What is Losing Hair?

It is normal for your dog to lose fur as a result of shedding, which will normally occur in the spring and in the fall. Should you notice that your dog is losing more hair than is typical, in some cases showing bald patches, there may be an underlying cause. Possible reasons for your dog to be losing hair include:

  • Food allergies
  • Skin problems
  • Stress
  • Parasites
  • Internal illness
  • Certain medications

How serious your dog’s hair loss is will depend upon the reason that it is occurring. Shedding is something that will typically happen and is not a concern. An internal condition that is causing your dog to lose hair, however, can be more serious.

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Why Losing Hair Occurs in Dogs

Why your dog is losing hair will depend on the reason that it is happening. For example:

Food Allergies

Particular foods may cause more than the usual amount of shedding in your dog. If your canine has developed a sensitivity to an ingredient in his dog food, he may begin to experience symptoms such as itchiness, excessive licking of the paws and skin, and hair loss.

Skin Problems

Skin problems will cause your dog’s skin to feel itchy and he may develop a rash. This will result in your dog repeatedly licking and scratching the affected area(s), which will cause the loss of hair and even the development of bald patches. Skin problems can occur as a result of allergens, chemicals, foods or parasites. 

Stress

Should your dog be losing hair, it may be due to stress. Even the smallest change may cause stress in your dog. If you have recently moved, added someone new to your household, or had a household member leave, your dog may experience stress. As a result, your dog may lick particular areas repeatedly, which will result in the loss of hair.

Parasites

Your dog can be losing hair as a result of fleas, mites or worms. They can cause irritation in your dog’s skin, and in many cases itchiness. Your dog will scratch repeatedly which will result in wounds and lead to hair loss. These parasites will take your dog’s nutrients which can lead to his coat looking unhealthy and fur being lost. 

Internal Illness

An internal illness, like cancer, diabetes or a thyroid disorder can lead to hair loss. A hormone imbalance can also lead to your dog losing hair.

If in addition to hair loss, you observe that your dog has become lethargic, is losing weight or showing changes in his behavior, it is important to take him to the veterinarian.

Certain Medication

Some medications, for example, chemotherapy, can cause your dog to lose hair. If your canine is losing hair and you feel it may be his prescribed medication, consult your veterinarian. There could be an alternate choice.

What to do if your Dog is Losing Hair

Brushing your dog regularly is recommended. This will give you the opportunity to look at his coat, his skin and whether there are any bald patches. If there are any changes in the amount of hair being shed or if you notice bald patches, you will want to contact your veterinarian and schedule an examination. 

Your veterinarian will conduct a full clinical examination of your dog and you will be asked about his diet, any supplements or medications he takes, as well as the symptoms that you have observed. As a food allergy can cause hair loss, you will either want to bring a sample of your dog’s food or be able to provide him with the details of the ingredients that are present. 

Your veterinarian will look closely at your dog’s fur for the presence of parasites like fleas, mites or worms and the skin irritation and bites that accompany them. He may use a flea comb that will remove flea dirt. When put on a wet paper towel the feces will turn a coppery red color which will confirm fleas are present. 

If parasites are ruled out, based on the clinical examination, your veterinarian will consider possible internal illnesses; should your veterinarian notice that your dog’s liver appears enlarged, for example, he will consider that diabetes can be a factor and will conduct blood testing to see if he has high glucose levels. A urinalysis can also show that both glucose and ketones are present in his urine, pointing to diabetes. Blood testing can also help point your veterinarian in the direction of other illnesses that may be causing your dog to lose more than the usual amount of hair.

Should your veterinarian rule out internal illnesses and parasites in your dog, he will consider stress as well as a food allergy. When a food allergy is suspected, your veterinarian will recommend a novel diet, where your dog will eat a bland diet that contains none of the ingredients that he was previously consuming. Should his condition clear up while he is on the novel diet (usually for around 90 days) it will point to a food allergy. As you reintroduce the ingredients of his prior diet one-by-one, should symptoms return, you will confirm what it is that he is allergic to.

Prevention of Losing Hair

There are things you can do to promote your dog’s health and minimize his risk of developing conditions resulting in excessive hair loss. To start, speak with your veterinarian about your dog’s diet to be sure that he is getting all of the nutrients that he needs. Your veterinarian may recommend a change in his food or supplements to be sure that his nutritional needs are met.

As stress can lead to hair loss, you will want to do what you can to minimize stress in your dog’s life, as well as ensure he gets plenty of exercise. Exercise will help reduce stress as well as be beneficial to his overall health. You can prevent certain parasites, like fleas, from making their home on your dog through a flea prevention product. As they can be a challenge to get rid of, avoiding them in the first place is ideal.

Taking your dog for regular examinations with your veterinarian will allow you to receive guidance on your dog’s health and through the examination your veterinarian may be able to catch potential issues before they become larger problems.

Cost of Losing Hair

The cost of treatment for your dog’s losing hair will depend upon why it is being lost. If his hair loss is the result of his having fleas, treatment will average around $350.00, depending how the severity and whether you follow the treatment instructions properly. Should the hair loss be the result of diabetes, the cost will be significantly greater, averaging $3,000. Treatment costs in the case of stress being the cause of hair loss, are minimal and will mainly involve lifestyle changes. Regardless of the condition, the cost of treatment will vary based on the location and its cost of living.