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Is your furry friend beginning to lose his hair at an alarming rate? Are there visible bald patches on his coat? Hair loss in dogs, also referred to as alopecia, can be a major issue for a lot of the dogs and the root cause can be anything from psychological to physical. Here are some of the most common causes of hair loss in dogs that need veterinary attention:
- Allergies – Pet allergies present with itchy feet, ears and skin and can quickly snowball into an infection. When the natural environment of the skin is disrupted due to constant scratching, it allows yeast or bacteria to proliferate, leading to a superficial infection. This infection can lead to further itching and make the problem much worse. If you notice irritated, red skin, small crusts and bumps on the skin and hair loss, it is a sign of infection and you need to take your dog to the vet immediately. Allergic triggers include environmental substances like molds, pollen, parasitic triggers or dust mites. Food allergies can also lead to hair loss. Your vet will be able to recommend a treatment course depending on the cause of the allergy.
- Cushing’s disease – Also known as hyperadrenocorticism, this is a condition that tends to affect middle-aged dogs. Overproduction of cortisol is the root cause of Cushing’s disease. Prolonged exposure to excess cortisol can lead to an increased appetite, panting, increased urination and thirst, muscle weakness and hair loss. If the symptoms are not serious, treatment is unwarranted. If the symptoms are serious, your vet might recommend treating your pet with trilostane, mitotane or selegeline. Non-invasive tumors are usually dealt with surgically.
- Infection or infestation – An infestation of parasites (ticks, fleas and mites) is another common cause of hair loss. Along with hair loss around the eyes, ears, chest and abdomen, signs of tick and flea infestation include itching, inflammation and redness. There are a number of tick and flea preventatives which are designed specifically to kill parasites and prevent them from infecting your dog in the future, including topical and oral medications. Consult with the vet to discuss which tick and flea preventatives suit the needs of your dog the best.
- Genetics – there are certain dog breeds that are more genetically prone to balding. There are many hairless breeds bred specifically for that attribute like the Mexican Hairless, Chinese Crested and the American Hairless terrier. Other breeds, like the Dachshund, Doberman Pinscher, Italian Greyhound, Chihuahua and Whippet suffer from pattern baldness on their outer ear, back, chest, lower neck or thigh. The treatment options for such cases are limited. Consult with the vet so that he/she can rule out the other causes of hair loss.