How Alopecia Affects Dogs
Alopecia is one of the more common complaints of dog owners. How alopecia affects a dog depends upon the underlying cause of the condition. Hair loss (or failure to grow) can occur anywhere on the body of a dog of any age, breed or gender, including on the face, around the eyes, on the back, near the base of the tail or on the flank. The hair abnormality may occur on its own without any apparent cause or other clinical signs. Alternatively, the absence of hair may be accompanied by scratching, redness, pustules or other skin changes. Alopecia can appear symmetrically in discrete but well distributed patches, or it can have no pattern at all.
Symptoms of Alopecia
One of the most baffling things about alopecia is the vast number of ways that it can present. It can occur acutely or be slowly progressive. It can happen in isolation or with localized or generalized hair loss but no other clinical signs. The skin may appear normal, and the dog may act completely normal as well. Some cases of alopecia never progress. The affected dog simply loses hair, and the hair does not grow back. In other cases, hair loss may spread across the body and become generalized, or it may become patchy.
Symptoms In Addition to Hair Loss
When hair loss is accompanied by other clinical signs, owners usually notice itching, scratching, chewing and changes to the appearance or condition of the skin itself. The skin in areas of hair loss can become red, irritated and inflamed, or it can darken. In many cases, the affected skin becomes crusty, thickened, and raised. It can also become thinner. Sometimes, the skin becomes oily and greasy, and pustules or other skin lesions can develop. In severe cases, dogs can develop blisters, weeping sores and hot spots, which are prone to developing secondary bacterial infections.
Which clinical signs a particular dog develops depends upon the underlying cause of the alopecia. The specific signs are important to help the veterinarian establish a correct diagnosis.