While it's normal for dogs to shed, a dog that is losing an excessive amount of hair, especially if it's leaving bare patches of skin exposed or if it's affecting much of his body, has a problem requiring treatment. The loss of hair could be anything from allergies to parasites or even metabolic disorders, and in many cases it represents a serious health concern for your dog. Careful observation of your pet's habits and the location of the hair loss may give you some clues as to what's causing his troubles, but in most cases it's going to take a trip to the vet to diagnose the problem. Your veterinarian will also prescribe any needed treatments, including medication, baths or a special diet.
As with people, dogs can have an allergic reaction to many different things they are exposed to. Possible allergens include ingredients in his food, pollen in the air around him, or a reaction to flea bites. According to WebMD, a reaction to flea saliva injected when a flea bites a dog is the most common cause of dog allergies. The dog is sensitized to the saliva and any bite causes irritation and itching, resulting in a dog that scratches a great deal, often to the point that he scratches out large amounts of his coat. Removing the cause of the allergy, possibly accompanied by medication, is the best way to help your pet.
In some cases your dog may have been exposed to some type of infection such as ringworm, which is a fungus, or bacteria that can damage his skin. Either of these infections can result in the loss of hair, often in patches in various places on his body. He may also have mange, which is an infestation of skin mites that can cause significant hair loss and sometimes a reddening of the skin. Treatment may include medicated baths or dips to kill the invaders and restore your dog to health.
A dog's skin and hair needs certain essential nutrients to remain healthy. If your dog isn't getting all the nutrition he needs, it can result in hair loss. Your pet may not lose all of his hair, but he may have a dull, thin coat that generally looks unhealthy. Be sure that your pet gets a balanced diet that includes all of the essential vitamins, minerals and fatty acids dogs need. Have your dog checked by a vet to make sure there isn't another problem causing his hair loss and then be sure to feed him a good commercial dog food recommended by your vet to help to maintain his health.
Large, heavy dogs or dogs that are getting older can be prone to pressure sores. These are often seen as areas of thick, hairless skin on pressure points such as their elbows and hips. This problem is the result of the dog frequently being in contact with the ground or a hard floor over a long period of time. These bare places may develop cracks and end up bleeding. If this happens to your dog, take him to the vet right away. Such sores can often be prevented by giving your pal a cushioned place to call his own.
Alopecia X may be behind the condition if your dog has lost the hair over much of his body. Alopecia is the scientific name for hair loss. This condition tends to occur in certain breeds including poodles, Pomeranians, chow chows, Siberian huskies, Norwegian elkhounds, American Eskimos and Alaskan malamutes. It is thought to be related to an imbalance of the affected dog's sex hormones, and once the condition has been diagnosed it is recommended that the animal be spayed or neutered. Other treatment, such as melatonin prescribed by a vet, may help in some situations.
Certain metabolic disorders have hair loss as one of their symptoms. This can occur for many different reasons, depending on the disease, such as chronic skin infections and thin, fragile skin that bruises easily. The most commonly seen of these disorders are hypothyroidism, Cushing's disease and diabetes. These metabolic disorders can affect your dog in many ways besides causing him to lose his hair and can be fatal without proper treatment, so it's essential to get him correctly diagnosed as soon as you see the first symptoms.
- ASPCA: Skin Problems
- Web MD: Healthy Dogs: Bald Spots in Dogs
- Doctors Foster and Smith: Pet Education: Causes of Hair Loss (Alopecia) in Dogs
- Mar Vista Veterinary Hospital: Alopecia X
- 1800PetMeds: Hair Loss in Dogs and Cats
- Washington State University College of Veterinary Medicine: Cushing’s Disease
- Mar Vista Veterinary Hospital: Hypothyroidism
- Web MD: Healthy Dogs: Diabetes in Dogs: Symptoms and Treatment