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What is Itchy and Losing Hair?

It can be frustrating to see your dog itchy and then losing their hair. Constant itching and scratching can cause pet owners a headache as well as be painful for your dog. Your dog’s hair loss may look similar to shedding or it may start coming out in large tufts, creating bald spots on their body. Possible causes of itchy skin and hair loss include:

  • Mange
  • Trauma
  • Allergic reaction
  • Infection
  • Hormonal imbalance
  • Mites or parasites

Red, irritated skin is indicative of a skin infection, trauma or mange. Mites do not generally cause inflamed skin, but they can cause red bumps or hive-like appearance. Hormonal imbalances will cause your dog to experience dry skin and hair loss that is patchy in appearance.

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Why Itchy and Losing Hair Occurs in Dogs

Mange

Mange is a skin disease that occurs when tiny mites overpopulate the skin, causing irritation. All dogs have some mites on their skin, but during times of high stress, these mites will multiply uncontrollably. Mange can cause patchy hair loss and scaly skin that will be extremely itchy. 

Trauma

Depending on the type of trauma, your dog can experience hair loss if they continually lick a specific area. This is called acral lick dermatitis and many dog owners will notice persistent licking of one area that results in skin irritation, skin lesions and hair loss. 

Allergic Reaction

Allergic reactions can occur from a variety of sources including food, chemicals, plants and external parasites. Hair loss and extreme itching can occur from certain allergic reactions especially food allergies where the allergic reaction is not diagnosed immediately and the symptoms are more subtle. 

Infection

Skin infections can cause red, inflamed skin that is itchy and hair loss can occur. Infections include ringworm, yeast, folliculitis and bacterial. Pus and/or hot spots are usually good indicators that an infection is present.

Hormonal Imbalance

Hormones play a large part in healthy skin and hair, when your dog is experiencing problems with their hormone levels you may notice itching and hair loss. Thyroid and adrenal gland deficiencies can cause problems for your dog, especially hair loss.

Mites or Parasites

There are mites that can cause scabies, a contagious infection that can be spread to humans. Scabies will cause intense itching and possible hair loss from the scratching. Fleas will also cause your dog to experience intense itching when they bite. It is important to treat your dog for fleas as soon as you see the first sign of fleas.

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What to do if your Dog is Itchy and Losing Hair

Treatment for your dog’s itching and hair loss will strongly depend on what is causing the itching and hair loss. Always consult your veterinarian for advice when your dog is experiencing symptoms of itching and hair loss. 

Antibiotics may be prescribed to treat an infection or as a preventative if your veterinarian is concerned about the redness of your dog’s skin from itching. If there are any lesions, those will need to be cleaned and treated with a topical cream. Hormone treatments may be necessary if your dog has been diagnosed with abnormal thyroid or adrenal gland functions. 

Food allergies will require a change in your dog’s diet. Your veterinarian will perform diagnostic testing to determine the ingredient that is causing the allergic reaction. You will then need to avoid that ingredient for your dog. Once your dog’s food has been changed and the problematic ingredient removed, the symptoms will recede. 

Hydrocortisone shampoos, creams and sprays may be used in treating itchy skin. Hydrocortisone shampoos and creams can promote healing. Sprays can be applied directly to the area that is itchy.

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Prevention of Itchy and Losing Hair

Flea medications can be used to prevent fleas from taking up residence on your dog. Speak with your veterinarian about the right flea medication for your dog. Regularly bathe your dog to remove any allergens from their skin and hair. 

If you suspect your dog has a food allergy, ask your veterinarian about a quality food that will meet your dog’s nutritional needs. Research the ingredients in your dog’s food and do not give table scraps or excessive treats. 

Should you notice your dog licking a certain area of their body incessantly, thoroughly examine the area for any lesions or irritation. Do not allow your dog to continue licking the area. Cover it with a clean bandage and if your dog insists on licking, have your veterinarian examine them and prescribe a topical cream.

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Cost of Itchy and Losing Hair

The cost of treatment will vary depending on the cause of your dog’s itchy skin and hair loss. Mange and mites, including fleas, can average about $350 to $600. Other treatments, including bacterial infection, allergic reaction and hormonal imbalance can range in price from $300 to $2500.

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Itchy and Losing Hair Questions and Advice from Veterinary Professionals

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pitbull

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6 years

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Itching Allergies

My dog has allergies and lately she has been itching and losing fur

Dec. 25, 2020

Owner

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Dr. Sara O. DVM

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13 Recommendations

Hello, so sorry to hear about your dog having issues. You can try Benadryl for the itching. The dosage is 1mg/pound. Also, oatmeal shampoo will help. If this does not fully take care of her allergy issues, talk with your vet about Apoquel for your dog.

