Alopecia or hair loss is common to dogs and may vary from partial to complete hair loss. It may occur gradually or may happen without any warning. Apart from an obvious loss in beauty, the disease may also affect the dog’s skin, immune system, lymphatic and endocrine systems. It may affect any dog irrespective of gender, age or breed. While some dogs tend to lose hair, some dogs also suffer from the scaling of the skin.
So what is it that causes this condition? Although there are many causes, the most common one is mange caused by a mite called Demodex. Other causes may be cortisone excess, hyperestrogenism (or excess of estrogens), hyporestrogenism (or lack of estrogens), hypothyroidism, ringworm etc. Injuries, infections or immune diseases may also be the cause of this hair loss.
A vet would look at the pattern and severity of hair loss – two factors that are essential for a proper diagnosis and a successful treatment. The patterns may be one among the following three:
1. Multiple areas of hair loss
2. Symmetrical hair loss
3. Patchy to generalized hair loss
The first condition is usually associated with bacterial or fungal infections. Apart from hair loss, there is reddening and mild scaling of the skin. The second condition is usually associated with elevated levels of steroids or estrogens in the dog’s body. The last condition is mostly caused by mange and skin shows signs of redness and inflammation.
So how is alopecia to be treated? The treatment is basically dependent on the cause due to which alopecia has occurred. If it is due to mange, fungal or bacterial infections, the vet would be most likely prescribing topical shampoos and a course of antibiotics. However, if the cause were related to hormonal imbalances, the vet would begin a treatment to balance the hormone levels. There would be no shortcuts or quick solutions here and this process would take a few weeks at least. Hair loss caused by skin growth or cancer has to involve a surgical procedure. During the course of treatment it is essential to keep the skin clean and make sure that there are no abrasions, which may lead to infections.
Hair loss in dogs cannot be predicted nor prevented in some cases like in hormonal imbalances or in cases like skin cancer. However, in cases caused by fleas, good hygiene and a flea-free environment would go a long way in preventing the condition. A good diet full of antioxidants and phytonutrients should also help in preventing the condition.