Hair loss, technically called “alopecia,” is broadly defined as any deficiency in a dog’s normal hair coat. Alopecia doesn’t refer only to hair loss; it also includes coat defects from failure of hair to grow in the first place. Many medical conditions involve hair loss, including color dilution alopecia, seasonal flank alopecia, alopecia X (“black skin disease”), acanthosis nigricans, follicular dysplasia, congenital hypotrichosis, pattern baldness and pituitary dwarfism. Some have a genetic component. External parasites, fungal and bacterial skin infections, certain drugs, hormonal/endocrine imbalances such as Cushing’s Disease, Addison’s Disease, hypothyroidism, hyperthyroidism, allergies, stress, poor nutrition, lactation and cancer can all cause hair loss, with or without redness, itchiness, scabbing, scaling or bleeding. Because hair loss typically is associated with an underlying medical disorder, annual veterinary examinations can help identify and manage the problem before it becomes out of hand. These tests are especially important for older dogs.
There is no particular age or sex predisposition to the development of alopecia, although certain dog breeds do seem at increased risk for certain kinds of alopecia. Doberman pinschers and many other breeds are prone to developing color dilution alopecia. Recurrent seasonal flank alopecia tends to occur in Boxers, Bulldogs, and Airedale terriers. Alopecia X (also called adrenal reproductive hormone imbalance and sometimes called “black skin disease”) occurs more commonly in plush-coated breeds such as
Alopecia is one of the more common complaints of dog owners. How alopecia affects a dog depends upon the underlying cause of the condition. Hair loss (or failure to grow) can occur anywhere on the body of a dog of any age, breed or gender, including on the face, around the eyes, on the back, near the base of the tail or on the flank. The hair abnormality may occur on its own without any
Alopecia is usually a sign of an underlying disorder, which must be diagnosed accurately in order for effective treatment to begin. If the hair loss is accompanied by scratching, pustules, hot spots or other lesions, it may be appropriate to apply topical medications to manage and hopefully alleviate the discomfort caused by these conditions even before the actual cause of the alopecia is determined. The veterinarian may prescribe ointments, creams, lotions, shampoos or other soothing