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Is Your Dog Losing Hair? 6 Potential Causes and How to Treat It

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For most dog parents, the endless cycle of vacuuming pet hair is nothing new. Some dogs shed year-round while others shed more profusely between seasons. It’s a common struggle to eliminate fur from your floors, furniture, and even your clothes.

But if your dog is developing thinner hair or even patchy spots, you might be wondering, “Is my dog losing hair?” This guide can help you determine if your pup is simply shedding a regular amount of hair or losing more than normal — and what you can do about it.

Is Your Dog Losing Hair?

Dog hair loss — officially known as alopecia — may look different depending on the cause and what type of dog you have. Whether it’s everyday shedding or seasonal shedding, this type of hair loss should be uniform across your pet’s body. But if you notice distinct patches of hair loss, it may be time to check in with your vet. 

Symptoms of dog hair loss include:

  • Small, patchy areas of hair loss
  • Several small bald patches on the body 
  • Overall hair thinning (and visible skin)

Even though hair loss itself won’t hurt your pup, the underlying conditions that cause hair loss might. Your veterinarian can help you determine what’s causing the hair loss, and more importantly, what to do about it.

6 Common Causes of Hair Loss in Dogs

Dog losing hair: A hairless Chinese Crested dog next to a Powderpuff Chinese Crested dog

As with humans, there are many underlying medical conditions that contribute to your dog losing hair. Before you can encourage hair growth, it’s essential to treat the root of the problem. Below are five conditions to discuss with your pet’s vet.

1. Allergies

Allergies — including seasonal, environmental, and food allergies — can cause a variety of bothersome symptoms for your pet. Itchy skin is among the most common, but that’s not the only side effect of allergies. According to Fetch by WebMD, dogs with allergies are prone to hair loss and bald spots. 

2. Genetics 

Your dog’s breed plays a role in his or her risk of hair loss. Some dog breeds are well-known for their baldness. These dogs, officially called hairless dogs, include the American Hairless Terrier, the Xolo, and the Chinese Crested. If you have one of these breeds, the lack of hair isn’t concerning. In fact, these breeds are bred for their baldness!

Other breeds may not be hairless, but they are more prone to thinning hair. These breeds include:

  • Dachshunds
  • Italian Greyhounds
  • Doberman Pinschers
  • Whippets
  • Chihuahuas

Tip: It’s worth noting that the dog breeds listed above are more prone to thin patches of hair around the ears, chest, and thighs.

3. Parasites

Parasitic infestations from mites, fleas and ticks can also cause hair loss at the site of infection. In addition to hair loss, parasitic infestations cause redness, swelling, and itchy sensations. 

Mange, or scabies, is a type of skin condition caused by an infestation of a particular type of mite called Sarcoptes scabiei. But mange isn’t the only skin condition caused by parasites. Flea bites cause discomfort for any pup, but if your dog also has a flea allergy, the itching and hair loss is intensified. 

Tip: Check with your vet to ensure your dog is current with all necessary flea and tick medication.

4. Underlying Medical Conditions

According to the BlueCross for Pets, hyperadrenocorticism can lead to bodywide hair loss in dogs. Hyperadrenocorticism, more commonly called Cushing’s disease, is a canine condition characterized by adrenal glands that release too much stress hormone (i.e., cortisol). 

Excess cortisol makes your dog thirstier than usual, urinate more than normal, and pant more often. It also causes swollen bellies and hair or skin changes. Your pet’s hair falls out and his skin may seem darker. 

Hypothyroidism is another medical condition that affects hair loss in both humans and pets. Both of these conditions require veterinary care, so if you see persistent symptoms, it’s time to make an appointment with the vet.

5. Pressure Sores

Is your dog’s hair loss localized to knee or elbow joints? If so, these bald patches may be pressure sores. Sometimes called pressure ulcers, they are caused by friction from laying down on hard surfaces. 

You might also see dry, callused skin, which is more common in older dogs and large-breed dogs. You can reduce the risk of these sores by making sure your dog has a soft bed to lay on. If you spot pressure sores, give the area a little TLC (such as paw balm) to prevent the area from cracking and bleeding. 

Tip: If a pressure sore is already cracked and bleeding, talk to your vet about the appropriate measures for cleaning an ulcer.

6. Skin Infections

Skin infections can also cause bald patches to develop. There are many causes of skin infections, and it’s not always easy to tell what caused the initial infection. Your vet can determine if the infection is fungal or bacterial. 

Ringworm and yeast infections are both common fungal infections. Dogs with folds of skin, such as bulldogs, are prone to developing yeast infections between skin folds. Open cuts or secondary infections caused by scratching at hot spots can lead to bacterial infections.

Once the underlying infection is treated, the hair is likely to grow back. 

What to Do If You See the Signs of Your Dog Losing Hair

Dog losing hair: a woman flea combs her Jack Russel terrier

The good news is that many of the above causes of hair loss can be treated with the help of your vet. Treatments, of course, will vary depending on the root cause of hair loss. Common treatments include:

  • Allergy testing and any applicable allergy treatments
  • Medication to treat parasitic infections
  • Oral or topical antibiotics to treat bacterial infections
  • Antifungals to treat yeast infections or ringworm
  • Medication to manage thyroid conditions 
  • Cleaning wounds and keeping them dry 

In addition to treating the underlying conditions that plague your pup, you can pamper her skin and coat. To promote healthy skin and coat, consider:

  • Regular grooming 
  • Staying up-to-date with flea and tick medication
  • Supporting your dog from the inside out with a high-quality dog food (i.e., food without fillers, dyes, or synthetic preservatives) 
  • Adding skin-healthy nutrients to your dog’s diet (e.g., omega-3 fatty acids or fish oil)
  • Using shampoos specifically formulated for dogs
  • Incorporating skin and coat supplements into your pet’s daily routine

How to Choose a Skin and Coat Supplement 

Because there are so many conditions that affect your dog’s skin and coat, your best option for a quick resolution to hair loss is to consult your veterinarian. Once you have an accurate diagnosis, you can select a skin and coat supplement that focuses on your dog’s specific needs. 

PetHonesty’s line of skin and coat supplements target specific conditions, including allergies. If your pup is plagued by allergies, consider allergy relief chews, which contain probiotics, colostrum, and omegas. For general skin support, consider PetHonesty’s Omega Salmon Chews to ensure your pup consumes plenty of omega-3 fatty acids.

Whether you support your dog’s coat with an allergy relief chew or an omega-3 fatty acid chew, be sure to choose a supplement that is free from:

  • Fillers, such as wheat and corn
  • Artificial flavors, dyes, or preservatives
  • Harsh chemicals 
  • Dairy products

Get Relief for Your Dog Losing Hair

Once you know what underlying factors are affecting your dog’s hair loss, you and your vet can devise a plan to treat the condition while supporting your pet’s skin and coat health. 

Regardless of the cause of dog hair loss, the ultimate goal is to manage underlying conditions and pamper your dog’s coat at the same time. For more tips on taking care of your furry friend, check out the PetHonesty blog.