Alopecia (Hair Loss) In Dogs: Symptoms, Causes, And Treatments
Alopecia in dogs refers to hair loss that can be partial or complete, but it also refers to deficiencies in a dog’s coat or a failure to grow hair at all.
While dogs normally shed and may even have patchy coats as the seasons change, alopecia is usually very noticeable. The condition is often a symptom of other underlying issues, though it can occur on its own and sometimes has no known causes at all.
You should see your veterinarian to get a proper diagnosis and begin treatment. Alopecia can affect a dog’s immune system, lymphatic system, endocrine system, and skin, which is why it’s important to form a treatment plan as soon as possible.
Here’s what you should know about the symptoms, causes, and treatments for alopecia in dogs.
Symptoms Of Alopecia In Dogs
The symptoms of alopecia appear in a dog’s coat. Hair loss can be gradual and appear over time, or it can be acute, resulting in sudden bald patches and other symptoms.
Here are several signs of alopecia that might appear in dogs:
Overall hair loss
Loss of hair around they eyes and mouth
Patches of baldness
Symmetrical hair loss that appears in the same pattern on both sides of the body
Crusting and inflammation of the skin
Itchiness and wounds caused by scratching
Discolored, dark, or grey patches of skin
Oozing or bleeding around areas of hair loss
Causes Of Alopecia In Dogs
Many diseases, infections, and conditions can cause alopecia in dogs. One of the most common is mange, a condition caused by mites. It can lead to extreme hair loss and skin crusting. If left untreated, the skin can become almost stone-like.
Cushing’s disease, a condition where the body overproduces steroid hormones, can cause hair loss, as well.
Infections of ringworm or bacteria can cause alopecia. Ringworm is a contagious fungal infection. It presents as circular patches of hair loss with lesions, inflammation, and crusting. These lesions sometimes clear up on their own, but it’s usually best to seek treatment with antifungal shampoo and medication. It can lead to secondary infections, too.
Bacterial infections can also be a source of alopecia, and it’s usually necessary to treat them with antibiotics.
Bald patches may result from allergies. Dogs can be allergic to almost any substance, but flea bites are a common source of allergic reactions. These reactions often lead to dogs chewing and scratching their skin, which can damage their coats.
Some breeds are genetically predisposed to developing bald spots. This hereditary condition is mostly harmless, and most dog parents just live with it rather than treat it. Breeds that are predisposed include Chihuahuas, Dachshunds, Greyhounds, and Whippets.
Pressure sores can form, especially near elbows and places where your dog puts pressure when they lie on hard surfaces. This can cause calluses that sometimes crack and bleed.
Rashes and hives can form from contact with plants, chemicals, insect bites or stings, and even some medications.
Other causes of alopecia in dogs include the following:
Nervous behavior like chewing and licking
Reaction to a splinter, glass, or other foreign body in the skin
Injuries and scarring
Reaction to vaccination
Exposure to chemotherapy
Treatments For Alopecia In Dogs
Treatment for alopecia in dogs can vary a lot depending on the cause of the condition. You’ll need to see your vet to determine the cause of alopecia in your dog.
Antibiotics, antifungals, and steroids are often used topically or orally to treat skin conditions and inflammation. Antihistamines can be used for allergic reactions. Medicated shampoos can treat a number of infections, especially mange.
Flea and tick prevention helps reduce alopecia caused by itchiness, and insulin therapy is the treatment for diabetes. Thyroid medication and hormone therapy can be used to correct some thyroid problems. Surgery may be needed to remove tumors or skin cancer.
If alopecia is a result of your dog chewing and licking, you may need an Elizabethan collar to stop the behavior.
There are also a number of supplements that you can add to your dog’s diet that improve coat health. Fish oil, Vitamin A, and Vitamin E can help with dry skin and certain skin infections, and they keep fur shiny and in good shape. However, you should always follow your veterinarian’s instructions.