Symptoms, Causes and Treatment for Hair Loss in Dogs
Is your dog constantly itchy? Does it have bald patches or smelly skin? In this article we help you to understand everything you need to know about dog hair loss and its potential symptoms and causes, how to prevent your dog from losing its hair and dog hair loss treatment options.
Your dog’s skin is the largest organ of its body. The skin and hair together is described as a dog’s coat. They say that the coat is the mirror of a dogs health, and it is true that you can often see by the condition of a dog’s coat if it is starting to have health issues, is potentially lacking in nutrition or has a parasite infection.
Dog hair loss can be caused by many different factors and there are a number of different dog hair loss treatments. Dog hair loss can give a dog owner a first indication of something being wrong with their dog. If the dog’s hair is looking dull or a large amount of hair is being lost (more than the normal loss from a winter to summer coat), you should start acting and get your dog’s health checked out as dog hair loss treatment options are widely available.
If your dog’s coat is nice and shiny and no hair loss or bald patches are present, it is a good indication that your dog is healthy and is getting the right amount of nutrition from its daily food.
Other symptoms accompanying hair loss
You may notice one or more of these symptoms developing, either along with, or before dog hair loss begins:
- Itchy skin – lots of constant scratching
- Red skin patches
- Smelly skin – caused by a yeast infection
- Dandruff – white dry, flaky skin
- Constant licking of a skin patch to ease the itch
- Biting and nipping of skin parts to ease the discomfort
What can cause dog hair loss?
Dog hair loss and bald patches on dogs can be caused by many factors, including:
- Change of season
- Parasites like ticks and mites
- Skin fungus
- Food Allergies
- Environmental Allergies
- Poor nutrition
- Medical Conditions & Genetics
In the following section we will examine each of these factors and their potential contribution to hair loss in dogs.
1) Change of season
Heavy dog hair loss isn’t always caused by sickness, lack of nutrition or allergies…it can simply be caused by your dog’s change of coat for the new season. Dog hair loss will occur in most shedding dogs as part of their normal seasonal change in spring and autumn. During spring dogs lose most of their winter coats. Hair loss in dogs gets activated through hormonal changes and rising temperatures when moving from winter to spring, as the dog’s body prepares itself to cope with warmer summer weather.
To help your dog transition to its new season’s coat, daily brushing is recommended.
Ticks, mites, fleas, lice, ticks and worms are all parasites that can cause dog hair loss. All these parasites cause discomfort for your dog and if not treated, can cause your dog to lose hair. If you think your dog has any of these parasites, consult your vet to find the right treatment.
Ticks are probably the most dangerous of all parasites, especially the deadly Paralysis Tick.
Ticks are best removed using special tick tweezers. If the tick is not removed, the dog will scratch it until it gets rid of the tick. During this process the dog can get a bald patch from all the scratching, which can also easily get infected. The scratching can cause hair loss and parts of the tick’s body may still be stuck in the dog’s skin.
Mites are most commonly found in warm, moist areas on your dog’s body such as its ears or armpits. Mites can cause massive discomfort for your dog and even if they don’t transmit any diseases, can still make your dog extremely itchy. Your dog will scratch until the skin opens, which can then cause infections if not treated. A vet visit is recommended, as a course of antibiotics might be required, along with an anti-mite treatment to get rid of these annoying little parasites.
Fleas are more common in warmer months and can be caught from other dogs or dormant flea eggs on rugs and bedding. Your dog will be very itchy and will often try to scratch or bite itself to provide relief. All the scratching and biting can cause the dog to lose hair and can lead to bald patches if not treated.
To prevent fleas, make sure you regularly use either preventative flea and tick treatments like Nexgard/Bravecto or spot on treatments like Advantix. They will stop your dog from getting fleas. There are also natural products on the market like amber collars and cedar oil sprays that offer an alternative to the chemical tablets and spot on treatments.
Once your dog has fleas, anti-flea shampoos or sprays can help to get rid of them, as well as commonly used tablets like Capstar that kill the fleas on the dog. Once infection has occurred, it is important to break the flea cycle, as fleas typically lay eggs in carpets, dog beds and other places in your home, and can lie dormant for months waiting for a host.
