Causes of Canine Hair Loss

Canine hair loss can indicate an illness, infection or allergy. Canine alopecia-partial or complete lack of hair where it is normally present-can be present from birth or develop later in your dog's life. Treatment will depend on the cause of the loss.

Dog Hair Loss from Allergies

Food allergies can cause hair loss, especially around the face, front legs, paws and belly. Corn, wheat and soy are common allergens in commercial dog foods, and they can cause irritated, itchy skin. Your dog may rub and scratch her skin, removing hair right along with the top layers of her skin.

Switch to a hypoallergenic dog food if possible. Choose a brand with as few ingredients as possible to eliminate as many potential allergens as possible.

Flea Bite Dermatitis

Fleas secrete irritating saliva into their bite sites, causing the itch associated with a flea infestation. But for dogs who are allergic to fleas, a single flea bite can cause an intense skin reaction that results in intense itching and resultant hair loss. There are very effective flea medications available by prescription or over-the-counter; use them according to directions. For additional protection, treat all living areas and bedding with appropriate flea preparations.

Hair Loss Due to Canine Mange

Caused by a parasite mite, this infectious skin disease can cause crusty red sores anywhere on the body. Mites borrow into the top layer of the skin, causing severe itching. Your dog may bite and scratch until the skin becomes raw.

Mange is contagious; spread by contact with an infected animal. Diagnosis is made by skin scrapings. Dips and injections may be used to rid your dog of mange, and all living spaces, grooming tools and bedding should be cleaned thoroughly.

Canine Hair Loss from Ringworm

  • Ringworm is a contagious fungal disease that can cause dog hair loss. Ringworm causes raised, reddened skin patches surrounded by broken hairs. Clip away the hair surrounding the lesions to allow healing. Disinfecting shampoos can help clear the fungus.
  • Ringworm is contagious to humans and pets. Disinfect all bedding and grooming tools.

Cushing's Disease and Hair Loss

Cushing's disease (hyperadrenocorticism) occurs when a dog's body produces too much glucocorticoid. The symptoms start gradually; your dog may pant and drink more water. Later symptoms include a pot-bellied appearance, hair loss and bruising.

Cushing's is a complicated condition that require veterinary advice and treatment.

Thyroid Problems

Located on either side of the windpipe, the thyroid gland produces the hormones that are responsible for metabolic function. When this gland does not produce enough of these hormones, hypothyroidism occurs.

Symptoms of hypothyroidism include dark patches on the skin, dry skin, hair loss and poor hair coat. Additionally, your dog may become lethargic, cold intolerant and suffer from bouts of constipation.

Hypothyroidism can be treated with daily medication.

Your dog's skin is her largest organ and susceptible to a variety of disorders. Fortunately, proper diagnosis and treatment can restore your dog's coat to a "showroom shine."