hair lossFor many men, baldness is hereditary condition which just cannot be avoided. Male pattern baldness often begins with thinning hair on the crown of the head and a receding hairline which develops into an unstoppable force. But have you ever thought about the rest of the animal kingdom? Although growing hair is a defining trait of mammals, it turns out that some of them are susceptible to hair loss.

Why do animals lose hair?

Sometimes primates literally pull each other’s hair out to the extent that it causes baldness amongst them.  This could be due to factors such as a lack of sunlight and natural habitat environments which have features such as grass and dirt. Andean bears can develop alopecia – this condition can result in symptoms of uncomfortable itchiness that zookeepers even consider euthanizing them to put them out of their misery. A handful of animals including dachshunds and greyhounds suffer from permanent pattern hair loss as a result of aging. Animals can lose their hair due to various mechanisms - sometimes as a result of temporary damage such as scratching out hair, to more permanent damage due to trauma and injury. Hair loss can be caused by infections such as ringworm or parasitic mites which have an inflammatory or detrimental effect on the hair follicles.

Why is animal hair loss uncommon?

You may have noticed however that animal balding is nowhere near as commonly seen as it is with humans, this is primarily because a healthy coat of hair is essential to staying warm and camouflaging with surroundings in the wild. As there is a lot of evolutionary selective pressure for animals in healthy hair growth, there is a large amount of genes involved within the animal genomes to ensure they don’t completely lose their fur. Clearly hair loss is not simply a condition which only affects humans, however thankfully it probably doesn’t cause animals as much of a midlife crisis!

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By Ian Watson

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