Common Causes of Hair Loss in Dogs

Common Causes of Hair Loss in Dogs

Having a pupper in your household is immensely rewarding but it’s hard work as well. No dog parent covets cleaning after their dog, especially vacuuming up those pesky dog hair from dog beds, carpets etc. They can get anywhere, from getting lodged stubbornly among carpet fibres, to clogging up the drain.

But there comes a time when every dog parent asks, “What causes hair loss in my dog?”

It’s perfectly normal!

All dogs go through an entirely natural process called ‘shedding’ throughout their lifetime where they lose old, damaged, and extra hair from their undercoat. It depends on a number of factors, from dog’s breed and age to the ongoing season. German shepherds, Siberian huskies, Labrador retrievers, Newfoundlands, Golden retrievers, Akitas, Chow chows, and Saint Bernards are some of the most copious shedders.

But it is normal only as long as your doggy is shedding hair uniformly from all over their body. When hair starts falling in clumps and forming bald patches on your dog’s coat, then you may have a cause for concern.

This condition is called alopecia (or excessive hair loss) which may be triggered by different reasons, ranging from allergic reactions to underlying health issues. There can be many symptoms to warn you about this condition. You may observe thinning hair all over your pet’s body or around particular parts, like the nose and mouth.

Your doggy may start scratching itself a lot and may draw blood because of it. Red, inflamed skin or dry, scaly skin may accompany bald patches on your poor baby’s coat.

“What are the causes for bald spots on my dog?”

See, every dog is different and unique. Thus, the causes of bald spots on one dog may be something which may not be applicable to another doggo. Reasons differ according to age, breed, health conditions, dietary habits, and a variety of other factors.

Here are some common causes of bald spots in your dog:

  • Allergies

Prolonged itchiness combined with rapid hair loss? It is a sure sign that your poor pupper is allergic to something around them. Maybe it’s an ingredient in their food, a recent medicine, or a part of the environment around them (like pollen or dust mites). Fleas can also trigger allergic reactions in dogs which can be aggravated by direct contact. This is known as flea allergy dermatitis (FAD), a common skin infection among dogs.

  • Parasites

Your four-legged friend is prone to a score of parasitic infections, brought on by mites, lice, ticks, fleas, and mosquitoes. No need to wait for a serious allergy; the mere presence of these parasites can result in vigorous scratching which contributes to inflammation and hair loss. It is most commonly seen around their eyes, ears, chest, and stomach. These types of parasitic infections develop because of overcrowded and unsanitary habitation, contact with infected dogs, and unclean grooming instruments.

  • Infections

Just like you, your canine baby is also susceptible to bacterial and fungal infections. They can usually appear as mange mites or ringworms (characterized by circular and irregular hair loss). They may be caused by an allergy, a pre-existing skin condition, cuts, wounds, or bites from other infected animals. The result is usually visible in your dog’s itchy and flaky skin, and tufts of falling hair. 

  • Conditions and Diseases

The hair loss in your dog may indicate a serious underlying health issue, like cancer, immune disorders, hypothyroidism or Cushing’s disease.

Hypothyroidism is a condition where your dog’s thyroid gland inflames or shrinks, due to which a dog may start shedding excessively. Their coat may lose its shine and it can also cause bald spots on the dog. Additionally, the dog may gain or lose too much weight and start experiencing chills and shivers. Middle-aged dogs are more likely to fall victim to hypothyroidism.

Cushing’s Disease is another common condition among dogs, caused by the overgeneration of a hormone called cortisol. The symptoms of this syndrome include overeating, overdrinking, increased urinating, and a pot-bellied appearance.

  • Stress and Trauma

Your four-legged friend may be losing hair as a response to skin irritants such as sunburn, contact with harmful chemicals, or maybe too much licking by themselves! Or a change in their lifestyle, anxiety or serious trauma may also be behind your pet losing their hair. These reactions usually occur with other responses like fever, vomiting, rashes, or lack of appetite. In serious cases, do not hesitate to contact your veterinarian immediately.

  • Pregnancy

It could be good news! Hair loss usually occurs in pregnant or nursing dogs due to hormonal changes. Once the nursing period is over and the hormones revert to pre-pregnancy levels, your dog’s hair will return to normal as well.

  • Pressure Sores

Just like bedsores in old and bed-ridden humans, aged dogs can develop pressure sores, as a result of lying on the same spot for a long period of time. These sores usually occur on a dog’s belly, hips, joints, and elbows. Hair loss usually accompanies these wounds, in addition to ulcers, calluses, and irritated skin. With no definite cure, the only thing you can do for a senior dog is to keep it mobile and its bedding clean and comfortable.

