There are several different causes of pet hair loss, some of which are more serious than others. Hair loss can be caused by hair matting, yeast infections, and even bug bites.
To get to the bottom of your pet’s hair loss and to determine the best course of action, you should take your pet to see his or her veterinarian as soon as possible. Let’s look at a few different types of hair loss in pets and how they can be treated.
A – Alopecia
Just like humans, some dogs can suffer from alopecia. It’s not as common in dogs as it is in humans (though both species do share some genetic predispositions to certain types of hair loss).
The causes and treatments for canine alopecia are similar to those in humans: diet, hormones, and immune systems. Talk to your vet if you notice patches of balding on your pup. Your dog may be suffering from a condition that’s treatable.
You should also monitor other symptoms, including weight loss or increased thirst or urination. These can indicate an underlying health problem that needs immediate attention.
If your pet does have an underlying medical issue causing its hair loss, it will probably require veterinary treatment to get better. Some illnesses, such as cancer or skin infections, require surgery; others will require oral medications.
Your vet can recommend a course of action that’s best for your dog. In most cases, though, alopecia is not a life-threatening condition and can be treated at home.
B – Blindness
One of a number of conditions that can affect your pet’s vision and cause their hair to fall out. Have them checked by a veterinarian if you notice your pet rubbing their eyes, or acting in an anxious manner.
Medication is available to help improve vision and relieve some symptoms. Your vet will also be able to recommend diet changes and other methods for managing any discomfort.
C – Calcinosis
A condition caused by excess calcium deposits within your pet’s skin. The most common location for these deposits is around their tail, but they may appear anywhere on their body. The condition often leads to inflammation and irritation which may result in hair loss.
If you suspect calcinosis, take your pet to see a veterinarian who will likely prescribe medication to reduce inflammation and treat related symptoms.
C2 – Cancer
While cancer is extremely rare in pets, it can cause hair loss. Cats and dogs are prone to cancers such as lymphoma or mast cell tumor. In these cases, an animal’s immune system will attack its own tissue and often damage nearby skin cells, resulting in hair loss.
Other cancers that have been known to result in hair loss include leukemia, multiple myeloma, and melanoma. If you notice your pet losing large amounts of hair with no other symptoms, consult a veterinarian immediately.
D – Other Diseases
The primary symptom of most diseases will be hair loss, so it’s important to take your pet to see a vet at once if you notice her shedding more than usual. The vet will examine your pet, run a blood test and make a recommendation for treatment.
Some common diseases that lead to excessive shedding include hypothyroidism, alopecia X, and skin infections such as ringworm or mange. In some cases, there is no treatment or cure for these conditions.
E – Environmental Factors
Although you may feel that losing hair is only a cosmetic issue, a pet’s environment can be highly stressful to its body. If you feel like your pet’s shedding is unusually excessive, consider bringing it to an animal behaviorist for further evaluation.
The animal expert may suggest making changes to your home and/or lifestyle to reduce stress on your pet. Keep in mind that not all pets respond well to change, so consult with an animal expert if you have any questions or concerns before implementing any new changes.
F – Fleas
Fleas and ticks are often blamed for hair loss in pets, but fleas alone do not account for pet hair loss. Fleas can cause irritation to animals and make them scratch themselves, which can lead to hair breakage.
It is important to treat fleas as soon as possible if you notice your pet has them, however; they will continue to be a problem until you eliminate them from your home and surroundings. If you live in an area where fleas are common, it’s recommended that you take preventative measures year-round.
There are many products available at local pet stores that help keep your pet free of these pests.
G – Genetics
Some breeds of dogs are predisposed to losing more hair than others. If your dog is a Chihuahua or a Chinese Crested, he may be among one of those breeds. In these cases, your pet’s hair loss may not necessarily be as severe as another dog who has completely different genetics.
For example, some Boxers have been known to lose patches of fur all over their bodies—this type of hair loss could also be genetic in nature. But what if you don’t know what breed your dog is?
You can still look at his family tree for clues about whether or not he was born with genes that make him susceptible to hair loss.
H – Healthcare
Allergies, medical issues, and common side effects are all part of pet health. The good news is that most issues can be solved with little awareness and information. The more you know about your animal’s health, care and well-being, the better able you’ll be to spot problems before they become critical.
Always discuss your concerns with your veterinarian. If there’s something wrong, he or she will help you identify it. If everything looks fine, he or she will help put your mind at ease by explaining what to look for in case anything changes.
I – Home Care
This is where you need to start. It’s important to ensure that your pet is getting enough exercise and high-quality food because low energy and a poor diet can contribute to hair loss in pets.
Try giving your dog a daily dose of omega-3 fatty acids, which have been shown to help strengthen hair shafts. If your dog suffers from an infection or illness, see a vet immediately!
There are many over-the-counter shampoos available for dogs with dry skin or dandruff, but if your dog’s shedding seems out of control (or it doesn’t respond to these treatments), it might be time for a trip to your veterinarian.
In cats, seasonal shedding is normal—but excessive shedding could be due to stress or underlying health problems. Some cats suffer from allergies, which means they may lose fur after being exposed to allergens like pollen and dust mites.
J – Irritants and Allergies
Certain irritants, such as fleas and mites, can make your pet’s hair fall out. If you notice areas on your cat or dog that look like bald patches, it could be due to an allergic reaction to mites or fleas—and so could a general rash or itchiness.
Itchiness is one of the most common symptoms of fleabite dermatitis, which is caused by bites from adult fleas or their larvae. Another common cause of itching is atopy, which is when a pet has an allergic reaction to something in its environment (like pollen).
Atopy can also cause skin inflammation and result in scaly skin conditions called eczema. But if you suspect allergies are behind your pet’s shedding problem, don’t just start feeding them Benadryl; talk to your vet about what might be causing the allergy and how best to treat it.
This will help ensure any treatment is successful.
K – Medications and Drugs
There is a multitude of drugs and medications that can cause hair loss. It is important to know what these are and stop using them, as they can lead to permanent hair loss. Examples include some antibiotics, antifungals (like ketoconazole), anti-convulsants, antimalarials, antihistamines, and cholesterol-lowering drugs like statins.
If you have any doubt about whether your medication could be causing your hair loss, consult with your doctor or pharmacist for more information.
R – Radiation
Excessive exposure to radiation can cause alopecia – specifically alopecia areata in which an individual’s immune system attacks their own body’s cells. In some cases, hair loss may be permanent.
If you have been exposed to radiation, it is important that you consult with your doctor as soon as possible.
S – Stress
Stress has been shown to contribute to hair loss and poor hair health by increasing levels of DHT (dihydrotestosterone), a hormone that causes hair follicles to shrink and eventually stop producing new hairs.