Hair Follicle Diseases and Disorders in Dogs

Hair Follicle Diseases and Disorders in Dogs - Symptoms, Causes, Diagnosis, Treatment, Recovery, Management, Cost

What are Hair Follicle Diseases and Disorders?

Hair follicle diseases and disorders have their root in skin conditions. The causes of these various types of skin conditions which can be infectious, systemic, hereditary or breed specific.  Many of the causes are treatable while others are not though most can be at least managed with appropriate treatment and lifestyle adjustments.

Hair follicle diseases and disorders in dogs are any skin conditions which cause changes to the hair follicles, causing them to become dry, damaged or discolored and fall or thin out.

Symptoms of Hair Follicle Diseases and Disorders in Dogs

The symptoms of hair follicle diseases and disorders in dogs can vary depending on the causes and types of skin conditions which are responsible for the changes in the hair follicles.  Here are some of the symptoms you might see with these conditions:

  • Itching and scratching
  • Dry appearing patches of skin
  • Red and inflamed areas on skin
  • Crustiness and scaling around areas of inflammation
  • Papules (red and swollen areas on skin) which may be hot to the touch and crusty
  • Pustules (blister-like lesions on skin)
  • Hair loss
  • Darkening of skin
  • Pain¬†


The types of hair follicle diseases and disorders can be placed into the following categories:

  • Infectious - This includes bacterial and fungal organisms
  • Parasitic - This can include mites, fleas, ticks, lice
  • Allergic - This can include food allergies, reactions to shampoos, household cleaning products
  • Underlying systemic diseases like hypothyroidism, hyperadrenocorticism, hepatocutaneous syndrome, systemic lupus erythematosus or other endocrine disorders
  • Hereditary, congenital or breed specific

Causes of Hair Follicle Diseases and Disorders in Dogs

The causes of hair follicle diseases and disorders are many, to be sure.  Here are some of them:

  • Bacterial - The most common skin disorder in canines is pyoderma which is caused by staphylococcus pseudintermedius, which has acquired a methicillin resistance, making it more challenging for veterinary treatment; other bacterial organisms can cause skin infections as the canine species seems predisposed to these infections due to some structural elements of their skin
  • Hormonal abnormalities or imbalances - These can include adrenal, pituitary and sex hormone imbalances which are known to cause hair loss or alopecia X
  • Other underlying systemic diseases and endocrine disorders or imbalances - These include hypothyroidism, hepatocutaneous syndrome and systemic lupus erythematosus
  • Parasitic infestation - These types of skin infections can include a variety of species of mites, fleas, ticks and, less commonly, lice which can burrow into the skin and wreak havoc with itching, scratching, inflammation and the abrasive results of these activities
  • Allergic reactions¬†- This includes to foods, household cleaners and grooming products can also cause itching and scratching, leading to the above mentioned abrasive results
  • Hereditary and congenital DNA abnormalities - These types of hair follicle disease and disorders are passed down from parents to offspring and tend to be breed specific oftentimes and without cures

Diagnosis of Hair Follicle Diseases and Disorders in Dogs

Diagnosing the hair follicle diseases or disorders will likely be a multistep process.  First of all, your veterinary professional will require a complete history from you which will need to cover your pet’s feeding regimen, including the food being offered, any changes in the diet and the reasons for those changes.  You will need to update your vet on husbandry habits (grooming, bathing, type of bedding and where your pet sleeps). Your vet will also need to know if any other animals in your household are suffering from similar conditions and symptoms.  The symptoms which you’ve noticed in your pet will need to be described, being sure to include if the symptoms were of gradual or sudden onset, specify the severity and the duration of the symptoms.  A complete medical history and vaccinations will also be required unless the attending vet has access to that information already.  

Once he has this information, your vet will do a physical examination and order blood tests, take urine and fecal samples for testing and obtain scrapings from the affected areas.  All of these samples and specimens will be evaluated by a laboratory.  Your vet will need to rule out the many other causes for the hair follicle and skin diseases which are known to afflict canines.  Once he has put all of these test results together, an appropriate treatment plan will be developed and initiated.

Treatment of Hair Follicle Diseases and Disorders in Dogs

Treatment options offered or recommended by your veterinary professional will, of course, be dependent upon what is found or suspected to be at the root of the hair follicle disease in your canine family member.  

First and foremost, concern in the treatment of the hair follicle disease and disorder issue will be to address any underlying systemic causes which have been found.  Diagnosis and control of these underlying systemic diseases is paramount to paving the way for control and potential elimination of the hair follicle resulting disease or disorder.

If the cause is found to be parasitic in nature, then the particular parasite will have to be treated and eliminated by various methods (dips, oral medications, injections, special grooming products).

If the cause is of an allergic origin, then the allergens will need to be removed. This could mean changing the food and treats being offered, changing grooming products, changing household cleaning products or type of bedding being used.

If the source of the hair follicle disease is bacterial or fungal in nature, appropriate medications may be given based on the organisms found.

If the condition is found to hereditary or congenital, the best you can expect will be recommendations to manage the symptoms to lessen the severity of future episodes.

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Recovery of Hair Follicle Diseases and Disorders in Dogs

Recovery of your canine family member from the various hair follicle diseases and disorders is, for the most part, good as many of the potential causes of the problems are treatable, especially if found early.  If hair loss is one of the symptoms from which your pet is suffering, you may need to adjust some of your routines to protect your canine family member from exposure to outside elements that a normal thick coat would otherwise do.  If your pet is suffering from a hereditary or breed specific genetic abnormality, then it would be prudent for you not to expect a cure but rather a series of recommendations from your vet for the best ways to manage and protect him.

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