Pets are an important part of the family, so when you see something going wrong, you may become concerned. One of these things may involve fur loss in either your cat or your dog. This type of problem is called alopecia and is characterized by an abnormal thinning or a complete loss of hair. There are a variety of reasons that pet hair loss may occur, so it is important to identify the specific cause in order to help your pet. Sudden changes in fur could be caused by underlying conditions that need to be treated.
Causes of pet hair loss in cats and dogs
Skin infections and parasites
Maybe you’ve noticed that your pet is scratching a lot or biting vigorously and causing hair loss. This leads to the hair being broken off or chewed. This could be due to parasitic fleas, mites or lice. The chewed skin causes an ideal location for skin infections with ringworm, yeast or bacteria. These infections themselves can also cause additional itching and more hair loss.
You may be able to identify which pest is causing the problem by looking at the location of it on your pet. Mites attack ears, eyes, elbows and mouth. Lice usually attack the back and back legs. Fleas favor the back over the hips.
Poor nutrition can cause a multitude of problems. Take a look at your pet’s diet to assess if this is what is causing your pet’s hair loss. Proper nutrition will contain nutrients that support healthy skin and hair. If there isn’t a balanced supply of these nutrients, the hair becomes dull, loosens and falls out. This type of hair loss affects the pet’s entire body, but may be the most obvious in easily worn areas and the back and hips.
When allergies affect a human, eyes tend to water and our noses run. With pets, allergies are communicated through the skin and ears. Their skin will be itchy, so they will scratch or chew their hair. It’s important to figure out what your pet is allergic to. It could food such as grains, certain meats, milk or yeast. It could also be inhaled allergens such as smoke, perfumes or pollens. Lastly, it could be skin contact with irritating materials such as chemicals in your yard or your home. For more about pet allergies, read our article here.
Problems with organ function or blood flow
Diseases and drugs affecting the intestines, liver, kidneys and other organs can directly influence hair loss. If your pet has issues with blood not properly circulating, this can also cause hair loss. It’s important to get your pet in to see a professional so they can be treated.
Problems with hormone levels
There are many hormones that influence hair growth. Some of these include estrogen, testosterone, growth hormone, melatonin, cortisol and thyroxin. If these hormone levels are off, it can cause hair to either be too thin or too thick.
Certain medications can cause hair loss as well. If your pet is being treated with high doses or long-term medications, it can cause hair follicles to shrink and the hair to fall out. Some flea medications actually cause hair loss at the area of application and vaccines may cause this at the injection site as well. You will be able to see a difference with this type of hair loss because it will be lost at the follicle rather than being bit off by your pet.
If your pet has separation anxiety, they may lick patches of hair off their legs. These areas then can become infected. This is hard to cure since the pet will continue to lick the area whenever they are left alone.
What to do if your pet is experiencing hair loss
Note your pet’s behavior and hair loss
When you notice your pet experiencing significant hair loss, you should take note of any changes in your home or yard, behavior of your pet, signs of illness and location of the hair loss. These details are important to figuring out what is causing the problem. By noticing and evaluating your pet, you will better be able to help them.
Take your pet to the vet
A trip to the vet is the ideal way to help your pet with hair loss. Since it could be caused by many different factors, you need a professional opinion to help determine the cause. Tests may help lead to a concrete diagnosis and course of treatment.
Treat the problem
Once you determine the cause of your pet’s hair loss, you can work with your veterinarian for the best course of treatment and help your pet recover.
Hair loss in pets is a problem that needs to be addressed. Contact our team at Longview Animal Hospital so we can determine the cause of the problem together and get your pet the help they need.