Cloudy days can give our dogs more than just the blues...

Ethan when he was first diagnosed with Seasonal Alopecia

Ethan using the light

Seasonal Alopecia

by Sandy Thompson

When I was updating the ATRA site, I happened to read one of the bios and noticed the dog had Seasonal Alopecia. My Ethan has this.  Seasonal Alopecia is when Airedales begin to lose their hair in patches.  I believe that Airedales with this problem might benefit from three things.

1)  The first is getting checked for an Endocrine-Immune imbalance known as  Low Cortisol according to the Plechner Protocol. You can find more information on this by reading the book Pets at Risk by Dr. Alfred Plechner and by going to Dr. Plechner’s website at www.drplechner.com.  I’d like to thank Mike Billion and Kirk Nims for bringing Dr. Plechner’s work to my attention in a former ATRA Aire-Mail.   Airedales are a breed at risk for this problem.  If your dog is overweight and his hair is a problem, he may fit this profile.  However, only a blood test will tell.  Treatment for dogs with Low Cortisol is to balance out their hormones to help them lose weight and improve their skin and hair overall.

Ethan, while never overweight, has Low Cortisol.  Before treatment, he had flakey skin, allergies, and his coat at times would feel grimy in as little as two weeks after a bath.  This dark gunk would come off onto your hands after extended petting or stripping (I hand strip his coat). The hair would be wet when I striped it out too (the end that just came out from the skin). Now his allergies are better, he doesn't have dandruff like he used too, and best of all, there is no more grimy hair coat.  Also, his hair isn't wet when it is stripped out.

2)  The second thing to know is that Seasonal Alopecia is caused by the Pineal gland not getting stimulated by enough sunlight.  The hair falls out, and, quite frankly in my experience can be darn slow to grow back in.  This  is frustrating and unsightly.

The Pineal Gland is this gland in both ours and dogs  brains that is stimulated by sunlight and helps to regulate circadian rhythms.  These circadian rhythms in turn help regulate other hormones and processes in the body as well. One of the effects of receiving sunlight is that humans and dogs' bodies will make Melatonin.  Since many times we are not able to get enough sun during the winter months, Melatonin is lacking. This it is believed by some veterinary dermatologists to play a role in dogs going bald.  In these cases, it is possible that perhaps dogs suffering from Seasonal Alopecia could benefit from daily Melatonin.  Ethan takes 3mg in the evening, daily all year around.  The year round schedule is because Ethan's vet dermatologist who prescribed it, didn't know if and when the hair would grow back, (current summer or next summer) so thought it was best to keep him on it year round.  Melatonin is inexpensive, luckily, and available at the drug store.  It is also relatively harmless so having him on it doesn't interfere with other meds or pose any side effects.  You might want to discuss this with your vet.

3)  I am finding it beneficial for Ethan to use a special light to simulate day light and help with his hair regrowth.  My doctor recommended that I get one because I have Delayed Sleep Phase Disorder (my circadian rhythms are off).  He recommended an Apollo Light Go Lite. (www.apollolight.com) because studies have shown them to be especially effective.  Plus they are small and don't take up a lot of space like traditional Full Spectrum light boxes (think X-Ray viewing sized boxes). When I asked him if my dog could use it too, he said sure.

Ethan has been using the Apollo Light since the second week in January daily.  I just put a treat in his Kong and put Ethan and the Kong in his crate.  I then setup the light on the little table next to his crate and set the timer.  I definitely think this is helping Ethan regrow hair a lot faster than last winter when he was only on Melatonin therapy. 

These lights can be expensive (upwards of $100-$200 depending on where you go).  My doctor recommended that I get mine from Sam's Club, Costco or Overstock.com, as he has had patients find the basic model there for $50 or so. 

The Basic Model plugs into the wall and is called the Apollo Light Go Lite Model P1.  Mine is re-chargeable and is the one with the most features called the Apollo Light Go Lite Model  M2.