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Hair Loss in Dogs

In dogs, hair loss (canine alopecia) can be caused by a number of hormonal diseases (e.g. hypothyroidism, Cushing's disease) and skin problems (e.g. demodectic mange, ringworm). Read on to learn more about the possible causes of dog hair loss.

White Puppy

Hair on a dog grows in cycles, and it takes about four months for the average dog to grow a coat, although it is slightly different depending on the breeds.

Most dogs shed their hair at least once a year. The main influence on dog shedding is the seasonal length of daylight. In spring, longer periods of daylight activate the shedding of a dog's hair. In fall, as the daylight hours grow shorter, many dogs shed their haircoat again. Dogs living indoors and exposing to artificial light may shed and grow their haircoat all year round.

What is Canine Alopecia?

Canine alopecia is a medical condition in which there is excessive hair loss in dogs, and which is unrelated to the normal hair shedding and growing cycle. Alopecia in dogs can be partial and localized (restricted to one or two places in the body), or it can be complete and generalized.

Below are some common causes of hair loss in dogs.

Hormonal Diseases That Cause Hair Loss in Dogs

Several hormonal diseases in dogs cause canine alopecia. They include:

  • Cushing's Disease

    Cushing's disease (hyperadrenocorticism) is a condition caused by a long-term exposure to high levels of corticosteroids, either due to medication or over-production of the hormones because of, in most cases, malfunctioning of the pituitary gland. Cushing's disease in dogs causes symmetric hair loss over the body. Other symptoms associated with this disease is a sagging pot belly, frequent urination, and appetite gain.
  • Hypothyrodism

    Hypothyroidism in dogs is the most common cause of dog hair loss which is bilateral and symmetrical without itching. The haircoat is usually thin and hair falls out easily. Other symptoms include weight gain (without appetite increase), intolerance of cold weather and exercise, and lethargy.
  • Diabetes Mellitus

    Diabetes mellitus (sugar diabetes) is a common immune disorder in dogs. Obese dogs and unspayed female dogs are more prone to the disease. In addition to hair loss, dogs with sugar diabetes show four classic symptoms: increased drinking, increased frequency of urination, increased appetite, and weight loss.
  • Growth Hormone-Responsive Alopecia

    This type of hair loss in dogs is believed to be the result of a deficiency of adrenal hormones. The hair loss caused by this condition is symmetrical and bilateral. The condition affects mainly males and it begins around puberty. It is more common in certain breeds, including Pomeranians, Chow Chows, Keeshonds, Samoyeds, Boxers, and Poodles.
  • Estrogen Deficiency Alopecia

    This type of dog hair loss occurs in older spayed female dogs. Typical symptom is thinning haircoat initially around the vulva which later spreads over the whole body. The skin is soft and smooth.

Other Diseases That Cause Hair Loss in Dogs

There are quite a few other diseases that cause canine alopecia. Some common ones include:
  • Ringworm

    Canine ringworm is a fungal infection and the classic symptom is a spreading circle of hair loss in the center with a red ring at the periphery. However, some cases of ringworm have atypical symptoms with irregular areas of hair loss (not in a circle) spreading across the face or nose, with scaling and crusting.
  • Demodectic Mange

    Demodectic mange is a skin disease caused by a microscopic mite called Demodex canis. It usually occurs in puppies and young adults with hair loss around the eyelids, lips, and mouth corners (sometimes also on the legs or trunk).
  • Seborrhea

    Canine seborrhea with hair loss usually occurs secondary to other skin problems such as demodectic mange, scabies, atopy, etc.
  • Seasonal Flank Alopecia

    The exact cause of this problem is unclear. A dog with seasonal flank alopecia loses hair in the flank area on a seasonal basis. Different dogs seem to choose different seasons to lose their hair (fall and spring are popular) and when the season changes the hair generally grows back. Breeds susceptible to this problem include the Boxers, Airedales, and English bulldogs.
  • Nasal Solar Dermatitis

    Also commonly known as "Collie nose", this skin problem is believed to be an autoimmune problem and causes hair loss at the junction of the nose and muzzle, and can cause scaling and ulceration. It usually affects dogs with noses that are lightly-pigmented, such as the Collies, Shelties, and similar breeds.
  • Callus

    Calluses are hairless thickened pads of skin (usually on the elbows) which result from chronic pressure, caused by lying on hard surfaces. Large breed dogs are more prone to calluses.
  • Injection Site Alopecia

    This type of hair loss occurs at a site where the dog has been injected with a medication or vaccine.
  • Zinc-Responsive Dermatosis

    This is caused by zinc deficiency which results in crusty and scaly red skin with hair loss over the face, the nose, elbows, and hocks. Breeds more susceptible to this problems are the Arctic or Northern breeds such as the Huskies and Malamutes.

Treatment of Hair Loss in Dogs

Treatment of dog hair loss involves identifying and dealing with the underlying cause. If your dog suddenly loses his hair, try to look for other accompanying symptoms. This can help your vet to diagnose more speedily and accurately.

Supplements such as fatty acids and vitamins (especially A, C, and E) are beneficial to the skin and haircoat. Adding these supplements to your dog's diet may help prevent some skin problems that may result in hair loss. Here is a good supplement of essential fatty acids and vitamin E:

Dr. Harvey's Health and Shine for Dogs

This supplement is combination of borage oil, flax seed oil, fish oil and vitamin E. This combination of oils is the perfect balance of the Omega 3-6-9's and contains the essential fatty acids needed for maximum health, especially skin and coat health.
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