13: BSD, aka Black Skin Disease: A Nightmare in Pomeranians

Part I:  The Black Skin Nightmare 

Black skin is an unexplainable sickness in Pomeranians wherein the dog would lose its coat and will not grow back.   There is NO cure for this.  This problem would occur at different ages, sometimes at a year of age when some dogs blow off their puppy coat(and the coat will not grow back)… sometimes later like 3 years old or …sometimes much much later in the life of the dog.  This is the nightmare!  Unlike other faults, like  undescended testicle/s,   by breeding age,  you will know whether the breeding specimen  you are using have or do not have that problem.  In the case of black skin, you will not.  It may occur soon after or much later after you have kept a line-up of puppies for your breeding program, only to find out that their sire is infected with this ailment.  What do you do with these puppies now?  What happens when you are a well known breeder and the pups that you sell, though they reach their championship awards would eventually come down with this black skin?  Can you ever get out of this problem… or at least avoid it?   




I first learned about black skin about 14 years ago, ie, 1994.  It was about the time that this issue was a big hullabaloo in the US.  There were big discussions and many articles written.  Certain bloodlines were being heavily attacked.  A witch-hunt was on.  In the process, the American Pomeranian fancier generally got their education.  I think that the bottomline is that all champion Pomeranian bloodlines have this black skin issue…one way or another.  It is just a matter of degree…and the higher or lower probability that a dog from various bloodines will come down with it. I suppose, the natural pomeranians which has been less tampered by breeders and look like pet poms remain to be free completely free from black skin.


1994 was also about the time that I had already purchased a lot of American poms.  Because of this scare, I did mostly outcrosses and did very little linebreeding and inbreeding.  I suppose, I was successful because I practically have had practically NO black skin problem.  However, it was the limited linebreeding that I did that eventually produced the best results and from which come most of my champions today.  They, too, had practically NO black skin.  So, I cannot really say logically that limiting linebreeding is the key to black skin avoidance.  Perhaps, a more logical conclusion would be the choice or avoidance of certain bloodlines…and doubling up on it.




Unfortunately, outside the United States, specially in Asia and Europe, people are not aware of black skin and it is about just now that the black skin problem is hitting them…and they are now asking questions.    I would receive some inquiries about my poms from some Asian countries where I know they have purchased a lot of fabulous poms and very expensive imports.  When I ask them why not buy locally, I am told that most of what they have over there has black skin.  I hope not…perhaps this is an exaggeration.    I would receive telephone calls from long lost pom customers who would want to get something from me because their beloved pom was gone bald and would not recover.  I would ask where he got their pom and I will usually get the same answer.  It was so tempting to say “I told you so.”  A high profile Philippine vet told me that he has handled so  many black skin cases in his clinic.  He would ask where they got them and it all traces back to the same source.  He continues to tell me that he has not seen any of my dogs down with that problem!  Humbly, I must confess that I DO have that problem too! The big BUT is I rarely have it.   I have other priorities that  I want to focus on for the betterment of my breeding program and black skin is not really something that is I would really worry about.  However, prudence dictates that I should be careful.




Late last month, we had a Pomeranian Specialty show and I thought that I should show off my champion oldies in full coat.  Aged from TEN(10) years old or so, I exhibited them in full coat.  I brought in 18 of them!  See some of them below:





Some other balding ailments results from fungus/yeast accumulation, throidism, etc have been mis-diagnosed as black skin when it is NOT.  But for many of them,  is it!    Pity the dog groomers in Philippine vet clinics!  They are entrusted with poms that are badly matted for grooming....they would shave the coat and the coat will not grow back!...they are then blamed for the tragedy,  when in reality it was the black skin disease all along. 




 Part II:  Strategy Against Black Skin Disease 

I like to share my strategies in avoiding black skin.  They are as follows:

1.  Whenever I buy in new stock, whether they be puppies, young adults or even older dogs, I will be doing the following:

...I always want to see the sire and the dam.  It is understandable to see that the dam is shaved down after having whelped the pups.  However, the sire must be in coat.  If he is cut down, or looking suspicious , or could not be produced,   I would be worried.  Some would say that he has died and that would make me worry some more.  If the stud dog is not owned by the puppy breeder, I would at least attempt to see the sire in person or check with someone who has seen the dog recently.  

