Alopecia in Dogs

alopecia in dogs

Is Fido losing some fur? Don’t worry. Hair loss in dogs is more common than you think. There are several different causes of alopecia in dogs. If your dog is losing hair, it’s always best to take them to the vet as soon as possible. Keep reading for more insight into your dog’s alopecia.

Types of Dog Alopecia

There are several common patterns associated with canine alopecia. Common shedding doesn’t typically result in balding patches or overall thinning, so if your dog is losing a bit of hair, that doesn’t mean it is alopecia. However, be on the lookout for one of the following hair loss patterns that could be a sign something else is going on.

  • All over thinning in a certain area. Common areas for this include the belly, sides, ears and top of the head or back. In rare cases your dog may start losing hair uniformly all over the body.
  • Circular bald patches. This pattern can present anywhere. They may have just a few bald patches or they may have some all over.
  • Hair loss with skin problems. Many dogs get red, flaky or crusted skin along with hair loss. If your dog’s skin becomes infected, it may develop a bad smell or discharge.
  • Other symptoms with hair loss. Dogs may become lethargic or lose interest in their favorite activities depending on the cause of their hair loss.

Symptoms of Dog Hair Loss

The main symptom of hair loss in dogs is the loss of hair. But how can you tell the difference between regular shedding and problematic hair loss? Dogs typically lose a bit of hair throughout the year and the excess can be brushed off, but the coat usually remains full. If you can see skin, that’s too much hair loss. Also, if excess shedding takes place during a time of year that your dog doesn’t typically drop coat, there may be a problem. Other symptoms may include changes in behavior and problems with the skin under the coat.

Causes of Fur Loss in Dogs

Mange

Mange, also known as sarcoptic mange or demodectic mange, is a skin disease caused by mites. The name is determined by what type of mite infects the dog. The mites burrow under the skin. What causes hair loss in mange is actually the scratching caused by the intense itching. The mites are extremely contagious so if your dog gets it, make sure to keep them away from people and other animals until the condition is treated. Luckily, treatment of mange is very manageable. It consists of using medicated shampoos, oral treatments and medicated dips over a period of about six weeks.

Infection

A fungal or bacterial infection in dogs can cause hair loss. It may be a skin infection causing irritation that leads to excess scratching and thus, hair loss. However, it may also be in internal infection that causes hair loss. One extremely common type of infection that dogs get is ringworm. It’s not actually a worm, it is a fungus that causes flaky and crusty skin and hair loss. It is also very contagious between humans and other animals, so it’s important to treat it with antifungals as soon as you have the diagnosis.

Stress

When dogs get stressed they may exhibit strange behaviors. These include compulsive scratching and licking, leading to hair loss. Luckily, there are many avenues to treat stress in dogs. In extreme cases dogs can take similar anti-anxiety medications to humans, prescribed by a vet. Never give your pup your own meds because the dosages for people and animals are quite different. There are also natural treatments available like aromatherapy, herbal remedies and dog friendly calming music channels online.

Immune Disorder

In humans, alopecia is typically an immune disorder. This is known as alopecia areata. The immune system attacks the hair follicles and causes the hair to fall out. This can also happen in dogs. However, it’s not the only immune disorder that can cause hair loss. The same immune disorders found in humans can also occur in dogs. Lupus, skin disorders and other immune malfunctions can cause the hair to fall out. Additionally, dogs that have diabetes are also at risk for hair loss, since the disease can compromise the immune system as well. There are various treatments for all of these, and your veterinarian knows what will work best.

Allergies

Dogs get allergies to all sorts of things. They could be allergic to something in their dog food, to pollen or dust or to something else entirely. One common allergy for dogs is fleas. The flea bites cause redness and swelling, leading to itching and scratching, leading to hair loss. Allergies in dogs are treated with antihistamines and topical remedies. Unlike humans, most dog allergies manifest in the skin and fur, not in nasal congestion and sneezing, though that is also possible for your mutt.

Nutrition

Similar to humans, poor nutrition in dogs can lead to hair loss. Most dog foods on the market are a good start for a complete doggy diet, but some dogs may require canine vitamins with things like biotin in them for a healthy coat. Dogs with sensitivities to dog food may need a carefully curated diet of cooked human food to keep their coat looking amazing all the time. Even if your dog is healthy, giving them a bit of coconut oil to lick up every day can make their coat beautiful, even if they are already healthy.

Diagnosing Alopecia in Dogs

What do vets look for when diagnosing alopecia? They will check your dog all over to find all the areas of hair loss. When multiple areas of hair loss appear, the diagnosis of alopecia is more likely. They will check if the hair loss is symmetrical or random in appearance, and check if there are any skin problems accompanying the hair loss. They will ask you about any changes in the dog’s behavior and take all of this information into consideration when determining if your dog has anything more than normal hair loss and the cause of the hair loss.

Your dog’s fur is thick and shiny when it is healthy. A glossy coat means nutrition is good and nothing in the environment is bothering your dog. The first sign of a problem may be a change in the coat. If the fur goes from healthy and shiny to dry and fragile, you may be seeing the first signs of hair loss.

How to Treat Alopecia in Dogs

The treatment of dog alopecia depends on what is the cause. Typically only a vet can diagnose the cause of a health issue like hair loss in dogs. Treatments could range from antihistamines for allergies to topical antibiotics. Once you have ruled out a serious illness as the cause of hair loss, you may also want to experiment with natural remedies. There are veterinary naturopaths who can prescribe herbal treatments that can make a big difference when dealing with alopecia in dogs.

If your dog has hair loss, don’t panic. There are so many possible explanations. Diagnosing health problems in dogs can be frustrating because they can’t tell us what is wrong with them. The main thing to remember is that only a veterinarian can diagnose a health problem in your pup, so you should definitely take your dog to the vet when you notice hair loss. With their help, your dog can be back to looking beautiful and feeling great before you know it. Have you dealt with alopecia in your dog? Tell us your story in the comments below.

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