Cutaneous asthenia

From Dog
Clinical appearance of a dog with cutaneous asthenia[1]

Cutaneous asthenia (dermatosparxis) is a hereditary form of epidermolysis bullosa characterized by skin hyperextensibility, skin and vessel fragility, and poor wound healing[2].

This disease, which results in collagen defects within the skin, is also reported in cats and resembles Ehlers-Danlos syndrome in humans[3].

Clinically affected dogs present with lacerations and numerous atrophic and irregular scars. The skin is hyperextensible and easily torn by the slightest trauma[4]. Often symptoms present at the time of birth, with wounds that heal with thin scars, delayed wound healing, pendulous skin, and haematoma and hygroma formation.

In dogs and cats, the disease is not fatal, and older animals develop hanging folds of skin and exhibit extensive scarring; some have joint laxity or ocular anomalies.

Diagnosis is based on clinical signs and histopathologic studies of the collagen structure, which require age and breed-matched controls[5]. Ultrastructurally, the dermis is comprised of elaunin and oxytalan microfibrils, with immature fibres with fibrillar components increased.

For diagnosis, a skin extensibility index has been developed.

There are anecdotal reports of improvement of affected dogs with vitamin C supplementation[6].

Differential diagnosis includes other causes of acquired cutaneous hyperfragility (e.g. Cushing's syndrome, cholangiocarcinoma).

Prognosis is always guarded since signs usually worsen with time. Only certain forms are compatible with a subnormal life.

There is no specific treatment, only hygienic measures aimed at avoiding or limiting mechanical stress.

Some affected dogs may have a reasonable quality of life.


  1. Your Own Vet
  2. Bellini MH et al (2009) Increased elastic microfibrils and thickening of fibroblastic nuclear lamina in canine cutaneous asthenia. Vet Dermatol 20(2):139-143
  3. Anderson JH & Brown RE (1978) Cutaneous asthenia in a dog. J Am Vet Med Assoc 173(6):742-743
  4. Poulsen PH et al (1985) Cutaneous asthenia in the dog. A report of two cases. Nord Vet Med 37(5):291-297
  5. Merck Veterinary Manual
  6. August, JR (2006) Consultations in feline internal medicine. Vol 5. Elsevier Saunders, Philadelphia, pp:582-583