If you have a pet, shedding is an unavoidable part of life. The vacuum, the broom, and lint roller are absolute necessities, yet no matter how meticulous you are that loose fur seems to pop up in all corners of the house and on your clothing when you’re least expecting it. It’s all worth it, of course – after all pets are like family!
Seasonal or mild hair loss in pets is normal, but certain conditions can cause more extreme shedding and even bald spots. Determining the cause of abnormal or excessive hair loss in pets is absolutely essential to keeping your pet healthy.
Causes of Hair Loss in Pets
There are a variety of reasons a pet might lose their fur (also called alopecia). Your pet should see their veterinarian at the first sign of excess hair loss. Common causes include:
Allergies – Hair loss is common among pets suffering from allergies to pollen, mold, dust mites, food, or flea bites. Other symptoms of allergies in pets include excessive itching, biting, or licking of a particular area (paws, belly, or ears are common).
Infection – Bacterial or fungal infections (such as ringworm) can cause hair loss and should be treated as soon as possible. Can be accompanied by oozing, swelling, and/or a foul odor.
Infestation – An infestation by external parasites such as fleas, mites, scabies, or even ticks can cause hair loss in pets.
Cushing’s disease – Also called hyperadrenocorticism, Cushing’s disease is categorized by excessive production of the hormone cortisol. Besides hair loss, other symptoms of Cushing’s disease include darkening of the skin and a “pot bellied” appearance to the abdomen.
Genetics – Certain dogs, like the Chinese Crested or Mexican Hairless, have been bred for reduced hair. Other breeds, such as Dachshunds, Greyhounds, and Dobermans, are more prone to hair loss around the ears, chest, back, thighs, or neck.
Pressure sores – Pressure sores are areas of hair loss that result when a dog’s elbows, hips, or other bony pressure points come into contact with hard surfaces too often. More common in older/heavier dogs.
Diagnosis and Treatment
Your veterinarian will diagnose your pet’s hair loss based on the location and pattern of the missing hair, biopsy/skin scraping, blood work, or allergy testing. It’s important to follow your vet’s recommendations for treatment and follow up appointments. We also recommend that all pets be on a flea and tick preventive medication year round, even if they are indoors exclusively.