The 5 Most Common Causes of Bald Spots on Dogs

As a pet owner, you know the struggle of trying to keep your pup looking good and healthy. But what do you do when they start to lose patches of fur? It can be hard to tell what’s going on with them if it’s not just shedding season.  If your dog has bald spots that don’t seem related to the time of year or their breed, there may be underlying health concerns to consider.

This article will explore the 5 most common causes of bald spots on dogs along with the signs and symptoms to watch for. Fortunately, there are treatments available from your veterinarian that may help prevent balding from getting worse and spreading elsewhere on the dog’s body.

The 5 most common causes of bald spots on dogs include allergies, Cushing’s disease, pressure sores, genetics, and infection or infestation. 

bald spots on dog palos heights il

1.    Allergies

Like humans, dogs can experience various allergic reactions to their surroundings. Common dog allergies include pollen, molds, dust mites, foods, or even parasites like fleas or mites. Some dog breeds are more prone to allergies than others, especially purebreds. Take a look at the top 10 dog breeds that are prone to allergies:

  • American Pit Bull Terrier
  • Bichon Frise
  • Boxer
  • Brussels Griffon
  • Bull Terrier
  • Cocker Spaniel
  • German Shepherd
  • Golden Retriever
  • Labrador Retriever
  • Maltese

If you suspect that your dog might be experiencing hair loss due to allergies, check to see if they’re experiencing other symptoms, too.

  • Itchiness
  • Excessive Scratching
  • Excessive biting
  • Hair loss
  • Sneezing
  • Irritated Eyes
  • Eye discharge
  • Runny nose

2.    Cushing’s disease

Cushing’s disease, also known as Hyperadrenocorticism or Cushing’s syndrome, is caused by an excessive amount of the hormone cortisol. It is most common in middle-aged to senior dogs, typically over 6 years old. Common signs and symptoms include:

  • Increased eating
  • Increased thirst and drinking
  • Frequent, increased urination
  • Panting
  • A pot-bellied appearance
  • Hair loss
  • Thin or fragile skin
  • Frequent skin infections
  • Reduced activity

Although Cushing’s disease is typically a lifelong challenge for dogs, it is manageable with medication and (in severe cases) surgery. This means that your dog still can live a happy, fulfilling life even with these medical challenges.

3.    Pressure Sores

Is your dog’s hair loss localized to their elbows or other bony parts of their body? If so, they might have pressure sores. Pressure sores, also known as bedsores or decubital ulcers, occur most often in senior dogs, large breeds, or heavy breeds.

When your dog’s elbows, hips, or other bony body parts come in regular contact with hard or rough surfaces, calluses begin to form due to constant pressure and friction. These calluses lead to thicker skin and hair loss.

Older and heavier dogs are more likely to experience pressure sores simply because they are less active and oftentimes have less muscle mass. Although sometimes tricky, these sores can be prevented, and the symptoms can be alleviated. Check out some of these helpful tips to help your dog’s pressure sores:

  • Invest in an orthopedic bed
  • Make sure your pet doesn’t lie in one position for too long
  • Cover and protect bony areas with elastic bandages or baby clothes
  • Consider using compression sleeves for dogs

4.    Genetics

Just like with humans, genetics plays a role in hair loss in dogs. There are some breeds that are bred to be hairless, such as the Chinese Crested, Mexican Hairless (Xolo), and American Hairless Terrier.

Other dog breeds simply experience patchy hair or baldness on different parts of their body, such as the chest, back, thigh, or neck. These breeds include Greyhounds, Whippets, Chihuahuas, Dachshunds, and Italian Greyhounds. Typically, this type of hair loss occurs after the dog reaches one year old.

If you suspect your dog’s hair loss is due to genetics, it is still a good idea to visit your vet and rule out other potentially harmful causes.

5.    Infection or Infestation

These words sound scary, and the resulting hair loss or skin conditions can look even scarier. Hair loss from infection or infestation can be caused by ringworm fungus, mange mites, fleas, parasites, ticks, and bacteria.

In fact, fleas and mites are oftentimes the most common culprits behind hair loss and allergic reactions. Fleas and ticks love the warm weather and make it easy for parasites like mange mites and lice to take up residence in a dog’s skin without notice. These pests cause irritation, which is often misdiagnosed as an allergic reaction resulting in unnecessary treatments such as steroids.

While many dogs will lick, bite, and scratch at the infected skin, resulting in wide-spread hair loss, there are additional signs and symptoms to watch out for. Some signs your dog might be experiencing an infection or infestation are as follows:

  • Hair loss around the ears, eyes, and mouth
  • Oily skin
  • Thickened skin
  • Itching
  • Inflammation
  • Circular or irregular hair loss
  • Infected crusts

Thankfully, treatment for infections and infestations are usually simple and straightforward. Treatments may include topical or oral medicines, antibiotics, or antifungal medications.

When to See a Vet

It can be difficult to identify the cause of your dog’s hair loss, but there are some common causes and symptoms to look out for. If your pup is experiencing any of these signs, or you’re unsure as to what is causing your dog’s hair loss, it may be time to make an appointment with their veterinarian.

Additionally, if your dog’s bald spots are accompanied by itching, a bad odor, irritated skin, infection, or changes in behavior, you should visit your vet immediately. If there are other pets or people in your household who are also exhibiting these symptoms, it is also a good idea to include them in your vet visit.

Your vet will likely perform a physical exam and take blood samples in order to diagnose what has caused your dog’s hair loss or balding issue. This way you’ll know how best to care for your pet—so they don’t suffer from bald patches! Get started on treatment the right way and help your furry friend start looking beautiful again.

For those in the Palos Heights, IL area, Palos Animal Hospital is available at (708) 448-6600 to talk about any questions or concerns.