What are Baldness and Hormone-Related Skin Disorders?
Baldness can affect pets of any age. Changes to the skin and rate of hair growth and hair replacement can be a valid concern for pet owners. Many hormone-related diseases can produce changes in the hair coat and skin appearance of dogs, and in many disease progressions, this is one of the first indications that a health problem is present. Dogs may present with hyperpigmentation of the skin, or have bald patches around areas of the body such as the thighs and tail. When a baldness condition is diagnosed, treatment can be very successful. Once the underlying condition is under control, the hair coat can grow back. It is important to note that there is a difference between a pet who has a heavy shedding period and a dog suffering from baldness. It is important to have a veterinarian take a look at your canine companion in order to distinguish between the two and to check on his state of health.
The partial or complete loss of hair in dogs can be related to a secondary disease process that is affecting the normal function of hair growth. Abnormalities of the skin that result in irregular hair growth and the loss of hair coat in canines is an extensive field of study in the veterinary world, with many hormone-related disorders documented as being the reason for extensive bald patches and skin irritations on the canine body.
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Symptoms of Baldness and Hormone-Related Skin Disorders in Dogs
An underlying disease process can most definitely affect the fur and skin of your dog. In addition to the signs of baldness and skin irritation, your pet could have symptoms of illness directly related to the primary illness (such as increased thirst, frequent urination, decreased energy, weakness, or loss of appetite).
- Loss of hair coat in a specific area of the body, or all over
- Thinning of hair which may result in the look and feel of a puppy coat
- Dull coat or a coat that appears to be lightening in color
- Thin skin
- Oily skin
- Dry skin which can lose it’s stretch and pliability
- Scaling, such as on the ear edges
- Dandruff, dry or oily
- Hardening of the epidermis
- Darkening of the skin
- Obvious calcium deposits
- Recurring skin irritation
There are many hormone related skin and baldness disorders. They can be age, sex and breed predisposed.
- Hypothyroidism may often result in a secondary bacterial infection of the skin in addition to the hair loss and thickened skin
- Hyperadrenocorticism can cause the hair to fall out and bring about an oily dandruff
- Sex-hormone dermatosis may bring changes such as darkening of the skin
- Growth hormone-responsive dermatosis can change the elasticity of the skin
- Castration-responsive alopecia can result in the arrest of hair growth after a shed
There are many more types of syndromes that result in skin and fur issues that your veterinarian can discuss with you including hypopituitarism, idiopathic cyclic flank syndrome, and hormone-producing tumors to name a very few.
Causes of Baldness and Hormone-Related Skin Disorders in Dogs
There are many types of hormone-related skin and baldness disorders, and, in turn, there are a myriad of causes as well. Your veterinarian is best equipped with the knowledge and expertise on skin and fur coat disorders, and can effectively diagnose what ails your beloved family pet. Visit your veterinarian without delay if your dog is losing his hair, showing skin abnormalities, or in general not acting himself.
- Problems in the adrenal glands such as dysfunction in sex hormone production
- Some tumors can produce changes in testosterone and estrogen function and concentrations
- Lack of growth hormone can inhibit regular systemic function
- Hypothyroidism is breed predisposed in Boxers, Cocker Spaniels, Great Danes, Labrador Retrievers, Dachshunds, Doberman Pinschers, Irish Setters, Miniature Schnauzers, Poodles, and Shelties
- Terrier breeds, German Shepherds, Dachshunds, Poodles, and Beagles are prone to hyperadrenocorticism
- Sex-hormone dermatosis and growth hormone-responsive dermatosis are most documented in the Keeshond, Samoyed, Chow Chow, Poodle, American Water Spaniel and Pomeranian breeds
- Conditions like ovarian cysts and reproduction hormone imbalances in both male and female canines
Diagnosis of Baldness and Hormone-Related Skin Disorders in Dogs
Your veterinarian will want to discuss your pet’s overall health as a starting point for the diagnostic process. Any information that you can provide will be of great assistance to the veterinary team. The team may ask questions about the following:
- Your pet’s appetite level and whether he has been drinking excessive amounts of water
- Weight changes
- Activity level (has it changed noticeably or does he seem lethargic)
- Your dog’s bowel and urine habits are important to note
- Recent illnesses or medications prescribed
A physical examination will include a close look at the extent of your dog’s baldness and skin irritation. Your veterinarian may see signs of a hormone-related condition based on specific skin abnormalities related to various illnesses. She will also check for other signs of a hormone-related problem like ear infection or skin pustules.