Did you know? Fleas can jump from dogs to humans! Even more reason to prevent them on your pets.
Lice not only cause the skin to itch but can also cause skin allergies, which may then lead to dog hair loss. This little parasite can cause immense discomfort for your dog and because of the constant scratching, your dog can lose hair and its skin can get infected. There are various products on the market to prevent lice infesting your dog, for example:
Before using any of the recommended products, please consult your vet.
Don’t just de-lice your dog, make sure you also disinfect and de-lice your dog’s bedding, blankets, carpets, soft toys and the furnitures it lies on.
Worms can cause hair loss in dogs by interfering with the dog’s ability to process nutrients. Worms live inside the dog and can be transmitted from dog to dog through sniffing or licking each other’s rear ends. Dogs who have worms typically show signs of being tired and are quicker to fatigue; therefore regular de-worming can not only prevent dog hair loss but also result in a happier, healthier dog.
Worms are highly contagious, so it is of upmost importance to regularly de-worm your dog.
Learn more about different types of worms in dogs:
3) Skin Fungus
Sudden hair loss in dogs can be a sign of a fungal infection. There are two common types, the first being a yeast infection caused by the candida fungus. If your dog has low immunity due to a recent cold or malnutrition, it will be more prone to getting a yeast infection. Yeast infections are highly contagious, and must be treated by a vet.
The other common type of fungal infection is ringworm, which is caused by the dermatophyte fungus. Don’t get confused by the name, the ringworm infection is only called that because of its appearance. Disinfecting dog beds and dog toys are a must to reduce the spread or reinfection of the dog.
Sudden dog hair loss without any medical causes can be a symptom of stress. A move, change in life (such as separation from its humans) or even a second dog joining the family can cause your pet to feel more stress and can lead to hair loss in dogs. Scratching or paw/tail licking can be soothing for the dog. However, the constant licking or scratching to de-stress can cause bald patch on dogs in the areas where the dog licks and scratches. Pheromone sprays and collars like ADAPTIL can help the dog to become more relaxed. If you are worried your dog may be experiencing an unhealthy level of stress please ask your vet or dog behaviourist for advice.
5) Food allergies
If your dog is losing hair and scratching constantly and feeling uncomfortable in its own skin, it could be a sign of your dog having a food allergy. To determine if your dog has a food intolerance the vet will typically put your dog on exclusion diet. This can take up to eight weeks and involves putting your dog on a basic diet and then starting to slowly reintroduce other foods to the diet to determine what the dog is allergic to. It is important to be very strict during this time and not to add any treats or other food sources to the diet.
6) Environmental Allergies
Dogs can be allergic to things in the environment like grass, plants and dust just like humans are. These allergies can lead to dog hair loss as the dog is constantly scratching itself, wanting to jump out of its itchy skin.
Allergies these days are mostly treated with antihistamines and cortisone but there is also a new product on the market called Apoquel, which can be a life changer for dogs that have allergies year around. For more info about this product ask your vet or read more here: http://www.ava.com.au/node/72974
7) Hormone changes
When a dog goes through hormonal changes like pregnancy, lactation or puberty or after being spayed or neutered, their hormone levels change, which can lead to dog hair loss. Old age can also be a cause of dog hair loss, due to diminishing hormone levels. Hormonal causes of dog hair loss resolve themselves in most cases and do not require any intervention.
8) Poor nutrition
Poor nutrition or a diet of low nutritional value food can also be the cause of a dull coat and dog hair loss. Not all dry foods are going to be suitable for your dog. A large dog breed like a Great Dane will require different nutrition to a working dog like a Kelpie, for example. You can even find breed specific dog kibble which is developed to cater to your dog’s specific nutritional requirements.
Many dog owners choose to opt out of commercially designed dry food and cook for their dog, or may decide to change to a raw food diet. If you are thinking of going down either of these routes, in order to avoid malnutrition and potential dog hair loss, you should acquire some scientific nutritional know-how to ensure your dog won’t miss out on valuable vitamins and minerals.
