If your full-grown dog has sagging skin, he may be suffering from one of several genetic disorders that reduce collagen levels in her body. Because the condition, also known as cutaneous asthenia, can cause chronic joint pain, chronic pain with skin tears, easy bruising, and scarring, you’ll need to talk to your veterinarian about more humane treatment options or solutions for your pet.
The lack of collagen that creates a condition of weak, arthritic skin and joints is caused by a genetic mutation. If both parents carry the gene mutation, the mutation is considered “dominant,” even though neither parent shows symptoms of the disorder. When the mutation is passed on from only one parent that shows no symptoms, it is considered “recessive.” If any offspring show signs of cutaneous asthenia, the parents should no longer use them for breeding purposes.
Cutaneous asthenia is easily diagnosed using a mathematical formula to determine the amount of loose skin on your dog’s back. Your vet will simply grab a handful of your dog’s skin and measure how stretched the skin is. You’ll compare the measurement to the Skin Expansion Index (SEI), and divide the number by the dog’s length. If your dog’s SEI number is higher than 14.5%, he may be diagnosed with cutaneous asthenia, or loose skin.
You may want to take your dog to the vet for a cutaneous asthenia examination if they show tender, thin, thin skin that rips easily and is prone to scarring. If your dog has swelling, bruising, and bleeding below the elbow area, he may be suffering from this condition and should have a thorough medical examination. Cutaneous asthenia may also cause pain, weakness, fractures, and swollen joints. Because the internal organs are also affected by a lack of collagen, the affected dog is also at risk of infection or internal bleeding.
Cutaneous asthenia can occur in any breed of dog, but several breeds have a higher incidence of the genetic mutation. These include beagles, boxers, miniature and standard Dachsunds, English spaniels, springer spaniels, German shepherds, greyhounds, Irish setters, keeshounds, Manchester Terriers, poodles, red kelpies, springer spaniels, St. Bernards and Wach corgis.
Because cutaneous asthenia is not curable and can lead to a lifetime of pain and injury for the affected dog, many pet owners choose to euthanize their dog. If your dog has been diagnosed with cutaneous asthenia, your vet may suggest that you have him neutered or spayed to avoid passing the genetic mutation on to another generation of dogs. If you decide to keep your dog, you will need to carefully monitor his surroundings and activities to ensure no harm comes to his skin. Keep children and other pets away from your dog, and use caution when placing him on a leash or any type of restraint, because the friction involved can tear his skin and cause pain and scarring. Use child restraints to protect your dog from sharp edges in the furniture, and make sure her bedding is plump and soft, to avoid bruising that can easily occur from lying in one position for too long. Treat all wounds immediately to keep the dog’s skin from becoming infected.