A photo of a dog with long hair around their head

Health & Wellness

What causes hair loss in dogs?

Tell your vet if the fur starts flying

Have you noticed that your pup is missing patches of fur? Maybe you’ve been vacuuming up more dog hair than usual? Fetch by The Dodo’s on-staff veterinarian Dr. Aliya McCullough explains the top four reasons dogs lose their fur and treatment options for each. 

Why do dogs lose their fur? 

If you notice that your dog is experiencing hair loss, your vet will most likely want to run tests to rule out any contagious conditions, like mites or scabies, as the cause. They’ll also want to know the history of the hair loss, so keep track of when it started, and let them know if there are any other symptoms. 

The four causes of hair loss in dogs

Self-trauma

This hair loss occurs when your pet can’t stop scratching or chewing, which causes skin damage and eventual hair loss. Allergies, fleas and other parasites can irritate a pet's skin, and the inevitable scratching may take a toll on their fur. Some pets also have behavioral or psychological issues involving excessive licking or grooming, resulting in hair loss. 

Dog hair loss treatment: There are many potential causes of this type of hair loss. Make sure to talk to your vet to identify the trigger and explore various treatment options.

Inflammation and infection

Bacterial infections and inhaled allergies are common inflammatory causes of hair loss in dogs. For example, mites that trigger mange and fungal organisms are contagious and can cause hair loss.

Dog hair loss treatment: Talk to your veterinarian about treating the underlying cause of the inflammation or infection and any potential allergy medications. 

Treatment options for inflammation or infections include: 

  • Antibiotics (for bacterial infections)
  • Antifungal medications
  • Topical medications like shampoos, wipes, mousses or sprays
  • Fatty acid supplements
  • Anti-itch medications 
  • Steroids 

Treatment options for allergies include: 

  • Prescription diet
  • Anti-itch medications
  • Allergy medications, like antihistamines or immunosuppressive medications
  • Antibiotics for secondary infections
  • Omega fatty acids
  • Immunotherapy (also called allergy shots)
  • Topical shampoos, sprays, mousses or wipes

Treatment options for parasites or mites include:

  • Flea and tick preventive medications
  • Topical shampoos, sprays, mousses or wipes
  • Decontaminating your house, your pet’s bed and sheets

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Immune-related ‍

This type of hair loss occurs when a dog’s immune system attacks its hair follicles. Although immune-related hair loss is rare, you should still ask your vet to rule the condition out as, it may be a symptom of a deeper problem.

Dog hair loss treatment: Your veterinarian may recommend immunosuppressive medications or steroids to treat an immune-related cause of hair loss. 

Non-itchy, non-inflammatory‍

Some hair loss is a reaction to external factors, like hair products, and doesn’t affect your dog’s overall health. 

Dog hair loss treatment: If your dog’s hair loss is purely cosmetic, look for potential reasons and treat them symptomatically (with your vet’s guidance). For example, discontinue using any products on their hair, apply sunscreen in summer months or wrap them in a jacket during the wintertime

While these tips can give you insight on what’s going on with your pup, remember that you should always talk to your vet before treating them for hair loss. They’ll be able to pinpoint the trigger and offer healthy remedies. 

Photo by Łukasz Rawa on Unsplash

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