There are also many dog hair loss home remedies around. A natural dog hair loss home remedy that many people use is to add apple cider vinegar to the dog’s water to boost hair growth, or a spoon of flaxseed oil into their food.
Pet owners are often recommended dog food supplements that contain extra vitamins, minerals and biotin to boost the dog’s coat. Natural product like Augustine approved A+ product can potentially help with itchy skin: http://www.augustineapproved.com.au/super_dog.php
9) Medical Conditions & Genetics
Bald patches on dogs or dog hair loss can also potentially be caused by a medical disease, so it is important to take your dog to the vet to determine if there is a medical cause and discuss the dog hair loss treatment options that are available.
Here is a summary of a number of common medical conditions which could cause your dog to lose hair or have bald patches:
Bald patches on dogs can caused by your dog’s thyroid not functioning properly, when it is unable to produce enough of the hormone thyroxine which the body requires. To treat this condition, medication can be prescribed which can help the dog’s body to produce more thyroxine through its thyroid.
Dog hair loss can also be caused by the production of too much cortisol by your dog’s adrenal glands. This disorder is called Cushing’s disease and can be treated by your vet.
Another disease which can cause dog hair loss is Atypical Cushing’s disease, which occurs when there are elevations in circulating levels of sex hormones from the adrenal glands without elevations in cortisol.
Addison’s Disease (hypoadrenocorticism)
Addison’s disease is the opposite of Cushing’s, where the adrenal glands produce fewer corticosteroid hormones than the dog’s body requires.
Alopecia X, also called Black Skin Disease, is caused by an imbalance of sex hormones. This leads to dog hair loss and the body’s inability to regrow the coat. This is coupled with the insufficient production of melatonin, which causes the skin to darken over time. This disease is not very common and can be treated through hormonal intake.
Some dogs have also a genetic predisposition to less hair growth in certain parts of their body, for example between their eyes, ears or even lower necks. There is no medical attention required for this condition, however your vet may recommend applying dog sunscreen during the summer months.
How can you prevent dog hair loss?
In summary, to prevent hair loss in your dog:
- Ensure you keep up with a schedule of regular preventatives like flea and tick treatments and de-worm your dog on a regular basis.
- Feed your dog high quality food that gives your dog enough nutrients and minerals. Avoid foods that have artificial flavours, sugar and other by-products.
- Prepare your dog for stressful situations that can’t be avoided or try not to expose your dog to stressful situations that they may lose hair over.
- Take your dog for annual health check-ups at the vet.
- Use natural dog shampoos and conditioners to prevent dry skin and irritations.
Overview of Causes, Symptoms and Treatment Recommendation
|Natural season coat change||Dog hair loss||Brushing to assist with new coat.|
|Tick||Itching one area to get rid of the tick||Tick tweezers to correctly remove tick or visit the vet to get the tick removed. Urgent action required.|
|Mites||Itching in ear, armpits||Vet prescribed medication|
|Fleas||Strong itching all over||Flea shampoo, monthly preventative, natural products like cedar oil.|
|Lice||Dandruff, itching||Vet visit and disinfect all dog items (bed, toys)|
|Worms||Dull coat – thinned out hair||De-worming tablets.|
|Skin Fungus||Yeast infection. Ringworm. Hair loss in circles and patches as well as smelly skin||Vet prescribed medication|
|Stress||Dog hair loss through dog licking or scratching to self sooth||Adaptil collar. Rescue remedy. Vet/ Behaviourist advice.|
|Food intolerance / Food allergies||Dog allergic to a food source like chicken or beef||Test through the vet.|
|Environmental allergies||Itchy skin, hair loss through scratching||Determine what the dog is allergic to by visiting a vet dermatologist.|
|Hormonal changes||Hair loss in patches due to old age, pregnancy, puberty or neutering||Brushing and waiting until hormonal levels are back to normal.|
|Nutritional insufficiency||Dull coat / hair loss / dandruff||Feed quality dry food and/or see a canine nutritionist.|
|Disease & Medical Conditions||Hair loss bald patch dogs in conjunction with other medical symptoms||Vet prescribed medication and treatment plan.|