Most dog breeds lose hair every year, as they go through their shedding cycle. This, however, is not the same as alopecia in dogs, a medical condition that causes hair loss and baldness. There is a multitude of reasons why dogs may experience alopecia, and dog owners should be aware of what signs to pay attention to. A dog losing hair is normal if they are shedding, but alopecia is something different altogether, let’s take a look.
Alopecia is not a condition that is exclusive to dogs, as both humans and other pets can suffer from this ailment. Alopecia in dogs and humans happens when the body attacks the hair follicles. This results in hair loss either in patches or loss of hair completely.
The hair loss from alopecia could be temporary, and in most cases it is, but it may also be permanent on some rarer occasions. Contrary to what many think, alopecia and subsequent hair loss is not a symptom of another health issue.
With this being said, alopecia can be brought on, and usually is, because of a deeper lying health problem. Finding bald spots on your dog’s coat can be worrying, but there is a lot that you may be able to do about this hair loss. One thing is for sure, bald patches on your dog are most certainly not normal.
What Is Seasonal Flank Alopecia?
Certain dog breeds can be affected during winter months by a disease called seasonal flank alopecia. This is represented by thinning hair, bald patches, as well as irritations, and issues with your dog’s skin.
Unfortunately, the cause of this condition has not yet been determined, but experts have identified the dogs that are most likely to suffer from this ailment, they are:
As the name suggests, it is the flanks of the dog’s skin and coat that see the damage and hair loss. If you spot this in your dog, it is worth getting checked out by the vet and the good news is that seasonal alopecia is temporary.
For most dogs, hair loss takes place in the fall, before growing back again once the winter months are over. It has not been proven to cause long-term damage to skin or hair follicles as a result of this seasonal disorder.
Why Do Dogs Get Alopecia?
Depending on the cause of the alopecia, you will see hair loss in different places on your dog. Alopecia in dogs affects each breed differently and you can expect to see hair loss and skin infections as a consequence, in various areas of their body.
Hair loss in your dog is scary if you are not expecting it, but the likelihood is that in treating the alopecia, you can also treat the underlying cause. Here are just some of the ways that dogs get alopecia.
This is a very common form of alopecia in dogs, but one that doesn’t affect all breeds. Hair loss is very mild and the result is thinning hair on certain areas of the dog’s body and occasional bald spots.
This alopecia often causes the biggest amount of hair loss in dogs. Affected areas are usually around the head and neck area. This is a very rare, auto-immune disease that causes damage to normal hair follicles. With this form of alopecia, you won’t see any inflammation or skin infections.
Very often alopecia is mild and goes away quickly, without a severe underlying cause. A perfect example of that is post-injection alopecia. If you see your dog losing hair after its rabies jab, for example, this is nothing to worry about and any hair loss should grow back very swiftly.
Just like so many humans, dogs too can suffer from pattern baldness. Technically speaking we don’t yet know the direct cause of this, but it is almost certainly hereditary. Hair loss will most often occur across the neck, belly, and thighs, and it will worsen as your dog gets older.
A common reason why vets dissuade dog owners from tying their pooch’s hair up is that it can cause damage to the hair follicle, which results in hair loss. Not only can this cause damage to the follicles, but it can also cause scaly skin and skin irritation.
Infections and Allergy
Your dog’s alopecia could also come from a viral or bacterial infection, food allergies, or even spider bites. Not all alopecia is down to follicular issues, as many are caused by infections or irritations of the skin.
A bacterial infection, allergic skin disease, or even yeast infection could cause hair to fall out, leaving itchy skin behind. Thankfully these issues can be easily treated with medicated shampoos or antibiotics. Hair loss and itchy skin are often temporary and your dog will be cured in no time.
Symptoms of Alopecia in Dogs
Suggesting that hair loss is a symptom to look out for isn’t very helpful, although that is the result of alopecia in dogs. There are some more, specific symptoms that you should be on the lookout for, which could be an early warning that your dog’s hair loss is caused by alopecia.
