What’s Causing the Dog Hair Loss?
Seeing a dog lose his or her hair (called Alopecia) can be disconcerting to witness. However, what’s most important when dealing with alopecia, as it is referred to medically, is identifying the underlying cause of the hair loss in order to devise an appropriate treatment plan. Here are five common culprits of hair loss in dogs that should be discussed with your veterinarian.
Allergies are a frequent cause of hair loss in dogs. This may be due to environmental triggers such as pollen, molds and dust mites, or due to parasitic triggers like fleas or mites. Food allergies are another possible cause of hair loss. Typical symptoms of an adverse allergic reaction include itchiness resulting in excess scratching, biting, and, of course, hair loss. In the case of flea allergies, it is recommended that dogs take flea preventatives as a way to minimize threats of a full-blown flea infestation.
2. Infection or Infestation
An infestation with parasites such as fleas, ticks, and mites (scabies, mange) is another source of canine alopecia. Along with hair loss around the ears, eyes, abdomen, and chest, signs your dog may have mites or fleas/ticks include inflammation, itching and redness of the skin. Bacterial or fungal infections, such as in the case of ringworm (which is actually a fungus), can also be attributed to hair loss in dogs. Symptoms of ringworm include circular or irregular hair loss, inflammation, and infected crusts.
3. Cushing’s Disease
Hyperadrenocorticism, also known as Cushing’s disease, is a condition caused by the prolonged exposure of the body’s tissue to excessive levels of the hormone cortisol. Symptoms of Cushing’s disease include hair loss, darkening of the skin, and the development of a pot-bellied abdomen. Cushing’s disease commonly occurs in middle-aged to senior dogs, though it can also affect dogs that overuse corticosteroid drugs.
4. Hypothyroidism can also cause Hair loss in dogs.
The thyroid gland is an essential gland in the body, producing a number of hormones, including T3 (liothyronine) and T4 (levothyroxine), both of which are required for normal metabolism in the body.
Hypothyroidism is a clinical condition resulting from a lowered production and release of T4 and T3 hormones by the thyroid gland. It is common in medium to large-sized dogs, with some being more predisposed than others. These breeds include Doberman pinschers, Irish setters, golden retrievers, great Danes, old English sheepdogs, dachshunds, miniature schnauzers, boxers, poodles, and cocker spaniels. It is also more commonly diagnosed in middle-aged dogs between the ages of 4-10 years. Neutered male dogs and spayed females are found to be at higher risk than intact dogs.
There are some breeds of dog that are more genetically prone to baldness than others. First there are the hairless dogs that have been bred for the attribute such as the Chinese Crested, Mexican Hairless (Xolo), and American Hairless Terrier. Other dog breeds, such as the Doberman Pinscher, Dachshund, Chihuahua, Italian Greyhound and Whippet, sometimes suffer from patchy or pattern baldness on the outer ear, chest, back, thigh, or lower neck.
6. Pressure Sores
Pressure sores, also called bedsores or decubital ulcers, are localized injuries where the dog’s elbows or other bony pressure points (hips, hocks, etc.) come into contact with hard surfaces regularly. This constant pressure and friction causes the skin to form callus, lose hair and sometimes crack and bleed. Pressure sores are more common in older dogs, especially large or heavy breeds.