Loss Of Fur In Dogs – What Causes Dogs To Lose Their Hair?

By Michael Tarran

December 24, 2021

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It's natural and healthy for your dog to shed a little hair now and then. With certain breeds, vacuuming will be a continual effort. However, if your dog is losing a lot more fur than usual, it might be a sign of a serious underlying health problem.

Seeing their fur baby lose its fur can be unsettling for most dog parents.

However, the most crucial aspect of dealing with alopecia, as it is medically known, is determining the underlying reason for the fur loss in order to develop a suitable treatment strategy.

If you've ever been puzzled why your pup's fur is falling out, this article is for you. Today, we'll look at the most prevalent reasons for the loss of fur in dogs and provide some treatments as well.

Let’s get started!

Hair Loss In Dogs: What Exactly Is Furr Loss?

hair loss in dogs

Alopecia - or hair loss - is a rather frequent disease in dogs and can be caused by a range of problems, including skin infections, allergies, and endocrine abnormalities. 

It is common in particular dog breeds and affects certain regions of the body in a form of bald patches, including the head, outer ear, chest, abdomen, and thighs.

I mean, just look at hairless dogs - the Mexican Hairless, Chinese Crested, and the American Hairless Terrier!

Bald patches can occur in dogs of any age or breed - and the underlying reason can range from minor to severe. So, it's critical to report fur loss to a vet as quickly as possible.

Types Of Alopecia

There are several types of hereditary alopecia - however, the most frequent types of focused, non-inflammatory alopecia include: 

  1. Pinnal alopecia 
  2. Pattern baldness 
  3. Post-clipping alopecia
  4. Post-injection alopecia (typically after rabies vaccination) 
  5. Color dilution alopecia
  6. Alopecia areata

What Are The Symptoms Of Alopecia?

One thing dog parents need to realize is that symptoms vary and not all dogs develop bald spots for the same reason. A dog losing hair may show the following signs and symptoms:

  • Hair thinning on the whole
  • Loss of hair around the eyes and lips
  • Complete fur loss in patches
  • Losing hair in the same spot on both sides of the body (symmetrical hair loss)
  • Itching
  • Bad odor
  • Irritated skin
  • Dark grey or black spots due to fur loss
  • Dry, scaly skin surrounding the bald spots
  • Thickened skin
  • Skin that is red and irritated around the region of fur loss
  • Moisture or bleeding of the bald spots (due to secondary infections)

Depending on the underlying cause, other symptoms may be present, as well.

The Causes Of Fur Loss

Pet parents, here's the deal:

Alopecia in dogs can have many different symptoms - besides hair loss - and just as many underlying illnesses, infections, and conditions. Sometimes the cause is as simple as pressure sores for laying on hard surfaces - but other times, it's something much more serious.

Mange

Pet parents, here's the deal:   Alopecia in dogs can have many different symptoms - besides hair loss - and just as many underlying illnesses, infections, and conditions. Sometimes the cause is as simple as pressure sores for laying on hard surfaces - but other times, it's something much more serious.   Mange

Mange - caused by the Demodex mite - is a common cause of patchy fur loss in dogs.

These small critters live on the skin of most dogs - but a weakened immune system caused by stress or an inflammatory illness can allow the mites to spread unchecked, irritating the skin and causing sores. If left untreated, the skin can harden to the point of being stone-like.

Mange can be treated - but while you might've heard that motor oil will cure it, it's poisonous, and is not advised as a therapy for mange in dogs.

Cushing’s Disease

Cushing's disease - a disorder in which the body overproduces steroid hormones - can also affect your dog's coat, causing it to lose hair.

Worms Or Bacteria

Dogs, like humans, can get bacterial or fungal diseases on their skin.

Bacterial skin infections are commonly caused by damaged skin from a scratch or flea bites and can result in discomfort and hair loss.

Pyoderma is the medical word for a bacterial skin infection that causes redness and pus production. Depending on the state of the infected skin, pyoderma can be treated with antibiotic ointment or oral medicine.

Candida infections, often known as yeast infections, arise when the yeast that's constantly present on a dog's skin overgrows. Skin inflammation, open sores, and hair loss are all symptoms of a candida infection on the skin. Antifungal creams or oral medicines can be used to treat Candida skin infections.

Ringworm, also known as tinea, is a fungal condition that creates circular areas of dry skin and broken hairs. This illness may affect dogs, cats, and humans - yep, we can all get it - and can be treated with antifungal creams or oral medicine.

Allergies

According to veterinarians, allergies cause more than 70% of skin disorders in dogs - including hair loss. Flea bites, food allergies, and environmental allergies, such as pollen and mold, are all frequent allergens that affect skin health.

