Alopecia, also known as spot baldness, is a condition with abnormal hair loss areas on dogs, but it rarely appears without a hidden cause.
Excess hair loss is usually a symptom of a more severe health issue.
Some of these conditions are quite easy to manage (oils and the right diet may do the trick).
Others are more severe and will need specific treatment.
Thatís why itís crucial to identify the root of the problem. Of course, the final diagnosis should be made only by a veterinarian. Still, it would be helpful for you, as a dog parent, to understand the various causes of alopecia and the right treatment for each of them. Depending on the cause and the location of hair loss on your dog, there are different types of alopecia. It may be accompanied by itching or inflammation, though not always. The areas of hair loss may be round and focal, eaten-like and irregular, or even symmetrical.
Hair loss is not always a reason to worry and it doesnít always require treatment. But if you believe that your dog loses too much hair, itís better to be safe than sorry.
The first and the most important step for you is taking your pup to the veterinarian.
If you suspect that hair loss in your dog is excessive, it may be a good idea to keep an eye on them before an appointment, so that you have some information and observations to share with your veterinarian. It may help with a quicker diagnosis.
A veterinary specialist will perform a physical examination, a blood test, skin cultures, scrape for parasites, or order a biopsy, depending on what symptoms your dog shows.
Similarly to humans, hair loss may have various causes in dogs, but all of them can be divided into two groups: congenital (which means that a dog was born with a condition) or acquired (a condition appeared, a dog fell sick, lacks nutrients, contracted a disease, or got injured). Then, there are more groups based on the root of alopecia.
This condition actually is a hair loss without any underlying issues. Itís an autoimmune disease, generally without any inflammation, only bald spots, usually on the head and neck.
Some parasites may cause hair loss, while in other cases, it may be an allergic reaction to a specific one, or an infection. The most common parasites that cause alopecia in dogs are mites and fleas.
Diseases related to the endocrine system or hormone imbalances may lead to various health issues, and many of them result in excess hair loss. Here are a few examples:
Itís the increase in cortisol that may have been caused externally by corticosteroid therapy, or internally by the overproduction in the adrenal glands. It may be genetic proneness but also tumors, even tiny ones.Vetoryl is a prescribed treatment for Cushingís disease caused by pituitary-dependent and adrenocortical tumor-dependent hyperadrenocorticism.
Itís the condition when your dogís organism produces too little thyroid hormones, resulting in hair loss, among other symptoms. Usually, itís a genetic autoimmune condition that affects the thyroid gland, but it may sometimes be the sign of cancer.
Hair loss is not uncommon in dogs who suffer from allergies that irritate their skin, causing itching and inflammation. These include:
Very often, bacteria and fungi, such as ringworm, affect the hair follicles or the skin, which irritates the dog, causing itching and scratching.
Many people donít realize that dogs, just like humans, can suffer from mental health issues. Stress or trauma may cause them to excessively lick or bite themselves and it can lead to hair loss. Dogs can also struggle with a condition similar to peopleís anxiety or even OCD, making them scratch or chew and pull their own hair out.
Itís also possible for a dog to have pineal alopecia, isolated to the ear flaps when there is less and less hair until it disappears completely. Other dogs may be more susceptible to hair loss, and then, it may be enough if you groom them too often.
Some breeds are more prone to hair loss than others, and the veterinary world still doesnít entirely know why.
Predisposed breeds include:
Check if your dog has a predisposition to hair loss and for any breed-specific preventative measure you can take.
First and foremost consult your veterinarian before making any decisions. Your dogís hair loss could be a symptom of a more severe illness or require prescription medication.
Then, thereís dog food specially designed to keep your dogís skin and hair in good health, but you need to remember not to change their diet without consulting a veterinarian or a nutritionist first.
If your pooch happens to have a food allergy, you will definitely need to change their diet. Sometimes, it may be necessary to use internal or topical meds, but only if a veterinarian recommends it.
But it may also be just seasonal shedding; in this case, it will be enough for you to brush your dog regularly. It will not only allow you to keep them tidier but also to evenly distribute the oils that your dogís skin produces naturally. If you notice that their skin is generally too dry, you can invest in a humidifier that will benefit all members of your household. To keep your Fidoís skin moisturized, you can use olive oils (add them to their bath or massage directly into their skin), or apple cider vinegar and lemon juice that also have antifungal and antibacterial properties.
All dogs are different, even if they are of the same age and breed. Itís vital for a dog parent to know their Fido, and to be able to tell whenever thereís something wrong or simply out of place. Only then can your four-legged friend have everything they need to thrive and live a long and happy life.
Natalia is a content writer, linguist, bookworm, and animal lover. The proud owner (or the subject) of a Miniature Poodle and a British Shorthair. Co-writer at Pet Food Reviews.