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:
- Allergic reaction
- 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 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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Itchy and Losing Hair Questions and Advice from Veterinary Professionals
My dog is an 8 year old Jack Russell/Poodle mix. Every year about this time (Late September into October) she itches constantly over her entire body and small clumps of hair fall out. There are no lesions or rashes, no discoloration and the skin is not flaky. The outside temperatures this time of year are usually in the mid 70's to the mid 80's so the heat in our home is not on. She is miserable. Any suggestions?
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My dog has itchy skin and sometimes he bites at certain areas. He doesn't have fleas and he doesn't associate with other dogs or animals. He is the only pet email have. He has went to a vet a few months ago to get neutered but the skin irritation didn't start til now. He is an inside dog and only goes out to potty. Can somebody be able to tell me what it could be so I can hopefully treat this with products I can get over the counter or a pet store?
There are various causes for the symptoms you are describing which may be attributable to food allergies, environmental allergies, contact irritation (did you change any detergents or cleaning products just before the itching started?), parasites and skin infections. It would be best to bathe Yogi in a sensitive shampoo, administer flea and tick medication, try giving Benadryl at a dose of 1mg/lb two to three times per day (in case of allergies) and offer a sensitive dog food to see if there is any improvement; if there is reintroduce each product individually with a few days between to try to find the culprit. If the cause is environmental, it may be a long process which may require allergy testing with your Veterinarian. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM
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My dog is very itchy. Seems to only be in certain spots. He scratches so often he now has bald, flaky patches. I know he doesn't have fleas. I'm not sure it's mange, because my other dog doesn't have this issue. We have not changed his food. I really feel bad for him.
There are many different causes for itchy, flaky skin with hair loss which include allergies, parasites (fleas, mites), infections (bacterial or fungal), some hormonal conditions, chemical irritants etc… A diagnosis would need to be made by your Veterinarian as these cases can be difficult to diagnose and may require skin scraping for mites or allergy testing among other tests; food or other allergies can be a long and difficult process to diagnose and may require an exclusion diet and other tests which ultimately may be unrewarding. You should visit your Veterinarian to see if the cause is one of the usual suspects (fleas, mites, fungal infection etc…). Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM
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