Itchy and Losing Hair in Dogs

Written By hannah hollinger
Published: 05/01/2017Updated: 08/11/2021
Veterinary reviewed by Michele K.
Why is my dog itchy and losing hair?

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 can be 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 might cause your dog to experience dry skin and hair loss that is patchy in appearance.

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 can 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 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. 


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 can 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 may need to be cleaned and treated with a topical cream. Medical 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 should resolve.   

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.  It is important to use these products under veterinary supervision.  

Prevention of Itchy and Losing Hair

Flea medications can be used to prevent fleas 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.

Insuring your dog as soon as “pawssible” is essential for preventing high vet care costs. Start comparing insurance plans from leading insurers like Healthy Paws and Embrace and save over $270 a year.

Want more info on pet health insurance? Check out our guide to pet insurance 101.

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





6 years


66 found this helpful


66 found this helpful

My pet has the following symptoms:
Itching Allergies
My dog has allergies and lately she has been itching and losing fur

Dec. 25, 2020

Answered by Dr. Sara O. DVM

66 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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Three Months


0 found this helpful


0 found this helpful

My pet has the following symptoms:
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

Answered by Dr. Michele K. DVM

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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