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Ichthyosis in Dogs… Symptoms, expectations and costs!

Ichthyosis is a skin condition which can not only affect dogs and cats, it can also affect humans as well.  Which is why we figured we’d take a moment or two and discuss exactly what ichthyosis is so that if you actually end up owning a pet that has been diagnosed with this condition you’ll not only have a better understanding of what it is, you’ll also have a better understanding of what to expect!

So, without further ado, let’s dive right in!

Ichthyosis defined…

Ichthyosis is a term used to describe a “blanket term” used to describe a variety of skin conditions which all end in the same thing; an itchy scaling of the skin that looks a lot like fish scales.

In fact…

The ‘Ich’ part of the word means ‘fish’ in Ancient Greek, so similar is the appearance.  Now while it is possible that just about any “type” of dog breed, although there are certain dog breeds that will have an increased risk for developing ichthyosis due to the genetic component that causes this disease to occur.


There are variants of the disease which depend largely on the breed of dog, as well as on location of the itching and other factors. Dogs who suffer from this condition frequently experience painful paw pads, among other areas prone to itching and scaling.

Breeds are at risk from this disorder include:

  • The American Bulldog
  • The Cavalier King Charles Spaniel
  • The Dobermann Pincher
  • The German Shepherd Dog
  • The Golden Retriever (the Golden Retriever is currently undergoing laboratory testing and there may be up-to-date findings that you should check out if you are a Golden Retriever owner that is worried about this condition).
  • The Irish Terrier
  • The Jack Russell Terrier
  • The Norfolk Terrier
  • The West Highland White Terrier
  • The Yorkshire Terrier

So, what is itchthyosis?

Itchthyosis is an autosomal recessive trait, meaning that it will not manifest unless both of your pup’s parents have family history of the disease.

Also called…

‘Fish Scale’ disease, this skin condition results in a thickening of the outer layer of skin (the Stratum Corneum). This outer skin becomes oily or greasy and eventually the skin flakes off in scales. The area affected will be dry and irritated, maybe even swollen and red.

In the “worst” case scenarios…

Your dog’s skin may even break out in lesions. Dogs who suffer from Ichthyosis are known to suffer swelling and pain in the pads of the feet, although the condition is by no means limited to those areas.

Now there are…

Several different types of this disease, but only a skin biopsy will clarify which condition you should be treating. A DNA test can also be used to test your potential puppy for traces of the disease.

It’s also possible…

That your dog could develop epidermolytic and non-epidermolytic variants of this disease, with the former describing a defect in the stratum corneum’s ability to produce Keratin, the main composite of the outer layer of skin. The latter comes from the recessive trait and is inherited as a gene mutation rather than being caused by lack of Keratin.

That said however…

The most severe form of this condition is known as epidermolytic hyperkeratosis. This is where there is far too much Keratin in the outer layers of skin and can result in red skin and painful blistering lesions. This is a very rare form of the disease and affects only a small amount of animals.

That said…

We here at IndulgeYourPet still feel it is worth taking into consideration if a DNA test shows your pup has a family history of this disease because if you still want to adopt him or her you should be prepared for the ongoing medical costs of topical and oral treatments. After all, there is a high chance that your dog will need to receive treatment for the rest of his or her life.

What are the Treatment Options?

Fortunately this horrendously itchy and annoying condition can be treated. Your vet will likely want to make an affirmative diagnosis with a skin biopsy first and afterwards begin treatment straight away.

Oral Fatty Acid supplements…

Might be prescribed, as might a range of topical creams all designed to proved your pet with some relief.


Have also been used to treat this disorder but with varying degrees of success.

And while it’s nice…

To know that itchthyosis is treatable we should point out that this disorder is considered to be one of the least treatable skin conditions that your pup can have.

And while…

Your vet will offer a number of options that will make your pet more comfortable the likelihood of this condition ever vanishing completely is slim to none.

Which brings us to…

Were we like to remind folks that we here at IndulgeYourPet are not doctors, veterinarians or medical professionals.  All we are is a bunch of folks who just happen to be passionate about animals and only want what’s best for them.

This is why…

If you feel like your pet may have ichthyosis (or any other health issue for that matter) the first thing that you’re going to want to do is have him or her check out by a vet ASAP!


The truth is, an early diagnosis will often lead to the “best” medical outcome for your pet regardless of what is bothering him or her, but beyond that diagnosing a medical condition early could save you a bundle in medical costs!

Which is why…

We here at IndulgeYourPet also recommend that any new pet owner take a moment and see what it might cost for you to purchase a pet insurance policy for your new animal.

Now will a pet insurance policy be right for everyone?

No, probably not.  But until you fully understand what these policies “will” and “won’t” cover and how much these pet insurance policies cost, how will you know if one might be right for you?

For more information on who we feel currently offers the “best” pet insurance policies out there, we would encourage you to check out our Best Pet Insurance Policies article.

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