Dec. 25, 2020

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Pitsky

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Three Months

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Itching

My puppy just started itching and biting himself. Two big neighbor dogs were putting his head in their mouths and got their saliva all over him. He's losing hair by his eyes, hindquarters and legs. He has been biting himself raw. I got a shampoo that is antifungal and bathed him twice in four days and it's not getting better. He also has scabs over where he's been biting. What is this?! Nobody in the home has any issues so I don't think it's anything that can be passed to humans. Is this mange?! Will heart guard and ointment help him???

Oct. 13, 2020

Owner

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Dr. Michele K. DVM

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0 Recommendations

Thank you for your question. There are different kinds of parasites that can cause this problem, and Heartgard does not treat any of them. Some of them need specific treatment, and it would be best to have your puppy seen by a veterinarian as soon as possible. They will be able to look at the puppy, see what might be causing this, and get treatment for them. I hope that all goes well.

Oct. 13, 2020

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Mixed pitbull

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One Year

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Itching

He spends his days and nights scratching and biting he's just recently over the last couple months started losing hair not a lot just a little you can't tell unless he's in the sun and facing away from you (like your walking him) but I have noticed flakes on him and all over where he is when he scratches I keep a flea collar on him and I know scratching the way that he does. I only give him a bath every 21 or so days cause I don't want to dry his skin out anymore than what it looks to be dried out I just want him better I know he's got to be miserable. What do you suggest besides take to the vet

Sept. 29, 2020

Owner

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Dr. Michele K. DVM

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Thank you for your question. There can be many causes for itching in dogs, including parasites other than fleas, fleas, bacterial or fungal infections, or allergies. Because each one of those is treated quite differently, I think the best thing for him would be actually to see a veterinarian. You can spend a lot of time and money trying to fix something that they may be able to help right away, and he will probably be much more comfortable. I hope that everything goes well for him and he feels better soon.

Sept. 30, 2020

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Labrador Retriever

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Fourteen Months

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Loss Of Fur And Itching

My dog at the back of his legs is kinda losing fur and it’s like dry skin white flakes there. On his back has some white spots like losing fur in some little little areas but spaced around.

Sept. 27, 2020

Owner

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Dr. Michele K. DVM

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Thank you for your question. There are many possible causes for the skin problems that you are describing. It would be best to have your pet seen by a veterinarian, as they can examine them and see what might be going on, and get treatment if needed.

Oct. 12, 2020

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Yorkie

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Nine Years

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Incessant Scratching/Biting Self, Hair Loss

My father cannot bring his dog to the vet much because of finances. He says that the dog has been scratching and biting at himself seemingly non-stop since the summer. He's losing hair in areas, and he says the hair that's growing back in looks black (not sure if it's the hair, it's oily, or if it's the skin that looks black). He's tried putting a shirt/coat on the dog to keep him from scratching, but it didn't help. He read about mange and thinks the dog has it. In our conversation he mentioned a treatment mixing borax and peroxide as a treatment, which seems harsh, and that it didn't help.

Sept. 27, 2020

Owner

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Dr. Michele K. DVM

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Thank you for your question. Dogs can be itchy because of parasites, bacterial or fungal infections, or allergies. Without having the dog seen, unfortunately, there isn't any way to suggest anything to help, as there can be so many causes. It would be best to have your pet seen by a veterinarian, as they can examine them, see what might be going on, and get treatment if needed.

Oct. 14, 2020

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Missy

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Jack Russell Terrier

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7 Years

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Moderate severity

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Licking
Hair Loss
Itching

My dog was losing hair on her paws, chest, and legs. My dog originally had flees, but they were taken care of. She went to the vet and they said she was allergic to the flees so they gave her medication. Her hair grew back, but 2 weeks or so later she started to lose hair again. This time it was a little on her paws, but more so on her ears and around that area, including around her eyes. She was brought to the vet once again and they said she had 2 different types of bacteria in her ears. They prescribed this liquid to out in her ears twice a day, and 2 different pills to give her for 2 weeks to help her hair grow back and to stop her from itching. The pills stopped her from itching and her hair around her eyes grew back. The liquid that we were told to squirt in her ear twice a day did not work that good though. Once everything was gone, which was only 2 weeks, she started losing hair again. This time it’s her paws, her ears, around her eyes, and around her snout. She also has been licking her paws, her back legs, and vagina which is also causing her to loose hair at those areas. She does not have flees, but she does have allergies. She was told years ago that she had allergies, so we know that plays a big roll in this. We changed her dog food from grain free to complete because the vet said grain free was bad. Every time those anti itch pills are used up she starts to itch again and lose hair. We set up an appointment to take her to the vet AGAIN, but it was canceled because of this Pandemic. Also, she is so attached to my youngest daughter that she gets anxiety every time she leaves her. When my daughter is not around she licks her paws, scratches, or cries. I feel as though that also plays a part in her hair loss.

