My Dog Has Dandruff and Bald Spots
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Since the quality of a dog's coat is a good general indicator of their overall health, dandruff alone can be cause for concern. When our dog has dandruff and bald spots at the same time, we should know it is something which needs to be addressed. Hair loss, also known as alopecia, has various causes, but not all of which will also result in dandruff.
Whether your dog has dandruff, bald patches or a combination of both, we need to know that taking care of our dog's coat is of vital importance to their health. Not only will it help them to prevent developing certain health conditions, grooming practice will help us to better observe problems when they arise. AnimalWised highlights the causes of dandruff and bald spots in dogs, as well as providing solutions to these problems.
What is dandruff in dogs?
Dandruff in dogs is very similar to that of dandruff in humans. It is characterized by the presence of white flecks on the hair of the canine. It is a myth that dandruff is caused by poor hygiene. While environmental factors can be involved, it is usually due to imbalances in the organism.
This is why dandruff is commonly linked to seborrhea. Seborrhea is a condition whereby the sebaceous glands are overactive, producing too much of the oily substance which is necessary to keep the dog's hair in condition. When there is too much oil produced, it can result in poor conditioning of the coat and skin.
However, the white specks which we call dandruff are actually skin cells. Normal skin cells on a dog's skin will shed, but are usually not visible to the naked eye. When the skin cells are very large or shed more quickly than usual, they can result in dandruff.
Normal dog hair shedding
We should know that the quality of a dog's hair is determined by many factors. These include their hormone levels, nutrition, genetics or the frequency of brushing. Although dogs will engage in self-grooming, we need to assist them in this process by combing their hair and washing it only when needed (too much washing can be just as damaging as too little).
If the dog is lacking in any of these areas, their coat can lose conditioning. When this happens, it can lead to dry skin and the hair becoming dry and brittle. Dandruff is a common cause, since skin flakes will appear due to the dryness. The hair can also fall out if it is in poor condition.
Another cause of hair loss is a natural process known as shedding in dogs. Both the skin cells and hair follicles will shed throughout the year in most dogs. However, the shedding season is a period when hair sheds more due to a change in the seasons and climate. This usually occurs in spring and autumn, but dogs which spend a lot of time inside can have altered shedding patterns.
Shedding in itself shouldn't cause dandruff and bald patches, even if the hair might look a little thinner at times. Below we look at how dandruff and bald patches on the dog's skin can occur.
When the dog has seborrhea, it can lead to something known as seborrheic dermatitis. This occurs when the overproduction of oils on the skin leads to the pore becoming blocked and inflamed. This inflammation can cause the skin to break and flake off as dandruff.
Since the dermatitis can be very itchy, the dog will usually try to scratch the areas which are most bothersome. In these cases, the hair can fall out due to a combination of inflamed skin and trauma from the dog scratching. The resultant bald spots usually have reddened and inflamed skin visible.
Parasites in dogs are usually grouped into two categories, internal and external. Internal parasites are those which often affect the gastrointestinal system, although they can affect other vital organs such as the lungs and heart. External parasites are those which dwell on the skin and in the hair of the canine. Fleas and ticks are perhaps the most well-known, but there are other different types of external parasites in dogs.
Some of the most damaging to a dog's skin and coat are mites, particularly Sarcoptes scabiei mites. This mite lives in the dog's skin and results in sarcoptic mange in dogs. When the mite infestation is mild, it can result in the skin flaking and producing dandruff. However, the pruritus (itching) caused by mange leads the dog to want to scratch their skin, it results in the presence of bald spots when done intensely.
Eventually, the dog's skin will become pink and inflamed due to the mites. Almost all of their fur can fall out if the proliferation of mites is not taken care of. While sarcoptic mange is treatable, we should take our dog to the vet at first signs of hair falling out to prevent trauma for the dog.
Another reason for a dog to develop dandruff and alopecia at the same time is skin allergies. It can be difficult to determine why a dog develops a skin allergy, but when it happens we need to be careful to prevent them from coming in contact with the allergen. Even food allergies can result in damage to the dog's skin and hair.
Skin allergies in dogs are a common skin disease of canines. They can result in the dog's skin drying out, resulting in dandruff. If the reaction is sufficiently severe, the dog's skin can become inflamed and cause bald patches to appear. Pruritus can exacerbate the situation when the dog tries to scratch themselves to relieve pain and irritation. Atopic dermatitis is a common allergy, often occurring when there is an allergen on the ground or floor where they sit.
Ways to prevent dandruff and bald spots in dogs
When we see our dog starts to lose hair which is not part of their normal shedding process, especially if bald patches appear, we need to take them to a veterinarian. As you can see from above, the causes are varied and treatment will depend on isolating the correct one. While some cannot be prevented, there are some general tips you can follow to prevent dandruff and alopecia in dogs:
- Maintain proper hygiene in terms of brushing and washing, with a frequency that will depend on the type of coat. Always use the appropriate products and accessories for the specific characteristics of your dog. Ask your vet to advise on products if you are at all unsure.
- Provide an adequate diet which is suitable for their specific health needs. This not only means avoiding allergens, but providing the correct nutrition to keep their coat in good condition.
- Set up a suitable deworming schedule. This will help to prevent parasitical infestations which can lead to skin and hair damage.
- Go for veterinary checkups regularly (at least once a year) and increase these when the dog gets older. Senior dogs can often have compromised immune systems which are also linked to both dandruff and alopecia.
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