Alopecia Areata in Dogs

Alopecia areata is a condition that manifests through hair loss in patches and can be seen in a single area or can be spread all over the dog’s body. Alopecia is a disease and shouldn’t be confused with the natural shedding, which is seasonal in canines. When the dog is shedding, you may notice that his coat is thinning, but there won’t be actual bald patches as in the case of alopecia areata. Detecting the cause and applying suitable treatment is necessary for the comfort of your pet.

Causes of Alopecia Areata

Alopecia areata may be an inherited disease that is more common in certain canine breeds. However, there may also be other causes leading to balding in dogs:

  • External parasites will make the dog scratch and lick the irritated skin and the hair loss is self inflicted. However, if the dog is allergic to the parasite bites, he may lose hair in the affected areas
  • A ringworm infection, which is caused by fungi and will cause round shaped bald patches
  • Thyroid gland function issues and the production of thyroid hormones in excess. The hair becomes easy to pull out and the dog will often chew on his coat, leading to bald patches
  • Allergic reactions to various inhalants or topical creams and shampoos
  • Stress, which can make the dog inflict hair loss
  • Cushing’s disease, which is an abnormal function of the adrenal glands
  • Treatment with certain drugs such as chemotherapy

Additional Symptoms of Alopecia Areata in Cats

In addition to bald patches you may also be able to identify additional symptoms, which will be specific for the underlying condition causing the hair loss:

  • Itchy and red skin, indicative of allergies
  • Bumps and blisters
  • Excessive scratching, licking and biting of skin
  • Hiding behavior
  • Visible fleas or flea feces
  • Excessive thirst and urination
  • Weight loss
  • Agitation
  • Dryness of mouth

Diagnosing Alopecia Areata in Dogs

Alopecia areata may be easily detected, as you can see the bald spots. However, a vet needs to be consulted, as often, the condition is caused by an underlying disease. The vet will perform several tests including:

  • Blood tests, which could assess the function of the thyroid gland and the adrenal glands
  • Urinalysis
  • Intradermal testing to identify any possible allergies

Stress may be the diagnosis if the vet rules out other possible causes and you have noticed symptoms that could point to stress. If the vet rules out any possible causes, the condition is considered idiopathic.

Treatment Options for Dogs

The treatment of alopecia areata may consist of various medications. If the dog suffers from hyperthyroidism, he may need medication or even surgery. The typical course of treatment for allergies consists of antihistamines and the elimination of the allergens. Itraconazole or griseofulvin will be recommended if the dog is affected by the ringworm infection. If the condition is hereditary or idiopathic, the hair will typically grow back without the need for any treatment.