Hair loss is not normal for dogs and cats. It often signals a serious health problem.

When you see hair thinning or hair loss in a cat or dog, it is important to understand that healthy pets do not simply lose their hair as humans can.  Alopecia (the partial or complete lack of hair on any part of the skin where hair would normally be present) is a symptom in dogs and cats.  Hair loss is not a condition in and of itself.  Rather, hair loss indicates that some other problem exists with the pet.  Dogs and cats have more than 60 typical causes for hair loss.  Most of these conditions can be very serious.  Allergies and parasites serve as the most common reasons for hair loss.  All cases of alopecia should receive thorough investigation and usually require a veterinary examination.

The veterinary examination at Healing Springs Animal Hospital may include skin scrapings, a fungal culture, and/or a biopsy of the skin.  When performing skin scrapings, a veterinarian scrapes a blade along the pet’s skin to remove some surface cells and look for mange and other parasites.  A fungal culture can verify the presence of ringworm.  A skin biopsy will allow a pathologist to study skin samples under a microscope and look for causes of alopecia.


The reader request mentioned hair loss with scaling.  A number of problems, including hypothyroidism and Cushing’s disease can create this presentation.  Hypothyroidism occurs when the thyroid gland produces an inadequate amount of hormone.  Pets with this condition appear to gain weight easily and appear sluggish.  They seek out warm spots more than normal.  They can have loss of hair and scaling at the flanks and back.  Pets with hypothyroidism often present with greasy earwax.  Vets can confirm hypothyroidism with a blood test and manage it with hormone supplementation.


Pet owners can help their pets have good skin and hair condition by adequately addressing four very important factors: (1) Nutrition, (2) Bathing & Grooming, (3) Environmental Cleanliness, (4) Parasite Control.  Not all pet foods are created equal.  Very often, the more expensive dog foods are genuinely more nutritious.  The effects of good nutrition are usually evident in a soft, shinny coat.  Healing Springs recommends and retails Science Diet formulas.  At the grocery store, the top-end Purina, IAMS, or Pedigree can be a good pick.  Regular bathing with a mild soap and routine combing is important for hair and skin health.  House dust carries living mites that can create allergic responses.  Keeping the house, including air vents, free of dust can help reduce pet itching.  Hepafilters are proven to help reduce dust and dust mites.  Fleas and other parasites can create skin problems that go well beyond the itchy bite.  Apply flea control every month of the year.  Ask your veterinarian about the best parasite control product for your situation.


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