by Cate Burnette DVM
Any number of conditions, including allergies, fleas, and other, more serious, systemic disorders, can cause alopecia – or hair loss – in dogs. When a dog loses its hair, the animal becomes more susceptible to the elements, to both heat and cold, and to the accidental skin damage associated with scrapes and scratches. While a quick diagnosis of the underlying condition responsible for the hair loss may be difficult to make, finding the reason your pooch is losing hair, and commencing treatment, can be extremely important to your dog’s overall health and well-being.
What can alopecia look like?
Veterinarians classify alopecia as being either symmetrical or varied hair loss.
Symmetrical alopecia is seen as regions of total or partial hair loss that are evenly distributed over the dog’s body. Frequently located on the lower back, chest, abdomen, top and inside of the hind limbs, the outside of the forelimbs, and the flanks, this type of alopecia usually shows no underlying skin lesions, although some parts may be scaly or show signs of inflammation.
Varied alopecia is random, often patchy areas of hair loss not associated with any particular pattern or area of the dog’s body, and may affect the animal’s entire body surface. Dermatitis and lesions of various depths and sizes often accompany this kind of alopecia.
What causes alopecia?
One of the most common origins of hair loss in dogs is mange, a disease triggered by either the demodex or sarcoptes mange mite. These microscopic parasites burrow under your dog’s skin, feasting on hair follicles and dead skin cells, causing intense itching, skin inflammation and infections, and loss of hair. A dog with untreated mange of either kind can lose all the hair on its body and suffer from thickened, cracked, and oozing skin.
Other causes of alopecia include low thyroid levels seen in hypothyroidism, a fungal disease like ringworm, an allergic reaction to a recent vaccination or fleabites, diabetes, and various endocrine diseases affecting both estrogen and testosterone levels, including Cushing’s disease.
What is the veterinary treatment?
Medical treatment usually consists of bathing your dog in prescribed, topical shampoos and administering systemic antibiotics to take care of any skin infections. Additionally, veterinarians attempt to determine the underlying cause of the alopecia through skin scrapings and blood tests so that they can treat that disease as well with hormonal or anti-fungal therapy.
To naturally treat alopecia in your dog, begin by supplementing her diet with foods rich in Vitamins A, E, C, and B3.
Vitamins A, E, and C all work to repair damaged skin cells, reduce inflammation and itching, and moisturize dry, flaky skin. Spinach, broccoli, carrots, and baked sweet potatoes can be added to your dog’s menu to provide these extra nutrients.
Vitamin B3, also call niacin, helps with growth of new hair cells as well as metabolizing the protein necessary for keratin production in the hair shaft. High levels of niacin can be found tuna, brown rice, and the white meat of chicken.
Additionally, you can protect new hair growth by bathing your pet in an all-natural shampoo made with the amino acids necessary to nourish dull and damaged hair. Follow that with an organic ultra-rich conditioner containing colloidal oatmeal to leave damaged coats shiny and silky.
Restoring hair growth to your balding dog is not just a cosmetic issue. By finding out the root cause of your pet’s alopecia, you can treat the diseases that may have harmful effects on other organ systems of your dog.