Alopecia in Dogs

Hair loss in dogs, also called Alopecia, is a common disorder that results in either partial or complete hair loss.

Alopecia can affect a dog’s skin, immune system, endocrine, and even lymphatic systems.

Dogs of any age or breed can experience partial or complete hair loss.

When a dog experiences hair loss, it is usually indicative of other medical issues.

One of the most common causes of hair loss is an allergic reaction to fleas and can be treated with topical flea treatments and removal of fleas from the environment.

Symptoms of Hair Loss in Dogs

If your dog has any of the following, it could be an indicator of Alopecia:

  • Black or dark grey skin under hair loss
  • Bleeding around area of hair loss
  • Dry, scaly skin around the area of hair loss
  • Foul odor
  • Itchiness
  • Overall thinning of the hair
  • Patches of skin without hair
  • Red, inflamed skin around the area of hair loss

What Causes Hair Loss?

There are many different causes of hair loss in dogs and include the following:

  • Allergies (e.g. Fleas, Food)
  • Abnormal Organ Function
  • Bacterial Infection
  • Chemotherapy
  • Cushing’s Disease
  • Diabetes
  • Fungal Infection (Ringworm)
  • Insect Bites
  • Mites (Mange)
  • Nervous Licking
  • Anxiety
  • Pressure Sores
  • Recent Vaccination
  • Excessive of Lack of Hormones
  • Sex Hormone Imbalance
  • Skin Cancer
  • Thyroid Disorder
  • Trauma and/or Scarring
  • Infection
  • Skin Parasites
  • Poor Nutrition

One of the most common causes of alopecia is Mange which is caused by a Demodex mite.

When mange occurs, the mite will invade the hair follicles and skin of the dog which can lead to skin lesions and hair loss.

Infection, trauma, immune disease, and endocrine system abnormalities will also cause hair loss.

When there are missing patches of hair, it is usually associated with inflammation of the hair follicle

A widespread area of hair loss will usually occur if there is a more specific disease.

Diagnosis of Alopecia

Hair loss in dogs can be caused by many different medical and even behavioral problems.

Your vet will conduct a thorough physical exam to determine the cause and could include the following:

  • Skin Scrapings
  • Combing for
  • Skin scrapings/biopsy
  • Hair culture for fungal growth
  • Blood test
  • Urinalysis
  • X-rays

Your vet will also look at the pattern of the missing hair which can help diagnose the cause:

Multiple Areas with Loss of Hair

When there are multiple areas and reddening of the skin, it will usually be a fungus or bacterial infection.  Scleroderma, a skin condition, as a result of vaccination can cause hair loss.

Symmetrical Loss of Hair

When there is a symmetrical pattern of hair loss, it usually indicates low thyroid levels or any adrenal issue.

Patchy Loss of Hair

Mange is the usual culprit with this pattern of hair loss.  Other causes are bacterial infections and ringworm.

Breeds That Are Susceptible to Hair Loss

There are some breeds where hair loss is more common:

  • Dachshunds – thinning around the ears

Hair Loss due to Thyroid disease:

  • Afghan
  • Boxer
  • Chow Chow
  • Cocker Spaniel
  • Doberman Pinscher
  • English Bulldog
  • Golden Retriever
  • Great Dane
  • Irish Setter
  • Newfoundland
  • Poodle
  • Schnauzers (Miniature and Large)
  • Sheepdogs

Alopecia Treatment

The treatment for the loss of hair will depend on the underlying cause.

Topical antibiotics (or oral) and antifungals will be used to treat bacterial infections and antifungals

Dogs who have allergies might need a hypoallergenic diet.

For fleas and mange, a topical anti-parasitic drug and specialized shampoos can help.

Dogs that have endocrine disorders, such as Cushing’s disease will require hormonal treatment.

If there is any growth or skin cancer, it is usually surgically removed.

Can Pet Insurance Help with Hair Loss?

The cost of treating hair loss, of course, depends on what is the underlying cause.

The typical costs can range anywhere from $50 to $2,000.

Pet insurance can help with the testing, X-rays, labs or any of the treatment that is required from a disease that has caused the hair loss.

Plans like Healthy Paws will cover up to 90% of the costs as long as the condition isn’t pre-existing.

If fleas or mites are causing the hair loss, wellness plans that help cover routine care costs like flea treatment can help offset some of those costs.

Alopecia Recovery

Depending on the severity of the hair loss, the treatment can really help with the cause and the hair should grow back.

It’s important to watch the dog’s skin to make sure it doesn’t become infected.

Prevention of Alopecia

The best way to prevent hair loss in your dogs is to watch for any of the signs and or skin issues that might cause the hair loss.

For more information on some of the diseases that might cause hair loss, our dog health glossary is a good place to start!

1 Comment
  1. Reply
    Danny 10/29/2016 at 3:00 pm

    Aha! My neighbor walks his dog all the time and I was always wondering why it had those areas with no hair. I thought maybe it was shaved for fleas or something, but it’s probably alopecia now that I’ve read more about it and looked at photos. My neighbor is a pretty good guy, so I’m glad to know that his dog isn’t undergoing something that would be painful.

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