My Dog Is Losing Hair Around the Eyes
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There are various types of hair loss in dogs which will present differently according to the underlying reason. Normal shedding happens at different times throughout the year, something which needs to be differentiated from alopecia as a clinical symptom. When the alopecia is due to a systemic disease, pathology or any other reason, it can present all over the body or only in localized areas. When we see that my dog is losing hair around the eyes, but not anywhere else, it means there is a localized problem.
AnimalWised explains the different causes of balding around the eyes, as well as what treatment options are available.
Localized demodectic mange (demodicosis)
Demodicosis is a parasitical disease, otherwise known as red mange or demodectic mange in dogs. It is due to the proliferation of the mite Demodex canis, a mite which is specific to dogs. These mites can be found on a healthy dog's skin, but they do not cause mange. In fact, almost all dogs will have this mite passed on to them by their mother. It is only when the dog has a proliferation of these mites that it causes a problem.
The causes of demodex canis mite proliferation and subsequent demodectic mange are not usually contagion from one animal to another. A dog keeps their normal mite population at suitable levels thanks to their immune system. When a dog's immune system is compromised for any reason, the mite population expands and demodicosis occurs.
In some cases, demodectic mange may cover large parts of the body and provide the following symptoms:
- Hair loss
- Inflamed skin
- Scaly skin
- Compulsive scratching
- Head shaking
- Bad odor
In minor cases, it is possible the mange will only be minimized to specific areas. If you see your dog is losing hair around the eyes, it could be due to mane localized to this area. If the dog remains immunocompromised, the mites may proliferate further and cause it to spread. For this reason, it is very important you take the dog to a veterinarian to diagnose the problem.
Diagnosis will most likely result from a skin scraping which is analyzed under a microscope. However, they will also need to also perform blood tests to find out why they are immunocompromised in the first place. This could be due to various conditions, including hemolytic anemia in dogs.
Once demodectic mange has been confirmed, the veterinarian will use topical ointment. As this area is around the eyes, they will need to be careful none seeps into the eye itself. The underlying cause will need to be treated. This will require either curative treatment to stop the condition or symptom management to prevent further problems. This will also involve finding ways to boost the dog's immune system to prevent a relapse of demodicosis.
Allergies in dogs refers to a hypersensitivity to certain allergens in their environment. These allergens can be natural, such as pollen or the sap of certain plants. Others are due to manmade products such as cleaning or beauty products.
Some of these allergies can trigger systemic problems such as anaphylactic shock in dogs. Others can have very localized issues which include losing hair above or around the eyes. This could be if the allergen is from something above them or they have rolled their head against a material to which they are sensitive.
Allergies can also trigger atopic dermatitis in dogs. This is a swelling of the skin in the affected area which is usually accompanied by redness, flaky skin and hair loss. It can also cause itching which leads the dog to scratch the area and can result in localized alopecia above the eye.
Treatment of the allergy requires the veterinarian to determine the allergen. We will need to provide as much information as we can to help point the vet in the right direction. After this, there is usually a trial and error process which involves removing possible allergens from the dog's environment and see if the hair grows back. They will also likely provide antihistamine or other allergy medication for dogs to relieve the symptoms.
There are various eye problems common to dogs which have a range of symptoms. These are mostly limited to the eye themselves. For example, conjunctivitis is an inflammation of the lining of the eyelids which results in redness and itching.
Other eye problems which can affect a dog include cherry eye, corneal ulcers, glaucoma, cataracts and even tumors of the various parts of the eye. The symptoms which present in the dog will depend on the cause. The dog may not even be aware of some of them until they cause vision loss. Others can become irritating relatively quickly. In particular, conjunctivitis in dogs causes itching and even purulent discharge.
The reason a dog with an eye problem might be balding around the eyes is due to this itching. The dog finds the sensation frustrating, so they will scratch with their paws at the area. This causes the hair to fall out and may even lead to secondary infections. Although the dog losing hair around the eyes is a problem, they are also at risk of damaging the eye itself which is a very sensitive organ.
Treatment of the eye problem will depend on the underlying cause. The skin around the eye may also need topical treatment and the dog may need to wear an e-collar to prevent them scratching further.
We have already discussed the mite Demodex canis as a type of external parasites in dogs, but there are many others. Fleas, ticks, lice and other types of mite can infest the dog's skin. These can result in various skin disorders of the dog, including canine sarcoptic mange.
One of the most common symptoms of external parasites is scratching. This is because the parasite will often bite the dog's skin in various places which causes irritation. When the dog is itchy, they will try to scratch the affected area. This is a common reason you see dogs scratch at their eyes.
When the dog is losing hair around the eye due to external parasites, it can be caused either directly by the parasites themselves or by the dog scratching to relieve the itch. Regardless of the reason, we need to take the dog to a veterinarian to diagnose the type of parasite and provide the corresponding course of treatment. They will also require the establishment of a deworming schedule to prevent the parasites return.
Viral, bacterial or fungal infections
Another reason for localized balding around a dog's eye can be due to infection. The way in which they cause hair loss will depend on the type of infection:
- Viral infections: these can have skin disorders as a symptom, but they are usually due to the virus weakening the dog's immune system. This can include promoting demodectic mites about which we explained above.
- Bacterial infections: when a dog has an open wound on the area around their eyes, bacteria can enter and cause an infection. This is especially the case if the dog's wound has not been treated. The infection can become itchy and cause the dog to scratch and remove hair. It can also develop into an abscess if not treated, something which can have various repercussions. Learn more with our article on abscesses in dogs.
- Fungal infections: various types of fungi can infect a dog's skin and result in hair loss around the eyes. One of the most common is ringworm, a type of fungus which causes a very distinctive red spiral to appear on the skin. This red mark is visible thanks to the bald area created by hair loss. Ringworm and other fungal infections in dogs are usually treated with antifungal medication.
Physical trauma or foreign bodies
There are various ways in which a dog can receive physical trauma to their heads. They can be bitten by another animal, hit their head on something low, fall from height or be hit by a car, among many others. When they sustain a minor injury, we might not see it if the dog's hair is long. It is only after they scratch at the area and remove hair that we can see it.
As stated above, cuts, wounds and other types of trauma can result in secondary bacterial infections. These can lead to hair falling out around the eyes as well as other symptoms. They will need to be treated by antibiotics if the infection is sufficiently progressed.
Foreign bodies can have a similar effect if they lodge in the dog's skin. These can enter the skin in various ways, but a common issue is when the dog is out in nature. Foliage and other natural material can have sharp points which lodge in the dog's skin as they walk around. Foxtails are one of the most notorious as they have sharp awns which hook into the dog's skin. The dog may scratch at the area to remove the awn and result in hair loss above the eye.
If your dog is balding in areas other than above the eye, there may be another underlying cause. Find out some general reasons your dog has alopecia in our article on why a dog is losing hair.
This article is purely informative. AnimalWised does not have the authority to prescribe any veterinary treatment or create a diagnosis. We invite you to take your pet to the veterinarian if they are suffering from any condition or pain.
If you want to read similar articles to My Dog Is Losing Hair Around the Eyes, we recommend you visit our Parasitic diseases category.