Diseases, Skin Problem Resources, Vet Minute

Alopecia in Dogs

Is your dog’s fur falling off and you don’t know why? Is it symmetrical hair loss on your dog or random spots? Dr. Marty Greer, Revival’s Director of Veterinary Services, talks about common causes of canine alopecia including dog mites, allergies and hormonal diseases. Dr. Greer also shares why finding the correct cause of hair loss in dogs is so important.

Alopecia in Dogs

What Causes Alopecia in Dogs?

Alopecia means hair loss. So alopecia in dogs can happen for lots and lots of reasons. Obviously, if a dog is shaved for a surgical procedure or catheter, that’s alopecia technically. But most of the time we have a pretty good answer for that.

Symptoms associated with canine alopecia or hair loss are going to be scratching, itching, licking and biting, sometimes there are scabs. Sometimes there are sores. Sometimes it is just a quiet looking area where the hair is missing. There are a lot of different causes on how dog hair loss can happen.

What Causes Hair Loss in Dogs

Hormonal diseases such as thyroid disease and Cushings disease can cause significant hair loss. Typically those are symmetrical and not just in one spot. If the right side has it, then the left side has it too.

Hair loss in dogs can be due to allergies. We see a lot of allergies in dogs, especially in the summertime with pollen and mold allergies. But we can also see dog food allergies, flea allergies, a variety of different reasons for dogs to react allergically to something. We will see dog hair loss associated with some of those allergies.

We can see staph infections which can happen from anything that breaks the skin. An insect bite or it can be secondary to allergies so anytime there is a break in the skin and the bacterial infection develops, that’s a staph infection. Staph is a normal bacteria to see on the skin of dogs and cats, but when they develop an infection the number of bacteria in that area becomes 10 fold of what it was before, so you’ll frequently see a rash associated with that.

We can see mites, a variety of different kinds of dog skin mites, including Cheyletiella which is walking dandruff. We can see demodex which is a genetic disorder and scabies mites which are contagious. So a variety of different mites can cause dog hair loss.

How Do You Treat Alopecia in Dogs?

Without a diagnosis of what is causing the alopecia in the dog, we can’t really give you a treatment for alopecia in dogs. We can’t just say here’s a shampoo or here’s an antibiotic or here’s a steroid, or here’s another allergy medication. We’ve got a lot of great medications, but the first thing you need to have is a diagnosis so we make sure you are on the right medication, you’re not spending your money on something that is not appropriate. You also don’t want your pet being subjected to medications that are not the right thing for their condition. You are probably going to need to either do a telephone consult with a video with your veterinarian so they can see the dog hair loss or lesions or an in-person visit so you can get the appropriate medicated dog shampoo or oral medications to manage that disease.

If you have any questions on hair loss in dogs or need help, call us at 800.786.4751.

Written by: Marty Greer, DVM

Director of Veterinary Services

Marty Greer, Doctor of Veterinary Medicine, has 40+ years’ experience in veterinary medicine, with special interests in canine reproduction and pediatrics. She received her Doctor of Veterinary Medicine from Iowa State University in 1981. She’s served as Revival’s Director of Veterinary Services since 2019. In 2023, Dr. Greer was named the Westminster Kennel Club Veterinarian of the Year.

If you need help, call us at 800.786.4751.