What is Balding?
Going bald (hair loss or alopecia) is a partial or complete lack of hair where there is usually hair growing. This can be simple hair loss in patches or all over; may be accompanied by itchiness and scratching, biting at the area, or it may just fall out suddenly. Some hair loss is temporary and some is permanent, depending on the cause. However, there are two basic causes, which are congenital and acquired. It can be noninflammatory or inflammatory. Some of the most often seen causes are:
- Parasitic involvement
- Medical condition
- Excessive grooming
It is normal for dogs to shed, some more than others, but if your dog is going bald in spots that used to have hair, you should call your veterinarian.
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Why Balding Occurs in Dogs
Allergies to food or shampoo products are common in dogs and can trigger hair loss in spots or all over the body. Other allergens can include fleas, mites, and pollen. In addition to bald spots, you will most likely see scratching, biting, licking, rash, and redness.
Any kind of trauma to an area such as burns, or injuries that tear the skin can cause hair loss. Healing can trigger itchiness and cause your dog to lick or scratch the affected area, which may lead to bald spots.
Similar to humans, stress can cause hair loss and other symptoms like agitation, constant licking and grooming, biting at skin, nervousness, and lack of appetite. Dogs can become stressed for many reasons, some more than others depending on their temperament. Some of the reasons for stress may include:
- Loss of a person or pet
- Moving to a new home
- New person or pet in the home
- Recent traumatic event
Some parasites that cause hair loss include mange, ringworm, lice, fleas, and chiggers. Most are not the true cause of hair loss, but the itching and biting or allergic reaction can cause bald spots.
There are many hereditary skin conditions that affect certain breeds such as Greyhounds, Dachshunds, Chihuahuas, and Whippets. This type of hair loss usually affects the thighs, chest, and ears.
Sometimes, when your dog has an underlying medical condition, one of the symptoms may be baldness or itching that causes hair loss. Some of the most common illnesses are:
- Alopecia areata is thought to be an autoimmune disorder with patches of hair loss mostly on the body, neck, and head but no itching. Diabetes mellitus causes dogs to be susceptible to skin conditions
- Nutritional Deficiency due to substandard dog food, lack of appetite, or underlying medical condition
- Hypothyroidism is common in Miniature Schnauzers, Doberman Pinschers, Labrador Retrievers, Dachshunds, Irish Setters, Cocker Spaniels, Greyhounds, Boxers, Golden Retrievers, and Airedale Terriers
- Hyperadrenocorticism (Cushing’s disease) is an increase in cortisol that mostly affects dogs six years and older
- Excessive estrogen production causes hair loss in some dogs
- Sertoli cell tumor is a tumor of the testicles in older male dogs
There are many medications that can cause baldness in dogs. Some of these include:
- Certain antibiotics
Some dogs are prone to grooming themselves more than others, causing damage to the skin and even more itching.
Certain infections and infestations such as bacterial, viral, yeast, and fungal infections can cause bald spots on your dog. Other symptoms include severe itching, crusted skin, inflammation, redness, oily skin, and bare spots around the ears, mouth, and eyes. Some dogs are more susceptible than others such as the Portuguese Water Dog, Irish Water Spaniel, Curly Coated Retriever, Staffordshire Bull Terrier, Boxer, Airedale, Doberman Pinscher, and Siberian Husky.
What to do if your Dog is Balding
If you believe your dog is allergic to the food you are feeding him, you should try a food with a novel protein such as lamb or venison. Another choice would be a hypoallergenic food, but it is best to get a recommendation from your veterinary care provider. You may have to bring your dog in for allergy tests to determine the cause.
If your dog has an injury or burn that is causing hair loss, you should take him to your veterinarian as soon as possible for medical care.
In order to treat stress-related baldness, you have to figure out the stressor and eliminate it or treat it. If it is the loss of a loved one or moving into a new home, you can help your dog by spending more time with him and providing more exercise to work out that stress.
Parasites can be treated with medication. You can try over the counter medications, but it is better to get a professional recommendation from your veterinarian.
There is no cure for hereditary baldness, just like humans. However, you can speak to your veterinarian about possible treatments that may help encourage hair growth in some cases.
If your dog has one of the medical conditions that cause baldness, you need to get him treated by your veterinary care provider immediately.
If a medication is causing baldness, the condition should rectify itself when the medication is stopped. If not, speak to your veterinarian.
A dog that grooms himself excessively may have an underlying condition such as stress or anxiety. Contact your veterinarian for suggestions on what you can do.
Most infections can be treated by oral and topical medication such as antibiotics, antifungals, and antivirals. These have to be prescribed by your veterinarian who may also suggest medicated shampoo, depending on the infection.
Prevention of Balding
Preventing hair loss may be as simple as changing your canine’s diet to a more healthy dog food or adding supplements to his diet. Your veterinarian can suggest which ones your dog would benefit from. Also, avoid stressors, groom your dog often and check his skin condition for any signs of irritation or abnormal spots or bumps. Take your dog for regular veterinary visits and make sure your dog gets adequate exercise and stimulation daily.
Cost of Balding
The cost of treating baldness in dogs depends on what is triggering the hair loss. If it is caused by a treatable condition such as parasites like mites or infection, medication could clear it up for the expense of approximately $500. However, if your dog has an underlying illness such as diabetes or Cushing’s disease, the cost of treatment can be over $3,000. The average cost of treating baldness in general is about $350.