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Canine Alopecia

By:  Sarah A. (Balaguer) Santiago, DVM, MS

Alopecia, or hair loss, is a common problem many dogs experience for a multitude of reasons.  Certain breeds may be predisposed to specific patterns of hair loss.  For example, Boxers are commonly afflicted with seasonal flank alopecia in which the sides of their abdomen have temporary hair loss with skin discoloration.  One gender may be more susceptible to alopecia over the other.  Male dogs that develop a testicular cancer called a Sertoli cell tumor can have hair loss on their torso until the cancerous testicle is removed.  Age can play an important role in diagnosing the underlying cause for hair loss.  Dermatophytosis, or a ringworm infection, can be a cause of alopecia in a young dog.  Demodicosis, or the non-contagious form of mange, is another common skin parasite that can lead to hair loss in young dogs due to the presence of mites in oil and sweat glands and hair follicles of the skin.  Classic patterns of alopecia are often seen in middle aged to older pets when the hair loss is secondary to certain endocrine diseases.  Dogs with hypothyroidism often present with hairless tails and no other clinical signs.  Another endocrine disease known as Cushing’s or Hyperadrenocorticism often leads to symmetrical truncal alopecia.

Allergies are also a common cause of alopecia in dogs.  If the areas of alopecia are associated with skin redness, scabs, and/or bumps, the hair loss may be secondary to self trauma.  Pets that suffer from various forms of allergies often chew, lick, or rub their skin excessively for itch relief.  Flea allergic pets oftentimes present with a mohawk of fur along their lower backside, or with severely salivary stained rump fur from their excessive grooming.  Paws may experience hair loss and salivary staining as well due to environmental or food allergies.  Thus, as described above, a vast array of medical conditions can lead to alopecia in dogs.  If your pet is currently experiencing a form of hair loss, your family veterinarian is the most reliable source of information to help you and your not so furry loved one get back to normal.