My golden retriever Tika is unusual in that she generally doesn’t shed much. We call her the “furless wonder” because she’s one of those skinny goldens that doesn’t have a huge coat. Yet for some reason, here almost in the middle of winter, she’s decided to lose large quantities of hair. Because she so rarely sheds, I decided to look up hair loss in one of my veterinary books.
Hair loss can result in alopecia, which is the term for lack of hair on areas where hair should normally be. Fortunately, Tika doesn’t seem to be going bald, she just was wormed, and other than the shedding, she seems fine (rather exuberantly so, in fact). Because she doesn’t have any raw spots or exposed areas of skin, in this case, I think her hair loss is just a belated seasonal shedding thing. Shedding generally happens in the spring or fall. Tika may just be a little behind the times this year.
Alopecia can be a symptom of a number of ailments and some of them are quite serious, so it’s good to pay attention to your dog’s coat. Hair loss can be caused by factors such as stress, allergies, and parasites, or internal problems such as a thyroid disorder, diabetes, or cancer.
Dogs also may lose hair due to poor nutrition. In fact, people who see a lot of dogs, such as at a shelter or vet clinic, often can recognize which dogs are getting fed the cheapie generic foods and which are not. Thyroid problems often (although not always) can cause a dog’s coat to have a particular appearance. The dog is often overweight with brittle fur that is thinning symmetrically.
Malnutrition can happen as a side effect of parasites. If you start to see a change in your dog’s fur, it may be because parasites are stealing vital nutrients that the dog needs for a healthy coat. To diagnose skin problems or hair loss, your vet may want to perform a number of tests, depending on your dog’s symptoms. For example, skin scrapings are performed to check for mites. Tests also exist to check for ringworm and blood tests can help diagnose hormonal problems or diabetes.
A dog also may lose hair because he’s scratching or chewing on himself. An itchy dog may have parasites like fleas or some type of allergy. If your dog has allergies, the veterinarian may recommend treatment with shampoos, allergy shots, or medications to help manage the symptoms.
The bottom line is that whenever you see changes in your dog’s fur, you should take the dog to the veterinarian for a check up.