Bred as a working dog to herd livestock in the harsh conditions of the Australian outback, the Australian Cattle Dog has a water-resistant outer coat and dense undercoat to protect themselves from the elements. The coat is longer on the tail, neck, thighs and stomach. Hair on the face, legs and feet is shorter than the rest of the coat, but patches of thinning hair or hair loss is a sign that something might be amiss with your Cattle Dog's health.
Australian Cattle Dogs are prone to mouthing because of their proclivity to herd, which involves nipping at the ankles of livestock to move them to a desired location. This behavior is seen in litters of puppies who will nip at each other's ankles when kept together to mimic herding behavior, according to the Australian National Kennel Council. The nipping can result in thin patches of hair on the legs of young dogs and should grow back normally. If you notice cuts around the areas of thinned hair, bring your young dog to a veterinarian for treatment; they will usually prescribe a pet-safe antibiotic ointment. Provide toys for your Australian Cattle Dog puppies to herd instead of each other, such as plastic or rubber balls, to reduce possible injury and hair loss.
Acral Lick Dermatitis
A condition known as acral lick dermatitis, also known as lick granuloma, can cause hair loss and thinning hair on the feet of your Australian Cattle Dog. There may also be redness and an open sore in the area. Australian Cattle Dogs are derived from several other breeds, including Dalmatians, which are prone to ALD. The condition is caused by the dog obsessively licking a foot. Because this breed has such high energy, without daily exercise and play for an hour or so, your dog can develop psychological conditions due to boredom and inactivity. This boredom can turn into obsessive-compulsive disorders such as excessive licking. Stress from a new person in the dog's life can also cause ALD because Australian Cattle Dogs tend to be wary of new people.
Patches of thinning hair or hair loss may indicate a food, flea, or contact allergy for your Australian Cattle Dog. These active dogs enjoy running and playing outdoors and need flea preventative treatments, usually applied topically, to prevent an infestation of these parasites. You could also try a hypoallergenic diet for your dog if your veterinarian feels a food allergy could be responsible for your dog's thinning hair. These diets contain a limited number of ingredients and a protein source not usually used in dog foods, such as fish or venison. Newer hypoallergenic diets contain hydrolyzed proteins, which contain very small protein molecules that won't affect your dog's immune system. Because Dalmatians are prone to atopic allergies this condition can affect Australian Cattle Dogs as well.
Both fungal and bacterial infections can be the cause of hair loss in your Australian Cattle Dog. These rough and tumble dogs enjoy spirited play outdoors with other dogs, usually involving nipping and mouthing. If the skin is broken, it can become prone to infection from bacteria or fungi, leading to hair loss in the area of infection. Both types of infections require veterinary treatment with creams or dips to eliminate the organisms causing the hair loss and redness of the skin.
An Australian Cattle Dog has a double coat and sheds much of the undercoat during the seasonal changes of spring and fall, which can result in thinner spots of fur on the coat. This is a normal process but shouldn't result in actual bald patches, which generally indicates a health issue.
Diagnosis and Treatment
Always consult with your veterinarian if you notice any type of thinning hair or hair loss on your Australian Cattle Dog. The doctor will take a skin-scraping of the area to determine if an infection is the cause and recommend treatment based on the diagnosis.
Some Australian Cattle Dogs may lick at areas of the body causing them pain. The Australian Cattle Dog is prone to hip dysplasia and patellar luxation. These conditions cause pain in the hip and knee areas, which may cause your dog to lick these areas, resulting in hair loss. An exam by your veterinarian will determine if your dog suffers from these or other conditions.
Treatments for excessive licking may include the use of an Elizabethan collar to prevent your dog from licking the area of hair loss, psychological medication to alleviate stress and antibacterial, or antifungal medications to treat an infection.