Hair loss in a dog-how to diagnosis a problem.

Hair loss on a dog. What is normal?

First, most dog blow, or lose, their coat twice a year. They will constantly be shedding some hair but 2 major hair changes occur naturally. What triggers this can vary-time of the year, light, etc. This type of hair loss is uniform, all over the body and will not typically cause bare spots to develop. You have to vacuum a lot more.

On the other hand their are conditions that can cause a dog to start to lose hair that are symptoms of other problems that are developing or are in full swing.

First thing to recognize here is whether the dog is itching and losing their coat or not itching and losing their coat. Itching and losing their coat can be due to allergies(among other reasons) and we have talked many times on that subject in previous posts on our FB page and on the news section of the Dr Tim’s website. Let’s look more at the losing hair with out itching symptoms.

When a dog is starting to lose hair in regions or all over the body(generalized) we need to consider some basic attributes the pet is showing. Is the appetite normal, are they drinking more water, are they sleeping more, do they have an odor, are they greasy on the skin, the breed of the pet, vomiting or diarrhea issues, are they losing or gaining weight. All of this can play a part with the direction the veterinarian will take with diagnosing the problem. But let’s not forget the age of the animal as that can really direct us towards the most likely culprits versus doing unnecessary test. Age and the breed are really helpful as each have a propensity for specific diseases.

Young dogs(under 2) with hair loss and not itching are candidates for problems such as mange, ringworm, seasonal alopecia, zinc responsive dermatosis, vitamin A responsive dermatosis, fatty acid deficiency, medications, poor nutrition or an altered hair growth cycle due to a stress like surgery or other illness just to name a few.

Middle aged dogs, say between 2-7 years of age with hair loss and not itching would find us considering conditions such as low thyroid hormones, medications, seasonal alopecia, and other hormonal influences on such as sex hormones, cortisol excess (cushing’s disease) or mineralocorticoid deficiency(addison’s disease). Immune mediated diseases are also considered in addition to poor nutrition or the lack of nutritional intake. Lack of adequately eating enough food can also lead to poor hair regrowth and evaluating why that is happening could be as simple as the diet is not palatable to another disease process causing no appetite, such as cancer.

Older dogs would still have the above considerations but we need to look closer at organ function, cushing’s disease(either produced by the dog or created by steroid use), diabetes, diet alterations aimed at the senior dog(senior diets are often way too low in fat and zinc and these are vital to hair growth and maintenance) and overall nutritional intake.

Many of these diseases require skin biopsies, blood work, experience and occasionally consulting or visits to the veterinary dermatologist. Many of these, though, can be worked through with a method and plan. Age of the dog, distribution pattern and the breed help us tremendously to go down the most likely path but there are additional tests to help us confirm the diagnosis and apply the proper treatment. Don’t give up!