  • Surgery or Therapy

If your dog is recovering from a surgical operation during which their hair were shaved or removed, they may grow back in patches and spots. This condition is known as post-grooming alopecia. Similarly, dogs undergoing chemotherapy may lose their hair during the procedure, but they eventually grow back.

Diagnosis of Hair Loss in Dogs

As a dog parent, the symptoms and causes listed above may seem alarming and worrisome to you. As hair loss may be a symptom of anything– innocuous or malevolent, it is advisable to consult the veterinarian to get a thorough diagnosis and suitable treatment as soon as possible.

Here are some of the common diagnostic tests conducted by vets to locate the cause of hair loss in dogs:

  • Personal details

Every veterinarian knows that the key to a pet’s well-being lies in their medical history, surroundings, diet, past treatments, and various other tidbits. So while visiting the vet, be prepared to answer questions about your dog’s lifestyle, habits, food, and everything in between.

  • Pattern of hair loss

How the dog loses their hair says a lot about the cause behind it. Generalized hair loss points towards mange infection. Hair falling near hindquarters and tail point towards flea allergy. Symmetrical hair loss is generally associated with endocrine disorders.

  • Blood profile

Blood tests are a common method for vets to diagnose many immune system conditions in dogs, including hypothyroidism, Cushing’s disease, diabetes, and hormone imbalance. Vets can also determine health and function of a particular organ through these tests.

  • Skin Tests

These tests will be able to find out if allergy in your dog stems from their food or environmental factors around them. These tests can include scrapings (to check for mange), impression smears (pressing microscopic slide on the skin to check for bacteria and yeast infection), and luminescence (using ultraviolet light to spot ringworms).

  • Food Trials

The vet may administer certain food trials, to check for allergies and nutritional deficiency in your pet.

  • Cultures

These are the common method to check for bacterial and fungal infections as these microbes are invisible to the naked eye.

  • Fecal Exam

Parasitic infections can be diagnosed by examining the feces of a dog.

  • Biopsy

In case of severe symptoms, the vet may test for autoimmune diseases and cancer by sending a piece of your dog’s tissue to the laboratory.

Treatment for Hair Loss in Dogs

Your dog’s hair are intrinsically linked to your dog’s health. Unfortunately, there is no quick fixes to hair loss; in most cases, it requires a long, patient process for your pet’s mane to return to its glory. If your puppy is experiencing any of the discomforts listed above, here are some possible treatments for their well-being. Consult your vet for appropriate treatment that agrees with your pet’s health.

  • Medications

Ringworms can only be treated with topical or oral antifungal medications. Antibiotic medication is required for bacterial infection, brought on by an injury, irritant, or mange mites. For other skin infections, steroids, anti-parasiticides, and anti-inflammatory medications may be used at the veterinarian’s discretion.

Switch to a high-protein diet rich in vitamins and minerals for a lush and healthy coat of hair. Dehydration can lead to increased hair loss, so make sure your doggo drinks enough fresh water. If your dog is allergic to specific foods, providing them with hypoallergenic diets can make sure they are not devoid of necessary nutrients.

  • Medicated Shampoos

Using medicated and moisturizing shampoos on your dog’s coat can help wonders for it. Make sure not to bathe your dog too often to avoid dry and irritated skin.

Regularly brush your dog’s coat and check for parasites, especially after coming back from an excursion. Moreover, keep your dogs on monthly flea preventatives to protect them from flea allergies and infections.

  • Immunotherapy

Immunotherapy is an effective treatment for dogs suffering from allergies or endocrine conditions such as Hypothyroidism. It involves giving small doses of allergens to the dog’s system until the allergic reaction is overcome.

  • Surgery

For removing cancer or tumor, surgery may be required. This treatment for hair loss in case of Cushing’s syndrome or cancer can prove effective for your dog.

Excessive hair loss among dogs can be a warning bell for any problem, from parasites, and allergies to a serious medical disease. Do not ignore these concerning signs and consult a veterinarian about your fur baby’s health.

Remember, treatment for hair loss in your dog is not enough. Knowing the cause, actively try to prevent your dog from falling prey to it. A nutritious diet, effective flea control, and regular checkups will go a long way in maintaining your canine friend’s fur.

After all, a healthy dog is a happy dog.

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