Although alopecia is a common condition in humans, many people are surprised to learn that stress or health related alopecia is common in our canine friends too

Alopecia areata is an unfortunate type of hair loss that is caused by your immune system attacking its’ own hair follicles. Since the follicle is where hair growth begins, it can cause multiple, smooth, severe bald spots all over the scalp. Sometimes the first signs of alopecia are not complete bald spots, but the thinning of hair, leading to “exclamation point” hair. This means that the hair will continue to grow, but become thinner and break off. Auto immune disorders are difficult to treat because the body is usually responding in a way that is normally helpful, but at the wrong time. It is much like eczema, in that your body thinks it has an allergy to a natural part of the body and tries to reject it.

What Causes Alopecia?

Stress and genetics are the two leading causes of this condition in humans. It is more likely to affect persons who have an autoimmune disease. A person that has alopecia attacks is likely to have reoccurring problems. In extremely rare cases the condition has spread over the entirety of the scalp and complete or permanent hair loss has occurred. In humans, alopecia is diagnosed by using the persons’ medical history and a physical examination. A hair analysis and a blood test may also be required if the hair loss cause is difficult to determine otherwise.

This Can Happen To My Pooch?

Yes. There are many conditions that exist in humans that our best friends can experience as well. Hair loss is one of them, and approximately 5-10% of dogs will experience hair loss during their lifetime. Much like humans, exact causes are difficult to determine- and add on the lack of communication to that puzzle. Our pets often experience similar things that we do, so the causes of this condition are very similar to that in humans. Poor diet, allergies, Cushing’s disease, hyperthyroidism, stress, pregnancy, hereditary disorders (some breeds may be more susceptible than others), or parasites can all lead to hair loss in our canine counterparts. One leading causes in dogs (that is not usually applicable to humans) is mange. Mange is caused by a parasite called Demodex. Parasites and bacterial infections such as ringworm can often lead to further disruptions to the natural and healthy growth of hair.

What Do I Do?

If you notice your pet scratching, itching, or developing bald spots you should take action immediately to help treat your pets’ hair loss issues. Obviously the first step is concentrated on regular grooming. Keeping the fur clean and making sure that the skin does not become too dry is necessary. If your pet is prone to dry skin, try finding a light, dog-specific moisturizer to help out with the dry skin. After all, a healthy coat starts with the skin and follicles, just like with humans. The next step is to ensure that your pets’ hair loss is not pest related. Treat your dog regularly for fleas and adequately exterminate any existing pest problems with the help of your veterinarian. While consulting with your vet, ask about your dog food. Many of the artificial dyes, additives, and ingredients in commercial dog foods can cause an allergic reaction in your pet. There are many dog foods on the market that cater to dogs with intolerances or allergies. Aside from any endocrine or genetic causes, the best thing to do for your pet is prevention. Regular grooming with topical shampoos, antibacterial, and moisturizers can often eliminate the problem before it begins. In most cases, if treated correctly, the affected areas can begin to regrow the hair that was lost in as little as a few months to a year. Alopecia in dogs can be treated fairly easily by following the steps outlined above. Make good grooming habits so your pet can stop itching and get back to being your most loyal friend.

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By Damien

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