Andean bear (Tremarctos ornatus) alopecia syndrome (ABAS) commonly affects captive bears, particularly sexually mature females. ABAS is characterized by bilaterally symmetrical predominantly flank alopecia with or without profound pruritus and secondary bacterial and Malassezia infections. There is no effective treatment and severely affected bears have been euthanized. This paper describes the successful management of ABAS in three female Andean bears. Skin biopsies and cytology revealed a mixed dermal inflammatory infiltrate, alopecia, hyperkeratosis, and Malassezia dermatitis. Allergen specific serology was positive for environmental allergens in one case. Hematology, serum biochemistry, and thyroid and adrenal function were normal in all cases. There was no consistent response to novel diet trials, antifungals, antihistamines, allergen specific immunotherapy, or topical antimicrobials. There was a partial response to ciclosporin (Atopica® cat, Novartis Animal Health; 5 mg/kg po, sid) in one case and oral glucocorticoids in all cases (dexamethasone sodium phosphate, [Colvasone 0.2%, Norbrook], 0.15 mg/kg po, sid or prednisolone [Deltacortene, Bruno Farmaceutici, and Megasolone 20, Coophavet], 0.3-1.2 mg/kg po, sid), but treatment was withdrawn following adverse effects. Treatment with oclacitinib maleate (Apoquel®, Zoetis; 0.46-0.5 mg/kg po, bid) resulted in rapid and complete resolution of the pruritus with subsequent improvement in demeanor and fur regrowth. After 5 mo, the bears were almost fully furred and off all other medication. Treatment was tapered to the lowest dose that prevented relapse of the pruritus (0.23-0.4 mg/kg po, sid). No adverse effects have been noted. ABAS is usually an intractable condition, and, to our knowledge, oclacitinib is the first treatment shown to result in sustained clinical improvement. Further studies on the etiology of ABAS, and on efficacy and long-term safety of oclacitinib are needed.
Keywords: Alopecia; Andean bear; Tremarctos ornatus; oclacitinib maleate; pruritus; spectacled bear.