Alopecia: When Dogs Lose Hair

Alopecia: When Dogs Lose Hair

Alopecia is any underlying condition that causes hair loss in your dogโ€™s coat. Learn more about alopecia, its causes, and how to treat it here.

Alopecia refers to any type of disorder that causes hair deficiency in a dog’s coat. Pet owners commonly identify complete hair loss with alopecia, which can include patterns or random occurrences of bald patches or larger areas of hair loss. But alopecia also encompasses issues that affect the regrowth of the hair shaft or inhibit hair growth.

Alopecia can occur anywhere on a dog’s coat, including the face, tail base, back, torso, and legs.  Hair loss in dogs can also affect all breeds, independent of age and gender. Breeds with a proclivity to certain types of alopecia include Doberman pinschers, boxers, bulldogs, airedale terriers, Pomeranians, chow chows, miniature poodles, Samoyeds, and Siberian huskies.

The key to treating alopecia depends on its underlying cause, which must be diagnosed by a veterinarian.

Causes of Alopecia

The causes of hair loss in dogs vary greatly, which can make treating alopecia tricky. Causes typically fall under three categories: parasites, allergies, or endocrine and hormonal disorders. Vets will examine the symptoms of the alopecia to determine what the underlying cause and best course of treatment will be.

Symptoms of Alopecia

Hair loss symptoms among dogs can vary significantly. Some dogs will lose a patch of hair that may grow back or not. Others will have gradual hair loss that spreads to other parts of the coat. Some pets will display more symptoms due to the nature of their disorder, such as itching, scabbing, scaly skin, and inflammation. Other dogs will display no other symptoms other than hair loss.

Treatment of Alopecia

Veterinarians must first diagnose the underlying cause of alopecia in order to treat hair loss. In some cases, treating the cause of alopecia will cure it completely, while some treatments may need to be administered regularly. Common treatments include medical shampoos, ointments, antibiotics, medication, supplements, and changes in diet.

5 Things You Should Know About Alopecia

Alopecia, or hair loss in dogs, is the side effect of an ailment or condition that affects your pet’s coat and skin. Some of the underlying causes of alopecia are considered normal, while others are more serious. Learn more about why dogs experience alopecia and what to do if you see changes in your pet’s coat.

1. The causes of hair loss in dogs vary widely

There are more than fifty known causes of alopecia. Hair loss is typically the symptom of a larger underlying health concern. The most common causes of alopecia include parasites such as fleas or mites, allergies, and endocrine disorders like Cushing’s disease.

2. All dogs are susceptible to alopecia

Because the underlying causes of alopecia can affect just about any dog, all breeds can experience hair loss. Gender and age do not influence a more frequent onset of alopecia, but some breeds have been known to develop certain types of hair loss most frequently. Breeds with a proclivity to certain types of alopecia include Doberman pinschersboxersbulldogs, airedale terriers, Pomeranianschow chowsminiature poodles, Samoyeds, and Siberian huskies.

3. Signs of alopecia should not be ignored

Pet owners who notice hair loss, a thinning coat, skin issues, and behavioral changes should contact their vets immediately. These symptoms have an underlying cause that could be irreparably damaging without treatment and painful or uncomfortable to your pet.

4. Vets must determine why a dog is experiencing alopecia

While it may be a tempting remedy for hair loss at home, it is key to have your vet perform a thorough physical in order to determine why alopecia is occurring. Vets will examine the pattern and areas of hair loss and may do a skin biopsy or a skin scraping, as well as other tests to rule out certain conditions.

5. Treatment of alopecia will depend on its cause

While there are many coat products on the market, there isn’t a cure-all solution for balding and hair loss. Once your vet determines the cause of alopecia, a treatment plan will be prescribed. The treatment plan will either eradicate or control the underlying issue and will likely restore your pet’s beautiful coat. Treatments may include shampoos and topical ointments, medication or antibiotics, dietary changes, and in some hormonal cases, spaying or neutering.

Frequently Asked Questions

How do you treat alopecia in dogs?

