Dog hair loss, also known as alopecia, can be caused by a variety of different circumstances and conditions. Unlike shedding, alopecia is the falling out of patches or generalized areas of hair outside of the normal shedding cycle, often resulting in bald spots.
This can happen to any dog at any time, regardless of breed or age, and it can also appear as thinning hair rather than completely bald areas. That said, some breeds are more prone to this condition. For some, such as Chinese Cresteds, hair loss or baldness is normal. Other breeds, like Dachshunds and Bulldogs, are prone to genetic alopecia.
Dog hair loss is often accompanied by skin issues such as discoloration, inflammation, dryness, or even open sores. If you’re seeking dog hair loss home remedies or more information about what your dog’s bald spots might be caused by, read on.
The Most Common Causes of Hair Loss in Dogs
Alopecia can be caused by many factors, both internal and external, ranging from severe to minor. Your dog’s bald spots or thinning hair might be caused by:
- A nutritional deficiency in their diet
- Various diseases and disorders
- Stress-related behaviors
What Vitamin Deficiency Causes Hair Loss in Dogs?
Your dog’s diet has a lot to do with the health of their skin and coat. Deficiency in any vitamin or mineral might result in brittle or unhealthy hair, but zinc in particular is one of the building blocks for a healthy coat. Sometimes, your dog’s diet may include components that block their uptake of zinc and cause a copper deficiency that results in a washed-out and unhealthy coat, and sometimes sores and skin issues as well. It’s important to ensure your dog is getting enough zinc in their diet and also avoiding imbalances like excess calcium that may interrupt proper zinc absorption in their body.
Your dog might also experience hair loss if their diet is deficient in omega-3 fatty acids, or has an imbalanced protein to fat ratio. Furthermore, if the quality of your dog’s food is low, they might experience hair loss even though their diet is technically balanced. The quality of protein and fat in their diet is just as important as the quantities.
By maintaining a healthy dog diet and consulting your veterinarian about ways your pet’s food might be impacting their coat, you may be able to address any dog hair loss.
Can Fleas Cause Hair Loss in Dogs?
Fleas, along with lice, mange mites, ticks, and mosquitos, can all cause dog hair loss. These are known as ectoparasites and they can cause irritation to your dog’s skin that, if left untreated, will result in bald spots.
Ectoparasites usually cause your dog to feel itchy, which will make him bite, scratch, and chew at his skin. This is the behavior that results in hair loss. So while the fleas and ticks themselves don’t actually cause your dog’s hair to fall out or change, their reaction to the pests is what impacts their coat.
Often, if your dog’s hair loss is related to ectoparasites, there will be many other skin-related symptoms, such as lesions and pustules. You often can actually see the fleas and ticks on your dog’s skin as well, and you might even be able to spot parasite eggs or flea feces (black spots) when you examine your pet’s coat carefully. You’ll also see your pet engaging in the damaging behavior that’s causing the hair loss.
Dog Hair Loss from Allergies
Allergies of all types can cause hair loss in dogs, especially those with sensitive skin that are prone to reactivity to allergens in the air, their food, or other environmental factors they come into contact with. The hair loss caused by fleas and ectoparasites mentioned above is technically an allergic reaction to the bites of those bugs. “Allergies” is a good catchall cause for dog hair loss issues, but you will often require a more specific diagnosis of cause in order to find a treatment.
Diseases and Disorders That Cause Alopecia in Dogs
Of course, on the more severe end of the spectrum of causes for dog hair loss, you’ll find a variety of diseases and disorders that may be indicated by bald spots. Some of the diseases that might cause hair loss are related to your dog’s organ function or hormone production, while others may even be autoimmune or cancerous.
One of the more common causes for hair loss in dogs is canine Cushing’s syndrome, also known as Cushing’s disease. Along with patterned or complete hair loss along the back, body, and tail, a dog with Cushing’s often experiences excessive thirst and muscle weakness. Cushing’s disease causes your dog to release too much cortisol, the stress hormone, which contributes to the other symptoms.
Skin disorders can also cause hair loss. Your dog’s skin and coat are closely related and the entire ecosystem is interrelated, meaning that skin problems can cause hair problems, and vice versa.
Stress Signals Can Cause Self-Inflicted Hair Loss
It’s also possible that your dog’s hair loss is self-inflicted from their own excessive licking, chewing, or biting on their skin. This behavior can be in response to skin itchiness or dryness, hot spots, or even stress. When a dog manifests its stress or anxiety in such self-mutilation, it’s an urgent issue that needs to be addressed immediately.
Diagnosing the Reason for Your Dog’s Hair Loss
If you take your dog to the veterinarian to figure out the cause for his hair loss, your pet’s doctor will do a multi-part examination that often includes:
- A physical exam
- A blood profile
- Skin impressions and scrapes
The Pattern of Your Dog’s Hair Loss Can Indicate the Cause
The way your dog’s hair loss appears might indicate the cause of the problem, so your veterinarian will start by simply giving your dog a physical exam. Patterned loss in a patchy appearance might mean infections or conditions like ringworm, bacteria, or parasites. The location of the bald spots can also help a veterinarian identify the problem: dogs with flea allergies usually lose hair around their backside and the base of their tail and contact allergies might display as hair loss on the paws and face. This part of the diagnosis will dictate how your veterinarian proceeds.
