Downeast Dog News

Loss of Fur

By Dr. Judith Herman | Feb 01, 2019

Q. My dog is losing fur. Like lots! What could be going on?

A. There are several reasons for a dog to lose fur. Some causes are normal seasonal shedding, nutritional deficiencies, endocrine issues, parasites, allergies, medication, and genetic reasons.

Dogs have different shedding patterns. Some dogs will have very clear seasonal shedding, which is usually spring and fall. Others shed year round with a light seasonal shed. Still, there are dogs that don’t shed but would mat and form cords like dreadlocks.

When a dog is fed poor quality food or a food deficient in nutrients, such as trace minerals and essential oils, normal shedding can increase. If he lives in a stressful environment, the coat will suffer. Not grooming your dog properly can lead to skin disease that involves more shedding.

Hormonal imbalances can result in coat changes. The most common hormone imbalance is hypothyroidism. This means the dog’s thyroid is underactive. The coat can be thin, shed, have secondary skin infections, and many other symptoms. Another gland that affects the coat is the adrenal gland. Hyperadrenocorticism is an overactive gland. This problem has many symptoms, which includes losing fur. Excessive sex hormones can also cause symmetrical fur loss.

A very common reason for excessive shedding is ectoparasites. The most notably are fleas.

Fluffy will be excessively chewing and scratching especially around the lower back. Other parasites can be mange mites. Demodectic mites are usually seen as bald spots in puppies that go away on their own. Another mite infection that can be more dramatic is sarcoptic mange. Ear mites are rare in dogs but can cause fur loss along their backs.

Allergies are so common and definitely affect the coat quality, shedding, and other skin symptoms. Allergies can be something they eat, something in the environment, such as pollen, and contact from something like the wool rug.

Different breeds can have inherited alopecia. There are bald areas that have specific patterns and furless patches with a color change to the skin. Some of these diseases can spontaneously regenerate. Others are seasonal disorders. Many of the alopecia will not start showing symptoms until after a year. Most will start between 1 and 11 years of age. Diagnosing these conditions is through doing skin biopsies. A lab will look at these samples microscopically to find the answers.

Other causes for shedding and skin disease causing fur loss can be topical medications, such as topical parasite products, and topicals containing steroids. Injections, oral medication of all sorts, vaccinations, and medicated shampoos can cause local to severe skin reactions.

When you have any concerns with you best friend’s coat, be sure to discuss it with your veterinarian. It could be as simple as adding a supplement to needing more diagnostics.

Judith K. Herman DVM, CVH

Animal Wellness Center

Augusta, ME. 04330