Causes of Dog Hair Loss

by Francesca Attard
(Mellieha, Malta)

Reader Question on Possible Causes of Dog Hair Loss

Hi, my name is Francesca. My dog is a 7-year-old Pointer. When she was a puppy we treated her for worms and for skin allergies on her tail. About 5 months ago, I took her to the vet again as her chest, the back of her feet, her lower back and tail were losing hair. she also had a very small spot on her chest. I also noticed that her nipples were getting bigger and that she was always sad and never ate anything. I didn't think that she could be pregnant as she never leaves our sight. However, she isn't fixed.

The vet told us that she had a fake pregnancy and that would explain the nipples and the sadness. she said that since she was 7, we had to make a choice whether to fix her or make her breed. Unfortunately, this choice was not up to me and the choice was neither. She also said that the spot was nothing but a small cyst. However, now she barely has hair from her waist to her back feet. she keeps itching, even her paws. Then she starts biting. wherever she touches, she makes worse as she looses hair even from her lower back down. The spot now grew much bigger. it is practically dangling.

We are partly at fault as we don't bathe her too often. she is too big for us and hates water but that is no excuse. What really worries me is that from 1 day to another she started loosing hair even on her ears and she has like a pink spot near her nose.

Next week we have an appointment and if need be, we will fix her. Her nipples are still big even if we gave her pills to stop lactating. I am very worried. Please, I know that she isn't well, but please is it serious? I will do whatever it takes to make her and keep her well. She does not have nose bleeds and she is really VERY STRONG.

Can you let us
know please what her condition might be? we don't want to braise ourselves for a goodbye. if it makes any difference, we also have a cat which has been treated for allergies because of flees. while she was on medication it stopped but now it came back again. could she have transmitted it to the dog? We do try to keep the environment around her clean but we do not always succeed. Again she is a big dog and has a thick coat.She doesn't make it easy to clean her thoroughly.

Please help us. i am sorry but I can't send an image.

Thank you.

Suggestion From Our Veterinarian on Dogs Losing Hair

Hello Francesca,

The list of skin problems that could be causing your dog’s symptoms is quite long. Your veterinarian will probably need to run some tests to narrow down the possibilities unless the cause is obvious on a physical exam (e.g., a flea infestation). A reasonable place to start is a skin scraping to look for mange mites, skin cytology to diagnose any fungal culture for ringworm. The ringworm test can take a few weeks to complete, so while those results are pending, veterinarians will often treat for anything that they’ve found (e.g., a yeast infection) and prescribe a broad spectrum parasite control medication like Revolution to kill some of the parasites that can be hard to find on diagnostic tests.

If these initial tests all come back negative, the next step might be to investigate the possibility of allergies. Dogs can be allergic to environmental triggers (pollen, mold, etc.) or to ingredients in their food. Diagnosing a food allergy requires a strict food trial lasting at least 6-8 weeks during which your dog would eat nothing but a prescription diet that contains single protein and carbohydrate sources. Determining what environmental triggers a dog might be allergic to is ideally done through intradermal skin testing, although blood testing can be considered for some individuals.

If allergies seem unlikely or these test results are all normal, your veterinarian might next recommend skin biopsies.

Best of luck,

Jennifer Coates, DVM

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