Balding in Dogs: 5 Common Causes of Hair Loss in Dogs
Hair loss in your pup is certainly something that would make you worry. A bit of fur should not be bothersome but when there are literally clumps of hair all over the house, it is certainly a cause for concern. However, before you start making emergency calls to your vet, you might want to know a little bit about hair loss in dogs.
Is Hair Loss That Common With Dogs?
The fact is, some breeds are more likely to shed than others. Knowing which is which will help you in deciding which pup to adopt (if you do not have a dog yet) or whether you should worry too much about hair loss (if you already have a pooch at home). For some people who do not want to keep cleaning up dog hair or are sensitive to such, doing their research is the best step.
If you are worried about a bit of hair fall, then you should first and foremost research or ask your vet if shedding is normal for your dog’s breed. For example, if you have a Labrador retriever who has some hair loss without any alopecia or instances of baldness and bare spots, then you should not panic. Some breeds have cycles of hair loss, about once or twice a year. This is a natural phenomenon and you do not have to do anything about it.
When Hair Loss Is Not Normal
While shedding can be considered a natural process, bald spots on parts of your pup’s body are not normal at all. This is a sign of baldness (alopecia) and it is definitely a cause of concern for their humans. You will definitely want to observe your pooch and even consult a vet if you are convinced that there is an underlying cause.
If you notice hair loss or thinning on the trunk or around the eyes, then it can be troubling. First and foremost, however, you should note all the symptoms you observe. Specifically, whether the hair loss causes itching or not. You might want to watch out for any scratching, chewing, rubbing, licking, biting, rolling, or similar signs that tell you that your dog is experiencing itchy hair loss. On the other hand, there are cases when the pup is losing hair but seems to not even notice it or it is non-itchy.
You might also observe some other symptoms like skin redness, scaling or crusting of the affected skin, inflammation, skin lesions, and bald patches or thinning.
5 Most Common Causes Of Dog Hair Loss
Allergies are one of the most common causes for alopecia (hair loss), and this can be triggered by environmental factors like pollen, mold or dust mites. Parasites like fleas and mites, as well as food allergies, may also lead to shedding in dogs. Identifying an allergic reaction is possible, simply by watching out for these different symptoms. Aside from the hair loss, your pup might be exhibiting excessive scratching and biting due to itchiness.
Steps to protect your pooch from parasites like flea and mites should be taken so that a full-blown infestation is avoided. Thus, a severe allergic reaction is also prevented. There are steps to avoid flea and mite infestation. If you notice your dog has mange, especially in the tail area, then it is a result of a mite infestation. You will notice your pet also chewing the affected area because it is very itchy.
There are 2 types of mange, the first being sarcoptic mange. It is caused by a specific kind of mite and leads to a really bad case of itchy skin irritation. Plus, it can spread to the whole body so a visit to the vet should be organized as quickly as possible. With a microscopic exam or some skin scraping, the vet can make a diagnosis and use a chemical dip in order to kill the parasites.
The second type is demodectic mange, which is common with dogs that have weak immune symptoms. In these cases, the dog will have some scabs and sores on its skin. Puppies may, however, recover without a visit to the vet but older pooches will need some professional treatment.
2. Pressure Sores
Another possible cause of hair loss is pressure sores, which is also called bedsores or decubital ulcers. It is, in reality, a localized injury. The main cause of pressure sores is the regular contact with hard surfaces, especially in pressure points of the body like elbows, hips, and hocks. The friction causes the skin to crack, bleed, and become callous. It also leads to hair loss.
Big and heavy dog breeds, especially those in their advanced ages, are more likely to experience these sores. If the vet determines this as the cause of your pup’s alopecia, then he will prescribe a moisturizer to use on the skin when it cracks or bleeds, or when it becomes infected.
As stated above, genes determine how much your dog sheds. Some breeds are pre-disposed to alopecia, this is why some have been bred to become hairless dogs. Some of these breeds without hair include Chinese Crested Terrier, American Hairless Terrier, and Mexican Hairless or Xolo.
Still, some hairy dogs also have cases of patchy or pattern baldness in various parts of the body like the chest, thigh, back, lower neck or outer ear. This is commonly observed in Chihuahuas, Doberman Pinschers, Italian Greyhounds, Whippets, and Dachshunds.
Humans of these breeds should first try to observe some other symptoms that might pinpoint to other causes of hair loss before consulting their vet. If there are no other signs, then it might all be down to their normal shedding.
4. Cushing’s Disease
This disease is also called hyperadrenocorticism. This condition develops when the pup’s body tissues were exposed to high levels of cortisol for extended periods of time. Beyond hair loss, there are other symptoms that can be observed in pooches who have Cushing’s disease. Some of these include skin darkening and your pooch developing a pot-bellied abdomen. Pets who have been prescribed a lot of corticosteroid drugs are prone to this disease, but it has been observed in older or senior dogs as well.
These other symptoms will also help you identify your dog as suffering from Cushing’s disease.
- Being restless or irritable
- Gaining weight in the abdominal area, especially when your pup is no longer eating as many calories
- Skin changing in color from pink to gray or black
- Skin thinning out or hair loss
- Panting more often
- Being more thirsty and peeing more often, which also leads to incontinence.
The 5th most common reason for dog hair loss is an infection or infestation. It can be the same as the first, wherein fleas or mites lead to hair loss around the eyes, ears, or the chest. A tick infestation can also lead to the same symptoms.
Beyond these parasite infestations, a fungal or bacterial infection may cause alopecia. For example, ringworm can be behind hair loss but it will also manifest in inflammation and infected crusts in the skin. The vet will need to do tests to determine what kind of infestation or infection is behind the shedding, so hair samples or even a skin biopsy might be conducted. In some cases, once diagnosed and treatment is being done, your pup might also need a cone-shaped collar to prevent biting or licking of the infected areas.
Other Causes Of Alopecia
Causes of hair loss in dogs are not restricted to the 5 listed above, but they are the most common reasons. In order to help the vet diagnose properly, it is best to take note of other symptoms or behavioral changes your pup demonstrates.
Treating Hair Loss In Dogs
Because of the various reasons that may be behind your dog’s hair loss, there is no one-size-fits-all treatment. The vet needs to first identify the cause and then prescribe a treatment to treat the shedding. However, here are the most common treatment approaches to alopecia.
- Hydrocortisone Shampoos and Sprays
Such products are helpful in the fast recovery of hair loss and irritation. Plus, it can calm and soothe itchy skin and reduce your pup’s licking of the affected area. Make sure, however, that you only use products that are specifically designed for canines.
- Hormone Treatment
Some cases of hair loss can be due to hormonal imbalance. Thus, giving it supplements may stop shedding and even help the hair to grow back. It is necessary for the doctor to ensure that there is a hormonal imbalance before undergoing such treatment.
- Change In Diet
In cases when allergies are behind the hair loss, a change in your pup’s diet is most helpful. The vet will first need to identify which food items your pooch is allergic to so that you know what to cut out of its diet.
Hair loss due to infection can be treated by a round of antibiotics. This should only be done at the advice of the vet, once an illness has been diagnosed.
Any unusual shedding can be a cause of concern for a dog owner. While many different conditions can explain this, professional diagnosis and treatment are necessary to prevent it from worsening and to also support the regrowth of your pup’s hair.