Common causes of hair loss in dogs

By Tess Thompson

Alopecia, or hair loss, is associated with an overwhelming majority of skin disorders in pets. Practically all domesticated animals face hair loss problems, but cats and dogs are among the most seriously affected. Most common conditions like feline hair loss are due to feline acne and feline dandruff. Dogs on the other hand lose hair for a variety of reasons. This makes it difficult for the specialist to distinguish normal canine hair loss from that associated with a major ailment.

The most common cause of dog skin problems like alopecia is allergic reactions. Listed below are common allergens:

  • Contact with environmental irritants
  • Contact with chemical detergents, paints, nickel and other chemical or textile fibers
  • Exposure to inhalants, deodorants and room fresheners
  • Inhaling pollen or household dust mites
  • Drug-induced allergies
  • Food-borne allergies

Hair loss is also a prominent symptom of certain medical conditions, like Cushing’s disease, hypothyroidism, and Tail gland hyperplasia.

The underlying cause behind Cushing’s disease is the increase of corticosteroids in the body. This may be due to an abnormal but natural process in the body or rampant use of synthetic steroids. It is a fatal disease and needs prompt veterinary attention.

Hypothyroidism is caused by an under-active thyroid gland. In such a condition, the dog can lose hair and develop bacterial and yeast infections.

Normal functioning of the sebaceous tail gland is crucial for supply of sebum for lubricating hair and skin. Tail gland hyperplasia is a secondary disease where the enlarged gland malfunctions.

Furthermore, canine hair loss occurs during pregnancy and other stressful conditions, such as illness or surgery. Hair loss during pregnancy and nursing is usually accompanied by a foul smelling outflow or vapor of gaseous waste.

Allergic reaction and medical conditions aside, hair loss in dogs is also a major problem that occurs in skin disorders like bacterial or fungal infections and mange.

The most common mange is caused by three types of mites - Sarcoptes, Demodex and Cheyletiella. The first two result in a substantial hair loss, while the third causes minimal alopecia except in its severe manifestation. All forms of mange also have an underlying symptom of intense itching and scratching.

Even though dog hair loss can occurs seasonally, it may be indicative of certain allergic reactions, medical conditions, and infections. Therefore, excessive hair loss should not be ignored. The symptom can actually lead to the final diagnosis of a much more complicated disease.


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