Hair loss in dogs is a relatively common problem, especially when localized to a particular area of the face or body. The challenge can be narrowing down the root cause of the hair loss. Here is a rundown of the most common causes of hair loss in dogs. Make sure to see your vet for proper diagnosis and treatment of your dog.
Parasites and Fungus
Dogs can lose hair when infested with parasites or suffering from a fungal infection. The most common parasite to cause hair loss is the demodex mite, which can cause demodectic mange in some dogs. The hair loss will start on the face and can spread to other parts of the body. Dogs that develop mange from these mites often have an underlying problem, such as suppressed immune systems, thyroid or adrenal gland problems, or diabetes.
Ringworm is a common fungal infection of the hair and hair follicles. It usually starts on the face but can occur on any part of the body. The hair will be lost in a circular shape and the skin will also be affected. Dogs with healthy immune systems can usually fight off ringworm, but puppies and adults with weak immune systems are more likely to become infected. Ringworm is contagious, so be sure to isolate the affected dog from other pets.
Some causes of hair loss are inherited, and can be more common in certain breeds. Pattern baldness (also called acquired pattern alopecia) usually affects the ears, but can also occur elsewhere on the body. It is similar to male pattern baldness in humans. Pattern baldness is seen in the Dachshund and a few other breeds such as the Boston Terrier, Whippet, Italian Greyhound, and Chihuahua.
Color dilution alopecia affects a larger number of breeds, but is relatively rare. Certain breeds with blue (and sometimes fawn) coloring are at risk. Puppies born with the condition will develop areas of brittle, dry hair that eventually falls out. The bare skin may be more prone to dryness and infection in these individuals.
A dog with hormone levels that are out of balance will often have hair loss combined with other symptoms. An underactive thyroid gland can cause skin changes and hair thinning and loss. The hair will fall out easily when touched. An overactive adrenal gland produces too much cortisone. Hair will be lost on the body, and sometimes the face. The skin color and texture can also be affected. Increased thirst and a pot belly are warning signs of an overactive adrenal gland.
Both male and female dogs can develop tumors in the sexual organs that lead to the overproduction of estrogen. This condition can cause hair loss in both sexes. Male dogs with this condition may also develop other female sex characteristics, such as mammary glands.
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