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Dog Health 01.06.2021

Alopecia in dogs - causes, symptoms, diagnosis, prevention and treatment.

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Alopecia in dogs - causes, symptoms, diagnosis, prevention and treatment.

Alopecia in dogs refers to partial or complete hair loss. While it's normal for your dog to shed and get an uneven coat during the spring and fall shedding season, alopecia is not normal and often needs to be treated. The condition is often a symptom of other underlying problems. However, it can also occur on its own with no apparent cause. Alopecia can affect your dog's skin, immune system, endocrine system, and lymphatic system. When you notice the first signs, it is important to see a veterinarian as soon as possible.

Canine alopecia shutterstock.com / Daniel Simoc-Minea

Basics and causes of alopecia

There are many causes and diseases that can lead to hair loss in dogs. Often mange, a disease caused by mites, is to blame. It can cause extreme hair loss and skin crusting. Ringworm, a contagious fungal infection, or infections caused by bacteria can also cause alopecia. In these cases, it appears as circular hairless patches with lesions, inflammation, and crusting. Lesions sometimes clear up on their own, but treatment with an antifungal shampoo and medication is usually required. Cushing's syndrome, a condition in which the body overproduces steroid hormones, can cause hair loss.

Some breeds of dogs are genetically predisposed to developing bald patches on their bodies. This inherited condition is usually harmless and does not require treatment. Breeds that are susceptible include Chihuahuas, Dachshunds, Greyhounds, and Whippets. Bald spots can be the result of allergies. Flea bites are a common cause, but your dog can basically be allergic to almost any substance. Allergies often create itching, which causes the dog to scratch. This can damage the coat. Rashes and hives can form from contact with plants, chemicals, insect bites, and even some medications. Pressure sores and chafing can also form, such as from a collar that is too tight or when your dog lies on hard surfaces. This can lead to calluses, which may become infected and bleed.

Other causes of alopecia in dogs:

  • Nervous behavior such as chewing and licking.
  • Reaction to a foreign body in the skin
  • Vitamin or mineral deficiency
  • Injuries and scarring
  • Reaction to a vaccination
  • Diabetes
  • Thyroid problems
  • Hormonal imbalance
  • Consequences of chemotherapy
  • Skin cancer

Symptoms of alopecia and diagnosis of alopecia

Symptoms of canine alopecia can be seen in the coat. Hair loss can be gradual or acute, resulting in bald patches. Signs that may occur in the dog are:

  • General hair loss
  • Hair loss around the eyes and mouth
  • Weeping or bleeding around the areas of hair loss
  • Bald patches on the head
  • Spots on the skin
  • Crusting and inflammation of the skin
  • Scaly skin
  • Itching and sores from scratching
  • Symmetrical hair loss occurring on both sides of the body

Therapy and prevention of alopecia

If your dog suffers from alopecia, you should always have the cause examined. Only then can you choose the best treatment method.

Antibiotics, antifungals and steroids are often used topically or orally to treat skin conditions and inflammation. Antihistamines can be used for allergic reactions. Medicated shampoos can treat a number of infections, especially mange. If alopecia is a result of your dog chewing and licking, an Elizabethan collar can help stop this behavior. Flea and tick prevention will help prevent alopecia caused by itching. Insulin therapy is appropriate for diabetes. Thyroid medication and hormone therapy may be used to correct some thyroid problems. Surgery may be necessary to remove tumors or skin cancer. There are also a number of supplements you can add to your dog's diet to help keep the coat healthy. Fish oil, vitamin A and vitamin E can help with dry skin and certain skin infections.

Banner: shutterstock.com / Everita Pane
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