 ...I will avoid puppies with glamourous cottonish coat to die for.  I want the puppies to shed by six months and grow their coat by a year old and possibly be in full bloom by three.  I would be concerned if they do not shed at 6 months.   Some would grow they grow their coat while they blow off their puppy coat.  This is something I have experienced with Bryce, aka, Ph HOF JanLe Don't Make Me Laugh,(pictured on the right),  whom I purchased as a puppy at 6 months of age.  I am told by other Pomeranian breeders who are equally zealous  that this is quite safe.


...I will also like to see older male adults(say 5 years or more) from the same breeder with the same bloodline to quickly access their black skin history.  Many will DENY, whilst others will be very open about it. I admire and salute the truthfulness of these breeders.



2.  When I choose a stud partner for my females, I would try to stick to my bloodline or my breeding which I  

know has practically nil black skin.  However, always having a desire to outcross for new blood for hybrid vigor, I am aware that I am increasing the risk for black skin.  Outcrossing or at least distant linebreeding is sometimes a necessity otherwise the puppies would just fall into pieces.  Whenever, I would outcross, I would do the following: 


...I would avoid lines that are known for black skin, if I can.  Many poms in these lines are really so beautiful that I would take the risk to a certain extent.   But one thing I will NEVER do: is to knowingly breed to a dog that has the black skin.   I do not care how good he is!  


...I would prefer to breed to dogs that are at least 5 years of age.  If they still have their coat, I think that is a reasonable assurance that it is reasonable safe…they may be gene carrier of black skin though. This would also be my preference when buying outside stud dogs.  An example of this is Ph Ch Pufpride Cash Attraction(pictured on the left)who I bought at the age of 4 years old;  he is now 6 and he still is in fullcoat.                                                           



3.  Another strategy that I use is mixing in my whites to my creams and wolf sables.  The result such as Russ Gr Ch Ph Ch Canton Silver Spoon,(pictured on the right), is then bred to my standard oranges.  For me, this is an additional insurance against black skin. (Whites do not have black skin.  I am told that one breeder has been successful in getting out of this problem by mxing in white poms to his orange breeding program.  This strategy seems to be logical because it waters down the problem.)


In the final analysis, all dogs has some issues one way or another.  There is no hopeless case.  If is just a matter of breeding out the problem or watering down the problem! ....then, you have the compromises wherein you get something and you lose something...


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I want to commend you for this website because I learned a lot about pom including the Black Skin Disease. Unfortunately, I have 2 poms w/ BSD. As of now, I put VCO (virgin coconut oil) on their skin, and sometimes I let them drink 1 tbsp of VCO, and sometimes it works. Their hair grows back for a while.

If you have any suggestions, I would really appreciate it.


There are many other reasons for hair loss, and it is not necessarily BSD. It could be ...

...thyroid problem and to check on this, you do a blood test for thyroidism or hyperthyroidism. The medication given is the same as what they give to human who have goiter ...and it is given for life. If this is the case, the medication will restore the hair.

...fungal infection could be devastating and it could cause hair loss. I recall, one time when one of my dogs had this, I was so uptight, I started using fungicide with steroids and that burned the skin of the dog making it black and scarey. One would think it is black skin but really it is simply a case of fungus with skin burned by the acids in the oinment. To test for fungus, you can do a culture test. Fungus like hot temperature and humid atmosphere so keep your dog dry and clean all the time. Fungicide should work but be careful you do not burn the skin. Braggs vinegar and salt baths could be moderately successful. Tea Tree oil shampoo has worked well with me. Fungicide baths and ointments should be done with care. There are some fungus that are hard to control. There is a vaccine that is specific for microsporum canis called Biocan M which is specific for this kind of fungus and it is given via IM.

...there may be other reasons for hair loss and it may not be necessarily black skin.

