What Causes Hair Loss In Dogs?

Kate Barrington
by Kate Barrington
Hair loss in dogs can’t be covered up by a bad Trump-esque toupee. Those bald patches and spots could signal the start of something serious.

You have probably heard of people losing their hair and going bald, but did you know that it can happen to dogs as well? Hair loss in dogs is called alopecia and it may be the result of a medical condition or simply heredity. Here’s what you need to know about hair loss in dogs including the different types, causes, and treatment options.

Related: How To Treat Flea Bites On Dogs

Types of Dog Hair Loss

When it comes to hair loss in dogs, there are many different patterns which might be exhibited. In most cases, the pattern the hair loss follows is enough to suggest the cause of the hair loss, but that is not always the case. For example, patches of hair that has been chewed off near the base of the tail or along the inside of the legs is often an indication of flea infestation. Some of the most common patterns of hair loss in dogs include:

  • All-over thinning of hair
  • Thinning over the back and sides of the body
  • Thinning over the ears
  • Thinning along the neck
  • Thinning under the belly
  • Complete hair loss along the sides
  • Circular bald patches
  • Baldness on the abdomen
  • Patches of baldness on the legs
  • Balding over the scrotum at the back of the hind legs

Related: What is Cushing’s Disease in Dogs?

In addition to hair loss, dogs may exhibit other symptoms as well such as changes in behavior or irritability. Dogs may also become restless or, at the opposite end of the spectrum, lethargic. Sometimes the hair loss will be accompanied by changes in the skin such as redness or swelling, flaking, crusting, changes in color, or discharge – there may also be an unpleasant odor which usually indicates infection.

Causes of Hair Loss in Dogs

Hair loss in dogs can be caused by a variety of different things:

  • Allergic or contact dermatitis: An allergic reaction to certain substances or materials might cause skin irritation and hair loss. Common allergies include antibiotics, metals, plastic, chemicals, dyes, fragrances, and various plants.
  • Alopecia areata: This is an autoimmune disorder which causes patches of hair loss on the dog’s body, neck, and head without itching.
  • Bacterial infection: Hair loss caused by bacterial infection can be a secondary symptom related to a primary condition like an allergic or parasitic reaction.
  • Cushing’s Disease: This disease is caused by an increase in corticosteroids in the body and it may cause hair loss, skin thinning, hyperpigmentation, and increased thirst and urination.
  • Demodectic mange: This condition is caused by Demodex mites and it may result in hair loss, scaling, redness, ulcers, and sometimes darkening of the skin.
  • Diabetes mellitus: This condition may compromise your dog’s immune system, making him more susceptible to infections and various skin conditions.
  • Flea allergy dermatitis: Some dogs develop an allergic reaction to flea bites which may result in extreme itching, redness, hair loss, and scaliness.

Treatment Options for Hair Loss

Treatment options for hair loss in dogs vary depending on the cause of the problem. For allergic reactions, treatment with antihistamines may work while bacterial and parasite infections may require other kinds of medication. For Cushing’s Disease, steroidal treatments should be reduced and, if there is a glandular tumor, it should be surgically removed. Flea dips and other insect control methods may help to reduce hair loss due to mange mites and fleas.

In some cases, hair loss in dogs is not something to be concerned about but, if it is accompanied by other physical symptoms or signs of infection you definitely need to get it checked out. Sometimes hair loss is a symptom of a serious disease, so do not ignore the signs of hair loss in your dog – take your dog to the vet to get a checkup just in case.

Kate Barrington
Kate Barrington

Kate Barrington is the loving owner of two cats (Bagel and Munchkin) and a noisy herd of guinea pigs. Having grown up with golden retrievers, Kate has a great deal of experience with dogs but labels herself a lover of all pets. Having received a Bachelor's degree in English, Kate has combined her love for pets and her passion for writing to create her own freelance writing business, specializing in the pet niche.

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