How To Identify and Treat Dog Hair Loss

Most dogs lose some of their hair on a regular basis - this is nothing to be concerned about. If you own a dog, you may be familiar with finding tufts of hair on the carpet or couch. This is especially true of double-coated breeds. Double coated means your dog has a softer thicker inner coat, which helps protect him from extremes in temperature. It insulates him in the winter from extreme cold. The fur also helps keep extremely warm air from reaching the skin in the summer. Double-coated dogs usually have a course outer coat over the top of the inner layer, which helps protect the inner coat, and is an additional layer against cold and heat. Some examples of breeds with a double coat include: German Shepherd, Collie, Husky, and Welsh Corgi.

Seasonal hair loss is often called "shedding" or "blowing coat." This type of hair loss is normal for most breeds of dog. Some breeds also have excessive hair loss when they are losing their puppy hair and growing their adult fur. You cannot completely eliminate your pet's hair loss, but there are ways you can minimize the amount of hair you find on the carpet or on your clothing.

  1. Brush your dog daily. Depending on the thickness of hair, you can do this with a soft bristled brush, or for thicker-coated breeds, a lightweight or medium-weight wire brush may be more effective. Good dog grooming makes a difference.
  2. Always brush your dog in the direction the hair is going. This will remove dead, loose hair and dander while feeling pleasant to your pet. If you brush against the hair, you will still remove loose hair, but your pet will not enjoy the experience.
  3. Feed your dog a good dog food. Consult with your veterinarian to make sure your pet is receiving all the nutrients he needs in a well-balanced diet. Consider adding vitamins to your dog's diet.
  4. Do not feed your dog from the table. Human food is not nutritionally balanced for your pet and will not give your pet the vitamins and minerals necessary to grow a healthy coat.

A dog's fur or coat is a reflection of a dog's general health. If your dog is healthy, the better solution could be to find a good vacuum cleaner. However, if your dog's hair loss becomes excessive or your pet is scratching patches out of his coat, it could be a sign of a more major underlying problem. You should consult your veterinarian for consultation on any abnormal dog hair loss. Here are some possible causes of canine hair loss, and their symptoms:

  1. Your dog may have seasonal allergies or be allergic to his food or household chemicals. See the article on How To Determine if Your Dog has Food Allergies for more information on this subject. If your dog is having an allergic reaction, his skin may become irritated and itchy, causing excessive hair loss all over the body or in patches. Consult your veterinarian if you suspect your dog's hair loss is due to allergies.
  2. Your pet may have a hypersensitivity to flea or mosquito bites. Some dogs are extremely sensitive to fleas or mosquitoes. When they are bitten, these dogs will itch and scratch themselves until patches of hair are falling off. Check your dog's stomach and the base of his tail for signs of fleas and consult with your veterinarian for a good method of flea control. If your pet is outside in the evenings, use an insect repellent on his fur to minimize mosquito bites.
  3. Hormonal diseases such as hypothyroidism or Cushing's disease can also cause your dog to lose hair in clumps. Hair loss is only one sign or symptom of these serious diseases. Your veterinarian is your best source of information for treating your pet if you suspect he may be having other serious health issues in addition to excessive hair loss.
  4. Sarcoptic mange or ringworm may be other causes for canine hair loss. Your dog's hair may fall out in patches and the skin underneath might look red and irritated.  Mange is hard to detect and a self-diagnosis should not be made without speaking with your vet. Ringworm is highly contagious and should be treated immediately.

  5. Surgery or anesthesia can cause a sudden loss of hair in your pet. The hair loss should subside after a week or two. If the hair loss does not go away, or is accompanied by other symptoms, check with your veterinarian to make sure that your pet's recovery is progressing normally.

Canine hair loss is a normal part of owning a dog. Shedding in the spring and fall for most pets may be frustrating for you as the pet owner, but it is a normal part of a dog's life. Losing excessive amounts of hair, bald patches, or biting and chewing his fur is not normal for your pet. If your pet is losing an extreme amount of hair or his fur is dull and brittle, it could be a sign of a more serious underlying problem. You should work closely with your veterinarian to diagnose and treat the issue.


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