...but if it is really BSD, I am told the melanin, a medicine they use for human sleeping disorder would do the trick. Be careful because this medicine has hormones and you do not want to cause a hormone imbalance.

A top breeder that I admire had earlier told be that she has successfully combated bsd using white pomeranians. In the process of using whites, she has suffered on quality but the remedy for bsd has been extremely successful.
Now, I have been informed of some white pomeranians have had black skin. So, apparently, the whites are not exempted from this problem but I am inclined to think that bsd is so much watered down in this color because it is quite undeveloped.
I believe that bsd is the result of too much inbreeding and linebreeding. Very much like the human royalties of Europe, hemophilia was the result of their cousin to cousin marriages. Their bastard children(outcross) did not have this problem. I suppose the logic behind this earlier theory is that the whites have less of these in/linebreeding. Ergo, the theory.

Me and my wife have two poms that where rescued from the street on Christman 2010 one male one female. We looked all over for the owners, but no one claimed them. So we keeped them and allowed them to breed. A few weeks before the female gave birth I went ahead and gave her a lion cut. Now she is not growing her hair back. The vet gave us some stroid spray but this doesn't seem to be working. Thank you for the information you have given here it gives us a good idea of what direction we should go.

Thank you,

Bill and Vickie

I just found out my 3 1/2 year old female, white pom, probably has BSD. She has been tested twice for thyroid disease, they were negative. She had an amazingly thick beautiful coat, up until about a year ago. Now she has huge spots were there is no fur whatsoever on her chest, stomach and hind quarters, and is showing black spots in several places. If anyone knows what may work, I would be glad to hear from you. Thank you

Everything is very open and very clear explanation of issues.Your website is very useful.Thanks for sharing.
pet grooming Costa Mesa

my male cream sable pom is 9 yrs old but has had skin problems for many years.....he used to be a show dog but was abused for not winning and I adopted him 5 years ago. He has had recurring sores under his chin which were cured within 2 weeks with simplicef but this round of treatment does not seem to cure the problem and it is spreading under his chin. please help !! normanwest@yahoo.com

There are mainly 3 kinds of skin problems (other than bsd) ...mange, fungus or bacterial infection.

With mange, it is usually crusty thick skin and the dog will usually be itching a lot. I would bathe the dog with nizoral shampoo(toxic) once or twice a week, sponge bathe daily with amthrax or demodex(both of which are extremely poisonous until the dog is dried up), locasalyn ointment applied twice a day. Locasalyn has steroids so this can be used only for about 7 days and you should get well in this 7 days window...do it consistently. After 7 days convert to its non steroid equivalent which is salysic acid.

With fungus, it could be dandruffs, flakes, red rings around, red or brownish spots, whitening under the eyes, etc. Bathing with tea tree oil shampoo 3 times a week, fungal spray as instructed. I use Biropyrox(spelled correctly?)

With bacterial infection which usually has pus such as when they sit on their urine, etc, after the necessary shampoo like tar coal shampoo, use dactacorte ointment twice a day. Again, dactacorte is steroid and is good only for 7 days after which you move to its non steroid equivalent which is dactarin.

I once owned a German Shepherd that had BSD and hot spots. My grandfather suggested using the mouthwash Lysterine on the skin of the dog. It actually worked, the dog never had a problem again. I don't know if the BSD was due to just BSD, fungus, bacteria or hypothryodism. I have a pomeranian that at the age of 12 is now showing symptoms of BSD. I have started using Lysterine on him to see if it may help. I will also try the tea tree oil shampoo and apply Cold Compressed Castor Oil (which can be bought at any drug store for under $5.00) on his skin since it has been know to increase hair growth in humans. It's safe and a natural skin softener. I have also heard that Monistat (human female bacterial cream) will kill the fungus that sometimes causes BSD. If, I have no good results with these treatments, I will test his thyroid function. But I doubt he has hypothyroidism, he is such an active and frisky little dog! He's not what he was at 5 but for his age, he's one active pom.

This sounds like Cushings disease to me. I had a schipperkee that this happened to. There is a special test to check for this disorder.

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