Dog Fur Loss – When Too Worry

Dogs are supposed to be soft and furry. It’s one way to identify a healthy dog. Sometimes, however, underlying conditions of dog fur loss aren’t immediately obvious. It’s not until we actually see bald patches that we sit up and take notice.

My own two dogs are experiencing bald spots on their elbows (see image below) and my guess is pressure points from their rough-and-tumble play.

After careful research, I wanted to share my findings with you and I hope you find this useful.

ROOT CAUSE # 1   Cushing’s Disease

Research seems to indicate Cushing’s Disease as being rare in dogs; however, between 50% and 90% of the dogs diagnosed are affected by fur loss as a symptom of the disease.

Cushing’s Disease normally occurs in older dogs (generally over 6 years of age) and is a result of the pituitary gland excreting excessive amounts of cortisol.

Tests need to be done to determine whether the dysfunction is stemming from a pituitary gland tumor or by an adrenal gland tumor.  It should be noted that around 85 % of the cases are caused by pituitary tumors.

Both causes can be treated, albeit in different ways. The important thing is to bring your dog to the veterinarian should you notice any unusual signs and symptoms, including fur loss.

Additional Symptoms of Cushing’s Disease Include:

  • Excessive panting
  • Excessive thirst
  • Eating more often
  • Pot belly appearance
  • Urinating much more

Remember, it’s unlikely that Cushing’s is the cause of your dog’s fur loss. Some of the more common reasons are cited below:

ROOT CAUSE#2   PRESSURE POINTS (CALLUSES)

My large dogs both have signs of calluses on their elbows.  They’re large (70ish pounds each) and not the daintiest dogs on the block. 

My female retriever doesn’t gracefully slide into a sleeping position. She flops down. Hard.  My pitbull/lab mix is actually a little more graceful, but he’s been known to face plant and slide across the yard just to catch a ball.

Initially, it was just a little patch of fur missing. Now, I can see the skin is hardening, and although it doesn’t look sore, it’s time to buy a cream for it.

They have no signs of fur loss anywhere else, and no underlying health conditions. For those reasons, I’m not worried. 

 

Pressure Point on Elbow

 

 

 

 

 

 

I’ll be watching for signs of soreness and red skin, cracked skin or skin that starts to bleed or ooze.  Open sores caused by calluses will sink deeper into the skin’s layers. When this happens, the wound is open to bacterial infections and becomes quite painful for the dog.

If anything like that presents itself, I will be bringing both dogs to the veterinarian.

In the meantime, I’ll use aloe cream, antibiotic ointment (over-the-counter) or a salve specifically created for dogs.  I’ll also buy a roll of gauze and wrap to keep the dogs from licking the ointment.  The ointment is safe….but it won’t help if it doesn’t remain on the bald skin.

ROOT CAUSE #3   STRESS

Rescue dogs in which you don’t know the history might suffer from excessive stress which causes them to lick the same spot over-and-over again. You might be able to distract them momentarily, but the minute you look away they’re at it again.

The problem with this include fur loss, but the excessive licking – over time – can cause the skin to become sore and infected.  Stress is thought to be the problem for this in some dogs, but it’s also important to consider some other diseases including:

  • Mange
  • Parasites
  • Allergies
  • Ringworm
  • Endocrine disorder such as hypothyroidism
  • rarely, tumor

ROOT CAUSE# 4  POOR NUTRITION

Every other advertisement on television touts their brand as the best, citing “pure” healthy foods with no fillers or additives. It’s hard to know who to believe anymore. More expensive certainly isn’t an indicator of quality, and neither is fancy packaging.

The trend seems to be leaning toward raw food diets and vegan diets for dogs, both of which have pros and cons.  It’s not for me to make any judgement either way, but I would suggest getting a few honest, professional opinions to know what’s right for your dog.

Not all dog breeds have the same nutritional requirements. Their size, activity level, age, and incidence of chronic conditions can all play a big role.

The only way to determine whether it’s poor nutrition that’s causing your dog’s fur loss is to have the veterinarian do a complete blood workup and examination.  Underlying conditions that cause blockages or bleeding could be related to the deficiency, not the dog’s diet.

ROOT CAUSE#5   COULD THE DOG’S ALLERGY BE CAUSED BY HIS SWEATER?

People love to dress their dog’s in the latest doggy fashions and, for the most part, it’s perfectly fine.  However, some things we might not consider is the possibility of an allergic reaction to the textiles themselves, or the chemicals, dyes, and resins added to the fabric.

Examples include:

  • formaldehyde resins
  • fabric dyes
  • flame-retardant materials
  • Nickle from button or clasps
  • Air contaminants that get into the material (oil, grease, tar, etc.)
  • latex
  • rubber

People typically dress dogs with thin coats which means the fabrics are much closer to their skin than dogs with thicker coats. Having the material against their skin provides a better breeding group for all kinds of allergic responses, including fur loss.

Subtle Signs of Dog Fur Loss Happen Over Time

Sometimes it’s the little everyday nuisances and aggravations that cause the appearance of dog fur loss including:

  • Itching their ears
  • Itching their hindquarters
  • Licking a part of their body excessively (anxiety)
  • Fleas
  • Parasites
  • Allergies

Nobody wants their dog to experience fur loss, illness, or discomfort.  Rest assured  that it’s rarely caused by anything life threatening. However, that doesn’t mean you should forget about it.

Always always always have a veterinarian take a closer look.

Flea or worm infestations will need to be taken care of right away.  Any skin conditions or allergies should be identified as quickly as possible. The sooner the allergens are removed, the faster your dog will heal.

Even if our dog is diagnosed with an underlying chronic condition, the faster it’s found, the easier it will be to treat.

Finally, if your dog is suffering extensive fur loss, it would be wise to keep him out of the hot sun to avoid a burn. Keep your dog hydrated at all times and keep the skin clean.

Any sign of bacterial infection should never be ignored. If you notice any of the following symptoms, please bring your dog to the veterinarian for a checkup:

  • crusted skin
  • pimple-like pustules
  • itching
  • odor (pay particular attention to this)
  • fur standing on end around the area
  • swelling
  • Yeast buildup in ears causing excessive itching and some fur loss. Certain breeds are more prone to this including long-eared dogs: Basset Hounds, Poodles, Cocker Spaniel, Retrievers, and Schnauzers.
  • Environmental Allergies

You know your dog better than anyone else. Sometimes there’s a logical reason for fur loss that you can easily pinpoint. Keep notes about when you first started noticing the fur loss and any additional signs and symptoms.

Pay holistic attention to the dog including how he’s eating, exercising, sleeping, and playing.  All of this information will be helpful for the veterinarian to make a conclusive diagnosis.