Coat funk is a disorder found in malamutes and a few other breeds, such as Pomeranians, Samoyeds, and Keeshonds. Veterinary dermatologists simply call the condition "alopecia X" because no one knows much about its cause or cure. In malamutes, the disorder appears to be inheritable, because many such dogs can be traced back to ancestors who had the disorder.
Coat funk causes the guard coat in affected dogs to become dry and brittle, eventually breaking and falling out. The wooly undercoat, thus exposed, can become dry and matted, and it, too, may eventually come out, leaving the skin bare in spots. Bare skin tends to turn black, though it does not seem to itch or bother the dog. Care should be taken to prevent sunburn or frostbite.
Symptoms vary widely, but one common aspect of all coat funk dogs is that they test negative for other "look-alike" disorders, such as allergies, hypothyroid or Cushing's disease. Indeed, the only way to diagnose coat funk is to rule out other possible causes for a coat problem. It does happen occasionally that a dog may have coat funk and another disorder, such as allergies or hypothyroidism. The dog's coat should return to health once the other problem is successfully treated. Suspect coat funk if the coat continues to worsen.
We are working with a veterinary epidemiologist to develop a survey that will give us more information about coat funk. Please visit frequently to check on our progress.
For more technical information to share with your veterinarian, see the article "Understanding Coat Funk"on this web site and the accompanying references.
Please check our "Links" page for some personal web sites pertaining to this subject, and stories of affected dogs and their owners.