Two dogs with metabolic epidermal necrosis had hyperkeratosis of the footpads accompanied by erythematous, erosive and crusting lesions affecting the muzzle, external genitalia, perineum and periocular regions. Histopathological examination of skin biopsies revealed a superficial hydropic dermatitis with marked parakeratosis. Both dogs had high plasma activities of alkaline phosphatase and alanine aminotransferase and high concentrations of glucose, and also a marked hypoaminoacidaemia. Despite these similarities, the cutaneous eruptions were associated with different underlying diseases. One dog had a pancreatic carcinoma which had metastasised widely; the primary tumour and the metastases showed glucagon immunoreactivity on immunocytochemical staining, and the dog's plasma glucagon concentration was markedly greater than that of control dogs. The other dog had diffuse hepatic disease; its plasma glucagon concentration was similar to that of control samples and cirrhosis was identified post mortem. Metabolic epidermal necrosis in dogs is a distinct cutaneous reaction pattern which may be associated with different underlying systemic diseases; however, the pathogenesis of the skin lesions remains unclear.