What does it mean when your dog starts losing hair? What are the causes of hair loss in dogs?
Shedding is when your dog loses old undercoat. Depending on the breed, it can be a lot of fur. Hair loss, however, is when your dog’s hair starts falling out, leaving bald areas.
Molly was a young and healthy young Boxer. Her eyes were bright and coat shiny. But then Molly started developing bald patches. The hairless areas were irregular, on both sides of her torso. It wasn’t itchy or bothering Molly in any way. And other than that, there didn’t seem to be anything wrong with Molly.
But her hair loss was so dramatic that it brought her to a veterinary clinic. Molly’s mom was worried. Is Molly ill? Is her diet not good?
At the vet
Skin and coat are a window to the internal health.
The main concern with balding animals is that the loss of hair can be an outward indication of a more serious internal problem.Pete the Vet
There is a reason for everything, including hair loss. Potential causes of hair loss in dogs include:
- other parasites
- bacterial or fungal infections
- immune disease
- endocrine disorders
Because Molly was not itchy, her veterinarian was able to rule out some of these right away. The skin in the bald areas wasn’t infected, inflamed or discolored.
All that pointed to hormonal imbalances. That doesn’t make an accurate diagnosis exactly easy, but it gives a direction in which to look.
Every diagnosis ought to start with a thorough history, including lifestyle and habits. Careful physical examination and lab work follows. Laboratory tests can include blood work and skin biopsies. The bottom line is that you cannot successfully treat a problem if you don’t identify it first.
Seasonal flank alopecia?
Seasonal flank alopecia is a symmetrical hair loss in the flank area that occurs–you guessed it–seasonally. It doesn’t need to be the same time of the year for every dog but fall and spring are most common. Usually, the skin in the bald areas also darkens.
The most susceptible breeds include Airedales, English Bulldogs, and, of course, Boxers.
Source: Veterinary Partner
Jasmine once had a mysterious bald spot which was eluding her veterinarian until we tried treatment with Melatonin. Whether it was true seasonal flank alopecia or something else, Jasmine’s hair grew right back when we started the supplement.
Is that what Molly had?
Molly’s hair loss seemed more severe than one would expect for this condition. Further, to arrive at this diagnosis, it is important to rule out other potential causes.
Molly seemed to be a fit, healthy dog. She was eating, drinking, and eliminating normally. One thing the veterinarian got from Molly’s history, though, was that Molly seemed kind of lazy–less active than she used to be.
Physical examination revealed that Molly’s skin felt cooler than it should and her temperature was lower than normal. Her heart rate was a bit slower too.
Can you see where this is going?
Routine blood work looked mostly normal. A specialized test, though, revealed the answer. Molly had hypothyroidism.
The biggest problem with hypothyroidism in dogs is getting it diagnosed. Treatment is simple and effective.
After Molly began her thyroid replacement therapy, everything returned to normal and her fur grew back.
Hair Loss (Alopecia) in Dogs: Why Is My Dog Losing Hair?