Allergies are generally hereditary - and determining the reason can be difficult.

Some of the allergy symptoms are:

  • Itchy skin
  • Hot patches
  • Patchy fur loss
  • Persistent ear irritation
  • Gastrointestinal difficulties
  • Chronic diarrhea or gas 
  • Watery eyes

If your dog's exhibiting these symptoms, see your veterinarian about allergy testing - or get an at-home test kit.

Read More: Dog Allergic Reaction - How To Tell If Your Dog Is Allergic To Something?

Mites And/Or Fleas

The itching produced by fleas and mites can induce hair loss for a variety of reasons. Dogs can claw themselves raw, tearing off hair and creating bald areas on their skin.

Scratching on a regular basis can create skin abrasion, which leads to bacterial and fungal infections - and more hair loss.

Some dogs are sensitive to fleas or mites, which could cause further skin irritation. Fleas and mange mites are both very dangerous and can spread to other pets - and even people - in your home, so see your veterinarian if you believe your dog has fleas or mites.

Seasonal Shedding

Sometimes what appears to be severe canine fur loss is really typical shedding. Dogs shed year-round as their individual hairs grow old or damaged, or when the temperature warms up.

Huskies and Labradors, for example, have thick winter undercoats that they shed in the springtime. If you reside in a moderate climate, though, seasonal shedding is frequently decreased.

Other Underlying Medical Conditions

If a dog is losing hair all over its body, the problem might be beneath the hood. The skin is the body's biggest organ, and it requires massive amounts of nutrients to keep healthy. 

If your four-legged friend has a medical ailment, their hair and fur are generally the first to suffer since the body will redirect resources away from the skin and toward the interior organs that require assistance.

Hypothyroidism, adrenal gland diseases, and growth hormone abnormalities are some examples of hormonal illnesses that can cause a dog to lose hair. Due to a drop in testosterone, some dogs might experience fur loss after being neutered.

Undiagnosed dog hair loss can also be caused by liver illness, renal disease, or cancer. 

Read More: Dogs With Atopic Dermatitis – What Does It Mean?

Can Fur Loss In Dogs Be Hereditary?

Yes - and some breeds are more prone to fur loss than others. Greyhounds, Whippets, Chihuahuas, Dachshunds, and Italian Greyhounds are all prone to losing fur on the outside of their ears, chest, abdomen, thighs, and lower neck.

The majority of hereditary disorders causing fur loss in dogs are discovered at birth or shortly after, and can affect either the hair follicles or the hair shaft. 

The Diagnosis For Fur Loss 

There's a range of therapies for dog hair loss available; which one your dog will get depends on their diagnosis. 

Here are the possible treatments for different causes of bald spots:

  • Bacterial infections are treated with antibiotics - oral or topical.
  • Yeast and ringworm infections are treated with antifungals - oral or topical.
  • Some skin problems require the use of steroids.
  • Controlling environmental allergies (atopy) requires the use of immunosuppressive or anti-cytokine drugs.
  • Immunotherapy, either orally or by injection, might be required for allergy desensitization.
  • Mange can be treated using medicated shampoos or dips.
  • Nervous chewing or licking can be treated with behavioral therapy.
  • Hair loss caused by food allergies is frequently resolved by following a hypoallergenic diet. Food allergies take some time to identify. The veterinarian will offer a prescription or over-the-counter hypoallergenic food and will explain how to transition to the new diet properly.
  • A monthly flea control helps alleviate hair loss caused by flea allergies.
  • Hair loss caused by hormonal and endocrine issues can be reversed with thyroid medication and hormone therapy.
  • Vitamin E, vitamin A, and fish oil supplements may be prescribed for pets with certain disorders or a proclivity for dry skin or skin infections.
  • To keep your pet from licking or scratching the damaged area while it heals, an Elizabethan collar (e-collar or cone) may be necessary.
  • For sex-hormone abnormalities, your pet may need to be neutered or spayed.
  • To remove cancer or tumors, surgery may be necessary.

The Recovery

Depending on your pet's susceptibility to skin conditions, hair loss could necessitate a number of treatments. When providing treatment, always follow the veterinarian's advice.

It may be required to schedule follow-up sessions to check that the condition has been resolved and that any infections have been eradicated. Keep an eye on your pet's skin and hair regeneration - and inform the veterinarian of any improvements or issues so that treatment may be adjusted as needed.

And remember:

If treated properly, a dog losing hair should recover just fine!

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Michael Tarran

About Me

I'm a devoted pet parent to two lovely creatures – Charlie the Cat and Jimmy the Dog – a full-time assistant pet store manager, and an animal shelter volunteer. I've gathered knowledge about pets for almost a decade, and it all started in a small store called Jack's Pets.

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