Regular grooming will help you to get to know your dog’s coat, and help you to spot any abnormal hair loss. When you are grooming your pooch, you should be alarmed if hair falls easier than normal, if there is generalized hair loss that exceeds what you are used to, or if any bald spots appear in your dog’s fur. If you’re finding loose pet hair on your clothes or furniture, check out our pet hair remover products by clicking the button below.
Hair loss in dogs is normal during certain seasons, so if you find that your dog’s hair loss is excessive, you should take action. Alternatively, if you see your dog losing hair outside of shedding season, it is also time to go and see the vet.
Another symptom that will lead to a diagnosis of alopecia in your dog is its skin condition. As a general rule, you should always be on the lookout for inflamed skin, injuries, scratches, skin discoloration, or even excessive scratching of a single area of the body.
These changes could be skin allergies, alopecia, infections, parasites, or even something more severe like skin cancer. Sometimes alopecia can cause severe scratching because of hair loss, and sometimes issues like bacterial infections can lead to scratching, bringing on alopecia.
This is exactly why grooming your dog regularly is worthwhile, as you can keep an eye on any changes to your dog’s fur and skin.
Diagnosing Alopecia In Dogs
Dog alopecia can be diagnosed in several ways, depending on what the symptoms are. Hair loss in dogs that is accompanied by excessive itching, will usually mean some kind of parasite or infection, resulting in inflammation.
After establishing what kind of hair loss the dog is showing (bald patches, symmetrical hair loss, etc.) the vet will usually take some samples of skin. Skin scraping involves taking a very small amount of skin cells from the affected areas of your dog.
If your dog’s hair loss is not accompanied by inflammation, skin scrapings won’t do much good, so blood tests will be used to identify the reasons behind your dog’s alopecia. Along with the blood tests you can expect to get a full physical examination, where the vet will check for any other symptoms.
Based on the results of the blood work and the skin culture tests, your vet can identify the issue and recommend the necessary treatment.
Treatment For Alopecia In Dogs
In many cases of alopecia in dogs, hair regrowth is possible, the key is identifying the underlying cause. We should stress that in most cases of congenital or hereditary alopecia, there are no treatments that have proven to be effective.
If your pooch does have an infection, parasites, endocrine diseases, or even a fungal infection, your vet will prescribe antibiotics, anti-fungal, or anti-inflammatory medications. These are proven and effective methods used to treat alopecia.
Additionally, you may be sent to a veterinary dermatologist, who will take action to improve the skin. This can also help to minimize the irritation that your dog has and reduce scratching that causes hair loss.
What is a Home Remedy For Alopecia In Dogs?
Depending on what the underlying cause of your dog’s alopecia is, you may be able to help them with home treatments. We should stress, however, that if your dog has infections or diseases, you have to follow what the vet tells you.
If your dog has pattern baldness or congenital alopecia, then you can help to reduce inflammation, itchy skin, and keep your dog’s fur and skin healthy. To do this focus on making sure that they have a balanced diet, and grooming them daily.
You can also boost the health of your pet’s skin through the use of aloe vera or olive oil. Both of these home remedies keep the skin supple and prevent scabbing.
There are alternative options that can help skin infections and irritations such as apple cider vinegar, but the jury is still out. Make sure that before you try out any home remedy, you speak with a vet to ensure there are no risks.
Alopecia in dogs is caused by many factors, with hereditary pattern baldness proving to be the most common. Alopecia can also be an indicator that something is wrong with your dog, and it can be an early warning sign that you should see a vet.
The great news is that there are so many cases of alopecia that can be very easily treated and cured. The key is making sure that you know your dog well, understand how it sheds, and that you can spot it when things aren’t normal.
Through regular grooming, you can stay on top of these issues and get your dog the help and support it needs if anything is wrong.