Medically Reviewed by Taylor Froiland, PharmD, RPh
Written by Adam McCown, PharmD
Dogs aren’t called our furry friends for nothing. Depending on their breed, most dogs should have a thick, smooth, and healthy looking coat of fur. It’s what keeps them warm and gives them their unique look. A healthy fur coat is typically a sign that your pup is getting everything they need from their diet, environment, relationships, and overall lifestyle.
Although most dogs will shed at least a little bit, if they start to lose clumps or a large amount of hair to the point where you notice bald spots, it can be worrisome to owners and might be an indication of a larger, more serious health problem.
Signs of Hair Loss in Dogs
The early signs of balding in dogs will typically include dry, brittle feeling hair, along with shedding more hair than they usually do day to day or season to season. As it goes on for longer and longer, you may start to see clumps of hair and circular or irregularly shaped bald patches. Hair loss in dogs can be focused on a specific area of their body or generalized everywhere.
Also known as alopecia, this condition can eventually lead to your dog’s skin becoming inflamed and forming scales on their bald spots. The question is, why do dogs experience alopecia and lose their hair? The answer is that there are several different reasons.
Causes of Balding in Dogs
There are many different possible culprits for why your dog may be experiencing hair loss. The important thing is to determine the root cause in order to figure out the best course of treatment possible. Here are some of the causes of alopecia in dogs:
Allergies – Just like in people, dogs can experience a wide range of allergic reactions, from pollen and foods, to medications and parasites like fleas or mites. Allergies cause hair loss indirectly, through your pup constantly itching and licking the affected area. The way to prevent this type of balding is to use topical or internal medication during the reaction, and then avoid the allergen in the future.
Skin Conditions – Related to hair loss due to allergies, dogs can also experience balding due to skin conditions like eczema or dandruff. These issues can cause discomfort which will lead to the same licking and scratching that results from allergic reactions. Topicals or special shampoos may be the answer to help alleviate this type of alopecia.
Infection – One of the most common causes of dog bald spots are parasites like fleas, ticks, or mites. They can lead to hair loss around the ears, eyes, abdomen, and chest and will lead to inflammation, itchiness, redness, and scaly skin. Similarly, bacterial or fungal infections can also lead to hair loss around the affected areas of their body.
Cushing’s Disease – Another common cause of bald spots in canines is Cushing’s Disease, also called hyperadrenocorticism. This condition is more common in dogs that are six years of age or older and causes the overproduction of the hormone called cortisol. Additionally, symptoms of Cushing’s Disease also can include excessive eating, drinking, panting, and having a pot bellied appearance.
Other Causes – In addition to the causes we mentioned, hair loss in dogs can be caused any time the growth hair follicles is disrupted. This can result from a number of different types of infections, immune diseases, traumas, or endocrine system abnormalities.
What to Do about Your Dog’s Hair Loss
If you are noticing bald spots on your dog, especially over multiple areas of their bodies, it’s best to contact your vet and schedule a checkup. They will inspect the hair loss sites and give your pet a thorough exam to attempt to determine the cause. More often than not, you can stem your dog’s hair losing tide by a simple change in diet or medication.
If the cause of your canine’s balding is a parasitic or bacterial infection, your vet will prescribe the proper medication. It is important to follow your vet’s instructions carefully and give your animal the entire prescription, or else the bacteria or parasites will not be fully eradicated.
Other steps your vet may have you take is changing to a more allergy-friendly or higher quality food that includes biotin and highly digestive proteins to support hair growth. You may also want to use a dermatologically approved, special shampoo for your furry friend to ease any discomfort and decrease the urge to itch.