My Dog is Losing Hair, Is This Normal?

Firstly, please be assured that fur shedding in dogs is perfectly normal. Shedding is essential for most breeds’ skin and fur regeneration process. It’s a natural way of maintaining balance and a silky-smooth appearance in their coat.

The amount of fur shedding varies from breed to breed. Some breeds shed all year round, while others shed with the seasons.

Think of your dog’s fur as their own in-built body and skin protector. A dog’s coat will keep them warm in winter and protect their skin from sunburn in the warmer months. The coat also helps protect their skin from damage caused by objects such as twigs and burrs.

Some common shedding conditions

Excessive shedding: is your pet leaving more fur around the house than usual? Several factors could be to blame, including allergies, hormonal changes and ageing. Obvious signs are bald spots with little to no hair and thinning fur density, usually resulting from friction, heat or moisture.

What causes hair loss in dogs?

If you think your furry friend may be experiencing excessive shedding, several factors could be causing the issue. These include poor nutrition, atopic dermatitis, allergies, fleas, stress and anxiety, and in a small number of cases, there may be more serious underlying health issues.

Let’s look at the more common reasons:

Allergies

An allergy is essentially an abnormal immune response to a foreign substance in the body, known as an antigen. The symptoms are usually respiratory like sneezing, congestion, runny nose, coughing, or wheezing, but can also include itchy hives, skin swelling and rash.

More insights on allergies in our article Dog Allergies: Common Types and What to Do About Them.

Atopic Dermatitis

Like allergies, atopic dermatitis is also an immune-mediated inflammatory skin condition that makes your pup feel itchy. Compulsive scratching of the itchy spots, naturally, leads to hair loss.

This condition is an overreactive immune response to environmental factors — pollen, dust mites, mould, grass, toxins, microbial colonisation with Staphylococcus or Malassezia, and some food allergies.

Dogs can develop atopic dermatitis at any time, but more likely when ageing due to a general decline of their immune function.

More insights on atopic dermatitis in our article Atopic Dermatitis in Dogs: Causes and Treatment.

Not sure what you are dealing with? Read Sensitive Skin, Allergies, or Atopic Dermatitis?

What can you do to help your pet with their hair loss?

You can do several things for your pet at home to help ease the symptoms of fur shedding. Here are our top tips:

  1. Optimal nutrition: ensure your pet is eating a well-balanced optimal diet that is rich in nutrients. If you are unsure of the best diet for your pet, please consult your vet to eliminate possible allergens and identify the best diet plan.
  2. Bathing: while regular bathing is important, too many baths can dry out their skin, stripping it of natural oils. Dry skin will feel itchy. In general, your dog shouldn’t need a bath more than once every few months unless they’ve gotten mud or dirt in their coat. If your dog has sensitive skin or a history of inflammatory skin conditions, they may need a different bath schedule as part of their treatment plan. Talk with your vet to determine the best bath routine. After a bath, always remove excess water from your dog’s coat with a large, absorbent towel. Your dog should be fine to air dry after that, but too much moisture could lead to skin infections and painful hot spots.
  3. Brushing: regular brushing is beneficial to your dog’s coat and will help clear the coat of dirt, debris, or loose fur. Please note that if your pet has any bald spots or excessively thinning fur, you may need to use a very soft brush and reduce the number of times you groom them — overgrooming can also cause fur thinning. As a general guide, dogs with short, smooth coats can be brushed once every few weeks to remove loose hair, and those with short but more dense fur will need to be brushed once a week. If your dog has a long or double coat, brushing them weekly will remove loose hair and help prevent painful knots and tangles from forming. It’s important to remove tangles regularly, especially in dogs with thick coats. If moisture gets trapped underneath one of these mats, it can irritate your dog’s skin and even lead to infection.
  4. Hydration: make sure your dog is staying well hydrated and drinking fresh, clean water daily. Your pet needs 60mls of water per 1 x kilo of body weight.
  5. Fatty Acid supplements: together with healthy grooming habits and a balanced diet, fatty acid supplements like hemp seed oil, flaxseed oil, or fish oil can do wonders for your pet’s coat, strengthening, hydrating and nourishing the skin, thereby reducing excessive shedding.

To best support your dog and healthy hair growth, feed your pet a diet rich in amino acids, fatty acids and antioxidants. Amino and fatty acids play an important role in skin and coat health and can be highly beneficial to help your pet regrow their coat. Antioxidants help support your pet’s immune system and protect their skin and coat from age-related health issues.

At BUDDYPET, we recommend Marley hemp seed oil for adults and Milly hemp seed oil with turmeric for seniors.

Marley and Milly are excellent skin and coat health supplements in addition to a balanced diet, exercise, and an optimal grooming routine. Rich in anti-inflammatory Omega-3 fatty acids, vitamin A and vitamin E (antioxidants), BUDDYPET hemp seed oil supplements will help nourish your dog’s coat from within and provide it with plenty of nutrients to help support a healthy immune system, fight skin inflammation, help regulate an over-reactive immune response to inflammatory triggers, soothing itchy skin to help re-grow your pet’s coat.

Choose all-natural, gentle grooming products like BUDDYPET Maisie shampoo for sensitive skin or BUDDYPET Poppy shampoo for dry, itchy skin and dandruff — free of sulphates, parabens, alcohol and toxins. Try Toby — our 100% natural, anti-inflammatory, anti-viral, anti-bacterial and anti-fungal soothing skin balm to support skin healing naturally.

More tips and insights on how to manage inflammatory skin conditions to prevent hair loss in our article How to Treat and Prevent Itchy Skin.

If you are concerned about any of the above conditions, talk to your vet for further investigation and treatment plan. Excessive shedding, bald spots and fur thinning could be a symptom of a serious underlying health issue that needs immediate attention.

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Dr. Ailsa Rutherford

Dr. Ailsa Rutherford

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Senior practicing veterinarian. Member of the Australia and New Zealand College of Veterinary Surgeons in Emergency. Head of Animal Health at Buddy Pet P/L.