Alopecia in American Water Spaniels

Alopecia in American Water SpanielAlopecia or hair loss is a relatively common finding in American Water Spaniels. Affected dogs tend to show hair loss at a young age (6 months – 1 year), and the hair loss is not associated with infection, itch or other condition. The affected skin may appear dark but, other than that it looks completely normal. The hair loss is typically located on the back legs, the tail, or the neck, but can be located anywhere on the body.

Drs. Brian Husbands, Sheila Torres, and Steven Friedenberg are working to investigate the genetic basis of hair loss in American Water Spaniels. Our goal is to find the genetic mutation associated with the disease so that a test can be developed to decrease the frequency of this disease within the breed.


Requirements to Participate

Affected Dogs

  • Persistent, focal to moderately sized areas of hair loss starting at 6-12 month of age (but your dog can be any age at the time of enrollment)
  • No concurrent skin conditions (infections, hotspots, etc.)
  • Willingness to take a short survey about your dog’s hair loss and health
  • Willingness to have our team obtain a copy of your dog’s medical records
  • Willingness to submit photos of your dog’s hair loss
  • Willingness to donate a small blood sample for research

Unaffected Dogs

  • At least 5 years of age
  • No history of unexplained hair loss
  • Willingness to take a short survey about your dog’s health
  • Willingness to have our team obtain a copy of your dog’s medical records
  • Willingness to donate a small blood sample for research

How to Participate

Rear View Alopecia American Water SpanielPlease contact Dr. Husbands (or have your veterinarian contact him) at husba002@umn.edu if you are interested in having your dog donate a blood sample. Dr. Husbands will discuss with you whether your dog is a candidate for the study, and obtain the necessary medical records and photographs from either you or your dog’s veterinarian.

If your dog meets the criteria for the study, we will send your veterinarian a prepaid shipping label to send us a blood sample from your dog at our expense. You can then schedule a brief appointment with your veterinarian for a blood draw. After the visit, your veterinarian will send the blood sample to us, along with a consent form and any relevant medical records.

If you would like your dog to participate in the study, we will ask you to submit some photos to us of the hairless areas (or if your dog is unaffected, some photos of your dog’s body). These photos will be evaluated by Dr. Torres, who is a board-certified veterinary dermatologist. Dr. Husbands will provide you with specific instructions on how to take the photographs and send them to us.

Please also bring a copy of your dog’s pedigree or AKC registration information to your veterinarian if you have a copy; however this is not strictly necessary. You can also e-mail it to Dr. Husbands directly. 

Please note that all information we gather for this study will be treated strictly confidentially.

Contact Us


Canine Genetics Lab
University of Minnesota
1988 Fitch Ave
AS/VM 295
St. Paul, MN 55108

z.umn.edu/caninegenetics

Please contact Dr. Husbands (or have your veterinarian contact him) at husba002@umn.edu if you are interested in having your dog donate a blood sample.