Testing will include urinalysis, and blood analysis in the form of a complete blood count and serum chemistry profile as markers such as cholesterol, alkaline phosphatase, and liver enzymes can indicate that health issues are present. A very important test is the ACTH stimulation test, done after your pet has undergone a 12 hour fast. This can determine if the adrenal glands are working as they should. The TSH stimulation test will give insight on the health of the thyroid system. Both hypothyroidism and hyperadrenocorticism can be suspected if there is baldness or skin conditions present. If further investigation is warranted, a skin biopsy may be ordered, and sometimes a view of the stomach via ultrasound can be advantageous.
Treatment of Baldness and Hormone-Related Skin Disorders in Dogs
The treatment protocol for baldness and hormone-related skin disorders is contingent on the underlying disease process that is causing the skin to be inflamed, darkened or infected, and the hair to fall out or not regrow after a shed. Resolution of the problem is key to reversing the hair loss and skin issues. In the meantime, as the diagnosis is being reached, your veterinarian will prescribe medication to ease skin itchiness or infection.
Some of the possible therapies could be neutering of either a male or female dog (for a sex-hormone imbalance), growth hormone (for hormone-responsive dermatosis), and thyroid hormone supplementation in the event of hypothyroidism. Hyperadrenocorticism, also known as Cushing’s disease, has several treatment options which could involve surgical, medicinal or radiation therapy methods.
Your veterinarian is best to advise you on the most beneficial treatment for your dog; she can investigate and explain the options to you in great detail.
Recovery of Baldness and Hormone-Related Skin Disorders in Dogs
Most pets respond to treatment for baldness and hormone-related skin disorders very well. Improvement in the coat is documented as dramatically improved within 6 weeks to 3 months after the beginning of the therapy. As with any medical protocol, the best and most rapid results will be possible with complete adherence to the instructions of the veterinary team. Complete the full course of medication or hormone therapy as described and be sure to attend all follow-up appointments. Some types of treatment could have side effects. Do not hesitate to contact the clinic if your have any concerns about your dog’s behavior while undergoing treatment or if you do not feel that your pet’s condition is improving.
Baldness and Hormone-Related Skin Disorders Questions and Advice from Veterinary Professionals
What can I do to improve the condition of my senior dogs skin? He has crusty patches all over his skin that get matted in his fur. Some are very obvious and others are noticeable only when you pet him and feel the "bump" of scaly skin. The patches themselves don't seem to bother him but he does lick and bite himself alot more when these patches are present. So much so, that his underbelly near his penis is nearly bald. (He is neutered.) I have had him on Apoquel and a topical mousse and the condition improved dramatically for a couple months, but now it is back again. I have started him on the Apoquel for a second time, but I am wondering if I can change something (diet, grooming regime, etc.) and improve this for him more holistically. He has been with me since puppyhood, has his hair cut very short and does sleep a lot (but maybe this is because of his advanced age?). Outside of the stereotypical ear infections in Cocker Spaniels and a run in with ticks about 7yrs ago, we have not had any health issues. He comes from excellent stock.
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Is excessive shedding (mostly undercoat) normal for bitches going into heat? She is showing NONE of the following symptoms: skin swelling, itching, parisites, localized baldness, infection, redness, flaky skin etc. She has lost about 50% of her coat in just a few weeks time. Most notably from her ribs, neck and thighs, but also from the rest of her entire body.
The clear vaginal discharge (no odor) started today. She has been licking herself more than usual for the last several days. No swelling or bleeding yet. I've checked her every day for the last few months. This would be her first heat.
She is also responding "psychotically" to smaller and smaller auditory stimuli (by dashing around the house). She gets intense physical exercise 3+ times every day, as well as mental exercise and training.
Please don't just tell me to have her spayed. I have researched the pros and cons of spaying my dog, and have decided to wait until after 2 heat cycles because she will be competing in high-level canine sports. I'm a very responsible dog owner, professional dog groomer and certified dog trainer.
Thank you for your time.
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I have a 6/7yr old very small male chihuahua that I rescued a couple of years ago. His fur falls out in clumps very easily on his back end, which is now really bald. he has bald patch on his neck from having teeth removed a year ago that has never grown back bald tummy, bald strip down his tail and a couple of smaller bald patches on him. His ears are also bald/scabby on the edges. At first the vet thought it was allergies so I have tried a few different diets over the last couple of years. He has been checked for mites, has no fleas and the vet has just sent some of his fur that fell out easily away to be tested which I am awaiting on results. He has been castrated a year ago, suffers very badly with his teeth. Apart from this he seems fine within himself normal stools, eating drinking and urinating normally. Any ideas what may be causing this ?
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What type of treatment can be done for our female German Shepard - she has the darkening and thickening of her sick in the arm pit and also some other quarter size spits on her belly. Her arm is pit rather large in size. What can we do for her and to relieve sime of the itching and licking.
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