Alopecia, or hair loss in dogs, can have a variety of causes, including infections, allergies, hormonal imbalances, and immune-mediated diseases. The treatment for alopecia in dogs will depend on the underlying cause. Depending on the cause of the alopecia, your veterinarian may prescribe medications to address the underlying issue. For example, if the cause is an infection, antibiotics or antifungal medications may be used. If the cause is hormonal, your veterinarian may recommend hormone replacement therapy. Some types of alopecia can be treated with topical medications, such as shampoos, conditioners, or creams. These treatments may help soothe the skin and promote hair growth. In some cases, changing your dog's diet may be helpful. Your veterinarian may recommend a specific diet that is formulated to improve skin and coat health. If the cause of the alopecia is related to an allergy, it may be helpful to identify and eliminate the allergen from your dog's environment. This could include changing cleaning products or eliminating certain foods. Depending on the severity of the alopecia, your dog may require supportive care to prevent secondary issues. For example, if your dog is experiencing hair loss due to scratching or licking, your veterinarian may recommend a protective collar to prevent further damage.

Do dogs recover from alopecia?

The prognosis for dogs with alopecia depends on the underlying cause of hair loss. In some cases, such as those caused by infections or allergies, the hair may grow back once the underlying issue is addressed. However, in other cases, such as those caused by immune-mediated diseases, hair loss may be more difficult to manage and may not fully resolve. If the hair loss is due to a chronic condition, such as hypothyroidism, it may be necessary for the dog to receive ongoing treatment to manage the symptoms. In these cases, the goal of treatment may be to prevent further hair loss rather than promote regrowth.

What are the signs of alopecia in dogs?

The signs of alopecia in dogs can vary depending on the underlying cause. Hair loss is the most obvious sign of alopecia. You may notice bald patches or thinning hair on your dog's body. The hair loss may be symmetrical or asymmetrical, and it may affect only certain areas or be more widespread. Dogs with alopecia may experience itching or irritation in the affected areas, which can cause them to scratch or lick the skin excessively. This can lead to further hair loss and may cause the skin to become red or inflamed. In addition to hair loss, dogs with alopecia may have other changes to their skin. This can include scaling, crusting, or thickening of the skin, as well as changes in skin color or texture. Dogs with alopecia may become more lethargic or less active than usual. They may also be more irritable or anxious, particularly if the hair loss is causing discomfort or pain. Depending on the underlying cause of the alopecia, your dog may also experience other symptoms, such as weight loss, vomiting, diarrhea, or changes in appetite.

Does coconut oil help alopecia in dogs?

Coconut oil is a popular natural remedy for a variety of skin and coat conditions in dogs, including dry skin, itchiness, and dandruff. However, there is limited scientific evidence to suggest that coconut oil can help with alopecia, or hair loss, in dogs. While coconut oil may have some moisturizing and soothing properties, it is unlikely to address the underlying cause of alopecia. Depending on the cause of the hair loss, your dog may require medical treatment, such as antibiotics or hormone therapy, to address the underlying issue. That being said, coconut oil is generally safe for dogs when used in moderation. It can be applied topically to help moisturize and soothe dry or irritated skin, or it can be added to your dog's diet in small amounts for its potential health benefits.

What food is good for alopecia in dogs?

Adequate protein intake is essential for promoting healthy hair growth. Look for dog food that contains high-quality sources of protein, such as chicken, beef, or fish. Omega-3 fatty acids, such as those found in fish oil, can help reduce inflammation and support healthy skin and coat. Look for dog food that contains sources of omega-3s, or consider adding a fish oil supplement to your dog's diet. Certain vitamins and minerals, such as vitamin E, zinc, and biotin, are important for promoting healthy skin and coat. Look for dog food that contains these nutrients, or consider adding a supplement to your dog's diet if recommended by your veterinarian. If your dog has a known food allergy or sensitivity, consider switching to a limited-ingredient dog food that avoids common allergens such as wheat, corn, and soy.

Was this article helpful?
Alopecia (Hair Loss)

You May Also Like