Over the years, anecdotal reports of a scaling disorder in golden retrievers have been increasing; however, there has been little documentation of the disorder in the literature. This study reports the findings in 17 affected dogs. Owners noted signs as early as 13 weeks of age. No sex predilection was found. Clinical lesions were similar in all dogs. The predominant finding was marked scaling on the epidermis characterized by large, flat scales. Pigmentation of the scales correlated with that of underlying skin. The lesions were symmetric in distribution and more seriously affected the trunk and ventrum but spared the nose, ears, and face. Skin biopsies consistently revealed compact orthokeratosis of the stratum corneum. Parakeratosis was never seen. Ultrastructural examination of skin biopsies revealed a stratum corneum of more cohesive corneocytes and more numerous desmosomes than normal skin. These findings were suggestive of abnormal desquamation due to delayed degradation of corneodesmosomes. Pedigree analysis suggests a strong hereditary component, and a single-trait autosomal recessive mode of inheritance is suspected on the basis of available pedigree information.

COMMENTARY: This is a very distinct clinical disease that occurs in young dogs. Because the disorder is clearly genetic, it is important for veterinarians to educate breeders and breed organizations. Removal of animals from the gene pool could greatly decrease prevalence. Larger pedigree studies are needed to further clarify the mode of inheritance. Diagnosis is based on clinical signs and skin biopsy. There is no specific treatment; I use aggressive topical therapy to achieve even reasonable management of the scaling. Owners usually become fatigued from topical treatment regimens.

Cornification defect in golden retrievers: Clinical, histopathological, ultrastructural, and genetic characterization. Cadiergues MC, Patel A, Shearer DK, et al. VET DERMATOL 19:120-129, 2008.