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Your dog’s skin health is very important to his wellbeing. If it is unhealthy in appearance or texture, you should immediately take him to his veterinarian for a checkup. Unhealthy skin and fur loss can indicate your dog is suffering from a skin infection. Your veterinarian will be able to diagnose the cause of the infection and therefore, begin proper medicated treatment. By the time your dog has finished his treatment, his skin health should return to normal and his hair coat should be back to its full potential.
If your dog’s skin is flaky or appears unhealthy in any way, you should take him to his veterinarian for an evaluation.
Symptoms may include:
Hair loss can be subtle and difficult to notice at first as it typically develops slowly. It is very unlikely your dog will lose clumps of hair, only small amounts slowly over time. Owners usually first notice fur loss at places of friction such as the neck under the collar and the caudal thighs. The thinning then begins to move its way up and down the body. It can be one sided fur loss or bilateral, depending on the location of the infection. The infection can be the primary issue at hand or the infection can be a result of other ailments affecting your dog.
The infection causing the loss of haircoat can be bacterial, fungal, or yeast in origin. It may start out as a superficial infection or can be one that goes down into the deeper skin layers. The infection may be a small area on any part of your dog’s body, or it may affect or spread to a larger portion of your dog’s body. The longer you wait to seek treatment for your dog’s skin, the more serious his infection will become.
When you arrive at the veterinarian’s office, she will start her diagnostic process by collecting a verbal history from you. As part of her process, your veterinarian will need to rule out other possible causes that can produce hair loss with similar symptoms like the one he is presenting with. She will want to know when you first noticed your dog was losing his fur, all the locations you have noticed his fur thinning, if and where he has been scratching or licking excessively, and if you have tried to treat it with anything over the counter or not. She will also want to know if you have fed him anything new lately, if he has had any changes in his routine or home that could cause stress, or other information that may be helpful to know about his situation.
Your veterinarian will then continue by performing a full physical exam on your dog. While it may be obvious where the fur loss is occurring, she will want to do a full evaluation of his entire body system. This will allow her to check for other areas of fur loss or skin abnormalities. During her examination, she will watch for signs of itching, check his skin for flakes and pustules, skin discoloration, and other abnormalities.
Your veterinarian will come to her diagnosis by ruling out other possible causes of his symptoms. There are similar conditions that can result with fur loss in your dog. Diagnostic tests she may perform include skin scraping, skin cytology, blood work, allergy testing, and a check for other parasites. The skin scraping will be done to rule out skin mites. A skin cytology can confirm a bacterial or yeast overgrowth of the skin that can lead to loss of fur. A dermatophyte test medium (DTM) culture can confirm or rule out a fungal infection. The best way to treat the skin infection is to diagnose the source first so while it may seem tedious, it is important you allow your veterinarian to grow through the process.
If this condition goes untreated, your dog’s infection will develop papules or pustules around the areas where he continues to scratch and lick. He will need antibiotic therapy in order for his skin to heal. The veterinarian will send you home with a prescription for an oral antibiotic that may need to be administered for almost a month. Medications to be applied topically to the lesion may also be sent home depending on your dog’s needs.
If your dog does not stop licking or scratching at his skin it will worsen his symptoms; this can extend the time he needs to take medication. Your companion may need to wear an e-collar or t-shirt to prevent him from biting at his skin. Stopping the itching/scratching cycle is ideal during treatment. If your dog is experiencing other symptoms in addition to the infection and fur loss, your veterinarian will send home supplementary medications and therapies in accordance with your dog’s needs.
Once properly diagnosed and medications prescribed and started, your dog’s infection will begin to clear. Once his skin is healthy, his fur will begin to grow back. If you do not treat the infection, his skin will continue to be unhealthy and his fur will not grow back. The worse his skin gets, the longer treatment will need to be once started. However, if you start treatment as soon as possible, his recovery should be relatively quick.
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My dog has been treated for years now for allergies. Her condition continues to worsen. She has lost almost all of her hair and her skin peels like she has a sunburn. It's awful. She's on medications and Royal Canine hypoallergenic food. She has a dermatologist she sees. We are at our wits end. It's so sad!
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