A Blood Test Might Help Determine the Cause for Dog Hair Loss
A small blood test might be required to rule out a few common causes of alopecia, including Cushing’s disease, diabetes, and hormonal issues. If your dog’s hair loss is related to immune issues, a blood test will be required. This is a common step when trying to deal with this condition.
Skin Testing Can Include Impressions and Scraping
Because of the close relationship between your pet’s skin and coat health, there will likely be some skin testing as your veterinarian tries to diagnose the problem with their hair. Skin scrapes use a small blade to shear off skin cells that your veterinarian can look at under a microscope to identify mange mites.
Skin impression smears are when your doctor presses the slide against your pet’s skin to identify the growth of various bacteria, including yeast. Other skin tests can identify various allergies your dog may have.
A Biopsy May Be Required for Cancers or Other Serious Conditions
Finally, your veterinarian may want to cut a small piece of your dog’s skin to do a biopsy and identify the presence of cancer or another autoimmune disease. This is often a last resort and very unlikely if your veterinarian finds evidence of a different cause for your dog’s hair loss.
Dog Hair Loss Home Remedies and Treatment
There are often many approaches to address and remedy your dog’s hair loss once you have identified the cause. These might include:
- Flea and tick treatments
- Topical treatments, both medicated and natural
- A humidifier
Antifungals and Antibiotics Might Address Dog Hair Loss
If your dog has any kind of infection that is contributing to hair loss, your veterinarian will prescribe medication to clear it up. Sometimes, even for allergies, immunosuppressive drugs are necessary. Steroids might also be used to treat some skin conditions that cause hair loss.
Preventative Flea and Tick Treatments Can Prevent Hair Loss
If your dog’s hair loss is the result of flea and tick irritation, you will likely need to start using a regular preventative treatment to get rid of these pests and avoid future infections. Your veterinarian can recommend the best type of treatment for your pet and provide detailed instructions on how to administer it.
Topical Treatments May Help with Hair Loss in Dogs
Medicated dog shampoos might help with some hair loss or rejuvenation of your dog’s coat. There are also sprays, ointments, and dips for topical treatment of hair loss. Depending on the cause of your pet’s bald spots, this may be a useful strategy for treatment.
As for dog hair loss home remedies in the topical category, there are several. Some owners dab a little apple cider vinegar onto their dog’s coat with a sponge or even drizzle a cup or two into a warm bath where the pet can soak. The antibacterial properties of apple cider vinegar can support healthy skin, hair follicles, and coat, and help your pet avoid infections that may cause hair loss. The acidity in lemon juice can create the same effect and is one of the popular dog hair loss home remedies.
Another topical choice is olive oil, which can be rubbed into your dog’s coat and skin and then washed off for a nice moisturizing, calming treatment to strengthen their coat and keep their skin happy.
Some Dog Owners Use Supplements for a Healthier Coat and Less Hair Loss
If your dog’s hair loss is caused by a vitamin deficiency, supplementing their diet might be a good dog hair loss home remedy. Vitamins E and A, as well as fish oil, can help pets with dry skin or even some infections.
A Humidifier Might Help If Dryness Is Causing Itching
If your dog’s hair loss is a result of dryness and itching in their skin, you might consider using a humidifier in the area where they sleep. Especially if you live in a dry climate, your dog might need a little additional moisture in the air to help their coat stay supple and strong.
Proper Grooming Is the Ultimate Alopecia Home Remedy
If you’ve addressed all the other potential underlying issues for your dog’s hair loss, the best way to treat this condition at home is with proper, regular brushing. By brushing your dog’s coat – and engaging in other useful grooming techniques like regular baths and trims if your dog needs them – you can help their coat stay strong and avoid dog hair loss. Sometimes, the natural oils created in your dog’s skin (which are intended to make their way throughout the coat) get concentrated at the hair follicle. Brushing pulls those oils through the hair and supports healthy growth and coat maintenance.
Dog Hair Loss May Be Easily Treated with Home Remedies
Dog hair loss can sometimes indicate something severely wrong with your pet, so it’s very important to contact your veterinarian if you notice this issue and can’t identify an immediate cause. Especially if the hair loss is accompanied by uncomfortable skin issues, you’ll need to cover your bases carefully to keep your dog safe and comfortable.
But other times, dog hair loss home remedies can do the trick to get that coat back to a healthy shine and full coverage. Especially if your dog’s hair issues are minor – simple thinning of the hair or small, occasional patches of baldness – don’t hesitate to use a dog hair loss home remedy like olive oil, lemon juice, or apple cider vinegar.