Investigating Immunologic Basis of Dermatomyositis in Dogs

Canine dermatomyositis (DMS) is a hereditary disease described in collies and Shetland sheepdogs and their cross-breeds. The disease is characterized by distinctive skin lesions and in some patients generalized muscle inflammation, sometimes with early onset between 7 weeks and 6 months of age. The skin lesions can vary from mild to severe. Multifocal hair loss, with demarcated patches of redness, scaling, ulceration and crusting accompanied by changes in pigmentation, are common. Lesions occur primarily around the eyes and lips, on the inner surface of the ears, bridge of the nose, the tip of the tail, feet and bony prominences. Currently, dogs with DMS have guarded prognosis as effective treatment based on a large number of cases cannot be recommended.

Figure 1—Photographs of characteristic dermatomyositis skin lesions in a 3.5-year-old spayed female Shetland sheepdog affecting the face, nasal plane and legs.

Our objectives are to investigate the gene expression and immunologic profiles of DMS skin lesions to elucidate the pathogenesis and produce novel therapeutic targets for these patients. Our research in canine DMS is performed in collaboration with Dr. Leigh Anne Clark at Clemson University; Dr. Clark investigates genetic predispositions for DMS.    Our study pays for the visit and biopsy collections at the Dermatology Service at Veterinary Medical Center, University of Georgia.  For dogs that qualify, 1 - 2 months of medication may be provided free of charge.

If you are unable to visit us at the University of Georgia, we will work with you to have your veterinarian collect the skin biopsies and we will analyze the histopathology samples for free; however, our study does not pay for the veterinarian’s visit, sedation and biopsy collection.  If biopsies have already been obtained from your Sheltie, it is possible that we may be able to use those.

Based on our preliminary data, we have a novel therapy with the very good success that we would recommend for your DMS affected dog if you are interested and your dog is diagnosed with DMS.

Please contact us (email) if your dog has a suspicious (based on history and clinical signs) or confirmed DMS (based on history, clinical signs and skin biopsy results).

Our contact information is:

Frane Banovic, DVM, Ph.D., DiplECVD
Laboratory of Comparative Inflammatory Skin Diseases
Veterinary Medical Center
College of Veterinary Medicine
2200 College Station Road
University of Georgia
30606, Athens, GA, USA