" dogs to have some undercoat and possibly shed. This condition is one of appearance. In several other breeds which present with "improper coats" for their breed, the mode of inheritance for the improper coat is a simple recessive. It is likely that it is also a simple recessive in Portuguese Water Dogs although this has not yet been confirmed.What the PWDCA is doing:

There is currently no ongoing research in any of these areas, however, in 1991, the members of the PWDCA participated in a skin punch biopsy study of Portuguese Water Dogs that exhibited patterned hair loss as compared to those who did not. The study confirmed that all dogs that exhibited patterned hair loss had follicular dysplasia. A follow up study, administered by a technician a few years later, attempted to establish whether hair, including the root bulb, plucked from a Portuguese Water Dog, could be used in early diagnosis of follicular dysplasia. The results of this second study were inconclusive.

Why the PWDCA is addressing this:

Allergies cause discomfort and effect the quality of life of Portuguese Water Dogs. Genetic Hairloss (follicular dysplasia), while not physically painful or debilitating, causes an appearance of illness and can open the skin to excessive sun exposure and cold exposure. People tend to shy away from affected dogs exhibiting hairloss for fear it is mange. Thus it affects the quality of life of the affect Portuguese Water Dog. It is an undesirable trait. Improper Coat is hereditary and is an inappropriate coat for the Portuguese Water Dog. It is not debilitating and does not affect the quality of life of improperly coated dogs. It however does affect their appearance in that they do not look like Portuguese Water Dogs. It is not correct to the AKC (nor other) Standard for the Portuguese Water Dog.

How the PWDCA is dealing with this:

It is recommended that Portuguese Water Dogs which exhibit genetic hairloss and / or improper coat, not be used for breeding.

Individuals who have dogs with allergies, affected with genetic Hairloss (follicular dysplasia) or improper coat are requested to list this in the Health Registry and notify the Committee so statistics can be gathered for possible future research.

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