Every single dog breed has its own unique traits that help to set it apart from other breeds, and some of these traits are more distinctive than others and make up part of certain dog breed standards, dictating the accepted and desirable appearance for dogs of the breed to present.
There are a virtually unlimited range of physical traits that help to define different dog breeds – from obvious things like size, coat colour and length and physical build, right through to subtler factors like the shape of the ears and the curvature of the tail.
Even the skin of certain dogs gets a mention within the breed standard of some breeds, commonly those that have particularly loose, saggy or wrinkled skin. This gives dogs of this type a very distinctive appearance, as if they are still growing into their skin, which is often most obvious amongst puppies.
There are quite a few dog breeds that have loose skin as a breed-specific trait, and most of them are very distinctive too. Loose, wrinkled skin is of course quite an unusual trait in dogs as a whole; and often, even owners of breeds that have wrinkled skin don’t know a huge amount about why this trait is present, or what it means.
In this article we will share five interesting facts about dogs and dog breeds that have loose or wrinkled skin, to provide some insights and information to enhance our understanding of dogs of these types. Read on to learn more.
There are several well-known dog breeds within which loose skin is the norm, and in some cases, a highly desirable breed trait that breeders seek to reproduce and improve within their breed lines.
Perhaps the best-known dog breed with loose skin is the Bloodhound, and others include the Basset hound, Shar pei, and some English bulldogs, although the trait is less pronounced in bulldogs and exaggeration of the amount of excess skin or any other individual trait is frowned upon within the breed standard.
Whether or not loose or wrinkled skin is considered to be normal or desirable within any given dog breed is dictated within their breed standards, and of course, this is a hereditary trait that is passed on from parent dogs to their young.
However, there is also a medical condition that can result in loose skin in breeds for which this is not the norm, caused by the skin itself failing to produce sufficient collagen, which helps to keep the skin supple and elastic, and able to spring back into place. This condition is called cutaneous asthenia, and pups with the condition are born with normal, healthy skin, which weakens and breaks down over time, leading to it stretching abnormally without the collagen necessary to provide elasticity for it to spring back.
Many of the dog breeds that we associate with having particularly loose, wrinkled skin have working origins, and in some cases, their loose skin helped to contribute to their suitability for the roles in question.
When it comes to very competent scenthound breeds like the Bloodhound and Basset hound, the dogs’ very long ears and the loose skin around the face and neck help to trap scent particles in the air and from physical objects and bring them closer to the dog’s face, where their noses can pick them up.
Loose skin also provided some advantages for dog breeds that were historically kept for use in dog fighting, bull baiting and other now illegal “sports” that came with an inherent risk of injury for the dogs performing them.
When the skin is loose and slack, if it is grabbed or bitten by another dog or other animal, it will cause local damage and tear the skin. However, a threat or predator is more likely to grab the loose skin than they are to be able to grab hold of a more solid chunk of the dog’s body, and so this trait often helped to prevent more serious injuries developing in dogs of this type.
Dogs with very loose, wrinkled skin usually have short fur which is relatively easy to care for, but owning a dog with loose skin requires a little extra care nonetheless. The creases and wrinkles in the skin can soon collect dirt, bacteria and shed skin cells that then rub and irritate the skin, and so the owners of wrinkled dogs need to check and clean their skin folds regularly, to keep them clean and dry and reduce the risk of irritations developing.
Some dog breeds with loose skin also have an increased propensity to suffer from skin problems, such as allergies and sensitivities. This is as well as the potential risks that loose skin presents on its own, in terms of the potential for infections, pressure sores and irritations.
Treating skin allergies and sensitivities in dogs of all types can be complicated, but this is particularly likely to be the case when the skin is loose and wrinkled, and prone to rubbing and becoming irritated.