Alopecia, or hair loss in dogs, is caused by diseases and conditions that affect the health of your dog’s coat, from the skin down to the hair follicles. Diagnosing the direct cause of hair loss is key for veterinarians to treat alopecia. In fact, there are over fifty known conditions that can cause hair loss in dogs, so many vets have their work cut out for them.
The most common causes of alopecia fall into three categories:
1. Parasitic Causes of Alopecia
Infection, allergy or reaction to parasites can bring on hair loss in dogs. Common parasitic causes of alopecia include:
- Mites - the Demodex mite is a microscopic mite that lives in the hair follicles. Exposure to this mite, combined with a weak immune system, causes red mange, also known as puppy mange, which can induce hair loss. A Sarcoptes mite infection or exposure to other less common mites can also cause different types of mange and hair loss.
- Fleas - dogs that are sensitive to flea bites or who have flea allergy dermatitis can experience hair loss due to excess itching and irritation.
2. Allergic Causes of Alopecia
Allergic reactions have been known to affect dog hair in certain cases. Allergies that have been linked to alopecia include:
- Food Allergies - some food allergies will cause itching, redness, and hair loss.
- Atopy - allergies to particles in the air that dogs inhale such as dust, mold, or pollen can induce alopecia.
- Medicine - allergic reactions to medications or injections can cause hair loss.
- In some cases, allergies to or issues with the fit of a collar or bedding can cause Alopecia
3. Endocrine and Hormonal Causes of Alopecia
Dog’s with endocrine disorders and hormonal imbalances can experience hair loss. Such disease include:
- Cushing’s Disease - this condition stems an increase in corticosteroids caused by overproduction in the adrenal glands, or an imbalance due to prolonged therapy using corticosteroids.
- Hypothyroidism - the most common hormonal disease that affects dogs, hypothyroidism’s lower production of hormones can cause hair loss.
Other Causes of Alopecia
Other causes of alopecia include bacterial and fungal infections that affect the skin or hair follicles. Ringworms, or the onset of kerion infection from ringworms, are the most common fungal cause that can lead to alopecia.
Nursing or pregnant dogs can develop a type of alopecia called “blowing their coat,” which develops from nutritional deficiency or stress.
Stress, trauma, nutritional deficiencies, and hereditary causes can also lead to hair loss. Some breeds have a genetic predisposition to certain types of alopecia; they include doberman pinschers, boxers, bulldogs, airedale terriers, pomeranians, chow chows, miniature poodles, samoyeds, and siberian huskies.
Pet owners who see signs of hair loss should contact their vet. Some of the underlying causes of alopecia may be symptoms of severe illness that could be treated with early intervention.