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Mija J.K Olguin

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German Shepherd

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7 Years

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Serious severity

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Serious severity

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Itching
Itching Hair Loss

Hello Jodi Here, I have a 7 1/2 year old German Shepherd. I am so upset shes my lifeline. She fell very ill back in m arch 2019 with a month of liquid diarrhea and she lost no weight and continued to eat after three vets finally the last one put her on diphenoxolate & Pred along with Z/D and did full Blood Panel, Urinalysis ect all was 100% GREAT Normal. The diarrhea stopped and she was better. She has been so itchy for a while it seems year round, but has gotten so much worse,she is chewing her front & back legs & pawing at her face all the time.I kinda know alot of knowledge from working as vet tech for over 13 years so, I have tried shampoos & conditioners and she was on Apaqual for two years which i Finally stopped as i was paying 100 a month with no change, but when i took her off she was way worse.I have her on Bravecto & Triheart. She is up to date on all her vaccines. She has has skin scrapings & slides at the vet to rule out any fungal or bacteria & there was none present. She was put on Apaqual for well over a year again and no response. We tried Pred and that did help a tiny bit so we increased it and then she began to freak out because she was urinating in her sleep and drinking way to much water so not helping there,We also put her on Z/D begining of May 2019 the first month in and she started to look better, her hair started growing back and then the 5-6 week she relapsed started chewing and loosing hair all over again and developed a soft bump on bridge of nose so i was concerned it was not any type open wound it is under skin like a lypoma but not a lypoma which scared me thinking a tumor so We took her back to the vet and had the nose checked and vet believes it is allergies. Vet then put her on Atopica 15 capsules dose pack she has 5 left and no change, the vet did say she would stay on it and it if it worked, but i see no change as of yet. I dont know what else to do. I even wipe her down with baby wipes when she comes in from potty time. She is not an outside dog in fact shes a service dog. I am very concerned for her and not certain whats next. I feel we have done so much except actual allergy testing which is so ridiculous like 3-4 gran i have insurance and I will do all I can for my baby shes not a dog to me shes my baby girl. Money is not an issue if i can afford it. I have spent 3 gran already and still no answer. Any suggestions or anything I have missed.....I am taking her back to vet this week AGAIN. Shes starting to bald on her rear legs, front legs and a few spots on rear side. Shes itchy and rubbing her face shaking her head like crazy , but she has NO bleeding or open abrasions its like she chews and the hair breaks off.... I am so sad about this :( Thanks Jodi O.

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Momma Puppy

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Chesapeake Bay Retriever

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6 Years

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Serious severity

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0 found helpful

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Serious severity

Has Symptoms

Hair Loss
Itching

A couple of years ago I adopted momma puppy. I decided to get her spayed. As soon as she was spayed I noticed momma was scratching all the time. I took her to the vet and they stated she had allergies, nothing has changed for her. We switched her food, we’ve tried literally every dog food on the market no change. So now I’m frustrated, momma is losing fur in patches now. Still taking allergy meds with no change. We live in rural Alaska so getting medical help for her is very hard. The problems didn’t start until after I had her spayed! How can I get help out here for her?

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Chance

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Australian Shepherd

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4 Years

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Serious severity

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3 found helpful

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Serious severity

Has Symptoms

Hair Loss
Dandruff
Itchy
Dry Skin
Patchy Red Skin (Mostly Red)

My australian shepherd is 4 years old. He's never had a skin condition before and is a happy healthy pup. Two months ago he had fleas (I lapsed in his medication Bravecto) after a day, they were completely gone. Since then, he's continued to itch excessively, now his skin has a red patchy rash all over his body, from one of his ears to his paws (but not his face). He has developed excessive dandruff and has been chewing out his hair. I got him oatmeal dry skin shampoo/conditioner mix (for the fleas originally) but have given him two baths since. I switched his food (different brand) to a healthy skin/hair mix. I give him coconut oil and vegetables. I also got him Burt's Bees for dogs dry skin spray. Washed all the bedding and everything around him is clean. The complex I live at has a lot of dogs and we have a huge dog park outside, and none of the other dog owners have been complaining about fleas or anything. We have lived in the same area for 3 years and he is active. We live in San Diego, so dryer air but the last several months have been really rainy here, relatively humid for here. I called the vet when he had fleas and she said his itchiness aside from the fleas is probably from allergies and to give him more baths. I will be going in to see the vet soon, but wanted some advice beforehand. The descriptions of all the skin

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Bella

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Labrador Retriever

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5 Months

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Mild severity

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1 found helpful

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Mild severity

Has Symptoms

Itching

She has been itching took her to the vet they did a skin scrape and checked and said it's mites .. so they gave the vaccination for mites and gave piriton .. it's been over 1 month and her itching hasn't stopped it's still the same .. and she is loosing fur ... and there is a little bit of dry skin too ... they have a shampoo for dry skin called cetremed but nothing has worked .. can someone help me regarding this

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