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Alopecia in Dogs: Hair loss Causes, Symptoms, and Treatments

While shedding is normal for dogs of any breed, excessive hair loss, thinning, and balding aren’t. How would you know if the amount of hair loss your dog experiences is normal? How do you determine the cause and symptoms of hair loss? Accompanied by skin infections and bald patches, your dog may be suffering from a condition called alopecia.

Here’s everything you need to know about Alopecia in dogs.

What is Alopecia?

Alopecia is a skin condition that commonly occurs in dogs that results in hair loss or balding. It is different from shedding, which is a hair growth cycle for dogs and varies depending on the breed, It comes in different forms and the most common ones can usually be treated once the root cause of it is treated. Other forms of hair loss include acquiring it through genetics, and inherited alopecia is usually permanent or recurrent. 

The causes of alopecia vary, and they are also an indicator of another underlying issue that your dog has. Alopecia is usually seen on dogs as partial hair loss of the fur on their body, bald spots, uneven hair growth, or thin, dull-looking coat. This skin condition manifests itself on any part of the dog’s body but is commonly seen around the ears, belly, top of the head, and on their torsos. 

Symptoms of Alopecia in Dogs

Aside from the most prominent symptom that is hair loss, there are other symptoms that accompany this skin condition that can be seen through your dog’s behaviour and the appearance of their skin.

Here are the common symptoms of alopecia in dogs:

  • Excessive shedding
  • Thinning of fur / coat
  • Bald spots
  • Hair loss along the body
  • Darkened skin
  • Excessive scratching and licking
  • Dry and flaky skin
  • Foul odour of the skin
  • Symmetrical hair loss on the sides of the body
  • Inflammed, red, and irritated affected area
  • Bleeding through the scratched skin
  • Skin with papules, pimples, or hives

The alopecia that is inherited or caused by hormonal changes usually appear as thinning or hair loss, and no other symptoms. On the other hand, alopecia can appear due to external or internal factors such as parasites (fleas, ticks, mites, etc) or bacterial or fungal infections (ringworms). 

Causes of Alopecia in Dogs

There are many causes of hair loss in dogs; some of which can be inherited (genetics) and some are due to different factors. These are the usual causes of alopecia in dogs:

  • Mange or mites infestation
  • Inability to grow back hair due to trauma, infection, autoimmune diseases, or endocrine abnormalities
  • Inflammation of hair follicles
  • Allergies
  • Poor diet 
  • Parasite and tick infestation
  • Skin infections or hot spots
  • Bacterial or fungal infections
  • Anxiety 
  • Hormone imbalances
  • Skin cancer
  • Pressure sores
  • Nervous licking or chewing
  • Post-surgical clipping
  • Burns
  • Insect bites

How to Treat Alopecia in Dogs

The best way to properly treat alopecia in dogs is to take them to the vet to help diagnose and recommend the best way to heal this skin condition. The treatment will vary depending on the cause of the hair loss, except for genetic conditions that cannot be reversed. 

Once you take them to the vet, your veterinarian will assess your dog’s body and situation such as where they live, what they eat, when they took a bath, etc. They will also check your dog’s skin condition and will commonly know right away if it’s caused by parasites or fleas due to itching and scratching. The veterinarian will also be conducting a blood test, take samples of their hair, or do an allergy test to check for underlying issues. 

Here are the common treatments for alopecia:

  • Antibiotics
  • Antifungal treatments
  • Steroids
  • Removal or replacing dog food, shampoo, soap, etc that causes them allergies
  • Immunotherapy
  • Behavioural training
  • Hypoallergenic diet
  • Anti-tick and flea medications
  • Hair supplements
  • Cone collar to prevent excessive licking and chewing
  • Surgery

Some hair loss may recover fully, while others may have recurring effects that require ongoing treatment. Follow your vet’s advise and administer the proper treatment religiously and consistently. In the meantime, make sure to continue monitoring your dog’s behaviour, hair growth, and skin appearance. You can communicate with your veterinarian on the changes or concerns, so if ever there are any adjustments needed, treatments can be changed to help further improve their skin condition.

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