Almost all dogs shed their fur (often to their owner's dismay), but this usually does not affect the look and feel of their coat overall. That’s why, if you notice that your dog is shedding tons of fur, its coat is thinning in places or it is even developing bald spots, there is probably a more serious underlying cause.
Often, the root cause of canine hair loss is allergies. Allergies are more common in dogs than most pet owners think. Whether they are caused by a reaction to flea bites, foods or seasonal allergens, allergies can lead to a myriad of symptoms including skin irritation, itchiness and hair loss.
Allergy-related hair loss
Hair loss is a very common symptom of allergic reactions in dogs, and it usually comes down to the fact that allergies make your dog extremely itchy.
Allergies can cause a condition called atopic dermatitis, which is a skin reaction that produces red bumps, inflammation and itchiness. Hair loss can occur as a result of your dog scratching at its skin incessantly to relieve this itch. Your dog may also lick certain body parts over and over, or
sometimes even bite and chew at them as a means to relieve itchiness.
All of these actions can lead to hair loss. Usually, pet owners will notice the hair loss occurring because hair is missing in large patches or bald spots are beginning to form. However, hair can also begin to shed more frequently because it is being pulled loose by the scratching, licking and
Another cause for concern that goes hand-in-hand with allergy-related hair loss is hot spots. Hot spots are areas on your dog’s skin that become raw, red and inflamed because of repeated scratching and licking. The constant attention to the skin combined with the moisture in the area can damage the tissue and create a breeding ground for bacteria. This can lead to secondary bacterial infections on the skin.
In addition to being caused by intense itchiness, hot spots can begin to itch, themselves, creating a vicious cycle. Hair in these areas is often lost and bald spots are created due to the intensity with which dogs lick or bite at them.
Treating allergy-related hair loss
The main way to stop your dog from mutilating and losing its hair due allergic itching is to have it tested for allergies by a vet and find solutions. Go to the source and find relief from the allergies themselves first., but treatments can vary based on the type of allergy your dog has.
Flea Bites: If flea bites are the issue, as they are for many dogs, flea baths and medications may be necessary to rid your dog of fleas and relieve the itchiness associated with them.
Food Allergies: If your dog has developed a food allergy, the specific allergen should be removed from its diet and avoided for the rest of its life. Food allergies typically develop over a period of time, so there’s a chance your dog may develop more allergies in the future. New food ingredients and food trials may be necessary to identify the specific allergic trigger and to find food that doesn’t make your dog have an allergic reaction.
Environmental Allergies: If your dog has an allergy to a substance used inside your home (such as a cleaning product), discontinuing its use can typically relieve the allergies. However, if the allergies are more seasonal in nature, your dog may require medication or natural allergy relief treatments to soothe its symptoms until the allergens are no longer present in the air. If your dog struggles with environmental allergies that cause it to itch and lose hair, you can also try giving it oatmeal baths or use specially formulated shampoos to soothe its itchy skin, as well as apply topical creams to relieve inflammation and itchiness.
Unfortunately, some dogs that are unable to control their scratching and biting may need to endure the “cone of shame" for a while until their symptoms lessen—especially if they are developing hot spots. Until your dog’s allergies are properly managed, there is always the chance that it will scratch, lick and bite itself and cause hair loss. Fortunately, this hair loss is not usually permanent, and the hair will grow back to its normal length and thickness once the allergies and overgrooming are relieved.
If your dog is losing hair and you suspect the cause is allergies, speak with your vet and have your dog tested to ensure you put it on the correct treatment plan and get it back to health.