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Hair Loss in Dogs: Why it Happens + How to Treat it

 

Many dogs are susceptible to a number of skin conditions and diseases, including hair loss. When your dog's hair starts to thin or fall out, it can be alarming.

Loss of hairs in dogs is more common than you might think. It can be caused by a variety of factors, such as poor nutrition, underlying disease processes, or environmental factors like parasites or toxins.

There are many things that you can do at home to help treat hair loss in dogs. Here are some ways to stop your dog's hair from falling out today!

What is Alopecia in Dogs?

Alopecia is the medical term for hair loss. The word comes from the Greek terms "Alopex," which means fox, and "peke," which means baldness. Alopecia can affect any dog, but certain breeds are more prone to it than others.

Dogs with thick, double coats are most at risk of developing alopecia because the hair follicles are not as well-protected as those on dogs with thinner, single coats.

Symptoms of Hair Loss in Dogs

The symptoms of alopecia in dogs can vary. Dogs can lose hair at any age. It can happen to any breed, and in any body area. Generally, it is noticeable.

Some of the most common symptoms of alopecia are severe scratching, redness, and inflammation around the skin, scruffy coat, and visible bald patches.

Other symptoms are:

  • hair thinning or patchy hair loss

  • foul odor

  • flaky skin or dry skin

  • symmetrical hair loss

  • skin lesions

  • chewing, or licking at the infected skin

Causes of Hair Loss in Dogs

Hair loss in dogs is fairly common. It typically starts with small, round bald spots on various body parts. Some possible causes for dog hair loss include:

Shedding

The first thing to look at when your dog starts to lose hair is shedding. It's a normal part of life for dogs to shed, with most breeds shedding twice a year. Overall, this usually doesn't cause bald spots or any other issues.

However, if it sheds more hair than normal, then it could be caused by allergies, parasites, or skin conditions such as mange. It's important to see your vet if you notice your dog is shedding more than normal.

Hormone Changes

Hormones are one of the leading causes of hair loss. This is caused by a change or imbalance in the dog's normal hormone levels. Hormones control how much hair your dog will grow, how fast it will grow, and when it will shed.

When hormones are out of balance, your dog can lose its natural fur coat and be left with thinning hair or bald patches.

Allergies

The most prevalent cause of alopecia in dogs is allergic dermatitis. But allergic reactions aren't that straightforward. They come in numerous shapes and sizes, and their causes are hard to nail down.

The most common allergies in dogs are environmental allergies. Your dog may be allergic to parasites like fleas, ticks, and mites. Some dogs are allergic to dust mites, mold, or pollen

If your dog exhibits these signs, remove the allergens from its environment.

Skin Infections

Dogs can get skin infections that can lead to dogs losing hair. Some of the most common skin infections that cause dogs to start losing their hair are ringworm, mange, and bacterial infection.

A skin infection is more likely to affect a dog's back end than its head. This can also lead to skin cancer that causes hair loss.

Fleas or Mites

Fleas and mites are highly contagious, so any parasitic infestation on your dog may have spread to other pets.

If your dog is scratching excessively, give them a flea wash. Flea bites and mites can cause hair loss.

Check your dog's skin with a comb for small black speckling around the seams to see whether they have flea or mites.

Mange

Mange is a catch-all term for itchy skin infections caused by mites.  The most common type of mange mites in dogs is sarcoptic mange, and it can be transmitted to humans. Symptoms of mange mites include loss of hair, redness, and irritation.

Pressure Sores

Older or heavy dogs can be prone to pressure sores where their elbows or other bony parts of the body come in regular contact with hard surfaces.

Over time, the constant pressure tends to thicken the skin, the hair falls out, and calluses form.

Genetics

One of the most common causes of alopecia in dogs is genetics. This can be a problem because it cannot be cured, and there may not be a way to reverse the effects.

Some breeds are genetically predisposed to developing bald spots. This hereditary condition is mostly harmless, and most dog parents just live with it rather than treat it.

Treatment of Hair Loss in Dogs

Here are a few things you can do to help your pup if you have noticed hair loss.

Shampoos for Irritated Skin

Some shampoos can irritate your dog's skin and may even lead to hair loss. These shampoos contain harsh chemicals and fragrances that can cause redness, irritation, and inflammation. Medicated shampoos can treat a number of infections, especially mange.

If you're noticing that your dog's skin is irritated or inflamed but their coat still looks clean, it could be a sign of excessive shampoo use.

Food Supplements

Diet is a major component in your dog's hair loss and a bad diet might cause hair loss in your dog. Examine your dog's diet and consider adding a supplement like omega-3 fatty acids. Omega-3 fatty acids promote healthy skin and hair.

If your dog is lacking omega-3, they will start shedding more often when they should be growing their coat back in.

Fish oil, Vitamin A, and Vitamin E can relieve infections, dry skin, and keep fur lustrous and healthy.

Allergy Test Food Trials

A food trial is required to diagnose food allergies. Feed your dog a new type of dog food for two weeks, then move to another new type for two weeks.

If the hair loss persists, try a different diet and repeat the process. Keep going until you find a food that does not cause your dog to experience hair loss.

What to Do if Your Dog Has Hair Loss

A dog that is losing hair needs to visit the vet immediately. You need to get a full picture of your dog's health. A veterinarian will be able to determine what is causing your dog to lose hair with an accurate diagnosis and direct you on how to remedy the problem. They will likely recommend that you take special care of the skin underneath your dog's fur.

Follow up with a visit to the vet once a month for a year or so after treatment is completed.

When to See a Vet About Bald Spots

A vet should be consulted concerning bald areas to learn the underlying cause. Some breeds have a hereditary predisposition to balding.

An underlying illness such as cancer may cause sudden, fast, or localized loss of hair. If the hair loss is gradual and you can't identify the cause, consult your vet. You should always follow your veterinarian's instructions.