The coat often reflects the health of the dog, just as hair does in humans. When the coat is dull, if the hair is brittle or if it falls out outside of the normal renewal periods, it can be a sign of a health problem. It is of course essential to identify the cause of a dog’s hair problem so that an appropriate treatment can be prescribed. The only solution is to consult a veterinarian. Let’s take stock.
Dull and/or brittle hair in dogs
In a perfectly healthy dog, the coat is usually dense, shiny, silky and easy to detangle. When something goes wrong, the hair becomes dull, rough to the touch or brittle. This can be due to :
A lack of maintenance of the coat,
A skin problem,
An inadequate and unbalanced diet, poor in essential nutrients,
Internal parasites (intestinal worms),
External parasites (fleas, lice…).
Don’t wait to talk to the veterinarian because the cure is always faster if the diagnosis is early.
Abnormal hair loss in dogs
Apart from the moulting period, during which the coat is renewed, or even during pregnancy, it is not normal for a dog or a bitch to lose its hair. This shedding can have various causes.
A behavioral disorder
Sometimes a dog licks itself insistently for no apparent reason, even causing localized hair loss. It is then very useful to consult a veterinary behaviorist.
Sterilization can largely calm the animal and allow everything to return to normal quickly. In other cases, stress may be the cause of a behavioral disorder. In any case, it is essential to identify the cause so that a solution can be found as soon as possible.
A dog with a food allergy is sensitive to certain allergens that it ingests. He then suffers from pruritus (itching), his skin shows red patches and his hair falls out locally. Other hyper-reactions are possible such as diarrhea, vomiting, coughing, sneezing, watery eyes… All atopic dogs should be fed a hypoallergenic diet.
Other allergies are possible in dogs of all ages, to feathers, dust, dust mites, certain medications, pollens, grass or even molds.
Itching can be severe, leading to localized super-infections and coat loss.
A dietary deficiency
An unbalanced and/or poor quality diet impacts the health of the dog. It should also be noted that the animal can lose its hair considerably if its body lacks vitamin A, polyunsaturated fatty acids or proteins. It is important to refer to a veterinarian for advice on how to re-balance the diet.
A parasitic disease
Many diseases are caused by a parasite and can lead to a more or less severe hair problem in dogs. The main parasites are the following:
Mites: responsible for mange but also for demodecie,
Fleas: their saliva is the cause of DAPP or Dermatitis by Allergy to Flea Bites,
A fungus (such as Microsporum canis, Microsporum gypseum or even Trichophyton mentagrophyte): at the origin of a well known fungal disease or mycosis called ringworm. It is transmissible to humans, either by direct contact or indirectly.
Since a parasitic disease can be the only cause of hair loss in dogs, it is essential that the animal is always well protected.
A hormonal problem
Various hormonal diseases are the cause of abnormal hair loss in dogs and can be identified by very specific symptoms, such as
Cushing’s syndrome or hypercorticism leading to a swollen belly as well as increased thirst and appetite.
Diabetes that can be promoted by obesity in dogs. Diabetes mellitus is suspected when the dog sheds abnormally but also urinates more than usual because it consumes a greater amount of water.
Hyperestrogenism manifesting itself differently depending on the sex of the animal:
Testicular tumor, which is more frequent in the whole dog, i.e. in dogs that have not been castrated: one of the main symptoms is either the increase in volume of a testicle or its atrophy. This is called testicular asymmetry.
Ovarian imbalance which affects the vast majority of unspayed bitches and causes progressive alopecia.
Hypothyroidism, the main symptoms of which are a decrease in hair density, an increase in water consumption and consequently in the volume of urine, apathy, weight gain, a certain intolerance to cold or even muscle stiffness.
Pregnant or nursing bitches often have a dull, brittle coat or lose their hair. But this is usually remedied quickly after the puppies are weaned.
An owner should make a habit of regularly inspecting the coat, undercoat and skin of his dog to make sure that no parasites have taken up residence there or to look for the slightest sign of trouble. It is of course essential to take care of your dog’s coat from a very young age with an appropriate brush or comb, a dog shampoo and a lotion if needed. Valuable advice can be obtained from your veterinarian.