One can never be too sure what is going on with their dog. When my German Shepherd started losing hair, I was unsure if it was a symptom of something else or just the natural shedding process. There are many reasons as to why dogs lose hair, and each has different treatments for them.
Why is My German Shepherd Losing Hair?
Hair loss in dogs or also known as alopecia can be caused by several factors. Here are some of the most common reasons for it:
1. Seasonal Shedding
Seasonal shedding is normal in double-coated breeds like German shepherds. German Shepherds will shed their undercoats in preparation for warmer or colder weather in the spring and summer months. This is the mechanism that allows them to regulate their body temperature while adjusting to new seasons. This hair loss does not require any treatment; however, it can be very noticeable due to all of the excess hair on a floor or couch.
According to many vets, allergies are the most frequent cause of hair loss in dogs. It can be caused by environmental factors such as mold or pollen. It can also be a result of food allergies or an allergy to its own fur.
Typical symptoms of allergy-based hair loss are severe itching, constant licking or chewing, red skin, and of course, hair loss. When treating allergies, the first thing you must do is determine the cause to come up with an adequate treatment plan, which your vet will help you with. Depending on the cause, treatment options include the elimination of the allergen, antihistamines, or steroids.
An infestation with parasites can cause dogs to lose fur not only from certain parts of their body but also all over. There are different types of parasites that can cause them to lose furs, such as fleas, ticks, and mites. They cause hair loss by passing through the skin and into the bloodstream. This causes irritation and itchiness, which results in your German shepherd constantly itching or scratching their fur off.
One thing you should look out for is the possibility of contagion. Some mites, like the scabies mite, are highly contagious to humans and other household pets. Unlike the Demodex mite, other mites will not infect humans but can cause severe irritation to your dog.
4. Bacterial and Fungal Infections
Bacterial and yeast are both skin-dwelling organisms that normally won’t cause any problems. However, on certain occasions, they can grow out of control and cause an infection or irritation to the skin. These infections can cause a dog to lose its fur, similar to hair loss caused by parasites.
Other skin infections such as ringworm can also affect dogs’ fur. Ringworm is a fungal infection that can be seen as reddish or brown patches on the skin surface.
The symptoms can vary depending on the type of infection. Some infections cause raised, reddening skin that may be very itchy, while others may cause bad smells from the dog’s skin,
As the organisms that cause these infections can be very different, the treatment options also vary greatly. Therefore, it is important to identify the right type of infection before deciding on a treatment. This can be done through proper testing with your vet.
Some dog breeds are more genetically predisposed to losing fur than others. Some dog breeds that are known to be prone to baldness include German Shepherds, American Hairless Terrier, Doberman Pinscher, Chinese Crested, Italian Greyhound, and Whippet.
Hair loss can be seen all over the body of dogs with this genetic trait. However, some may only lose hair on certain parts of their bodies, like an ear or tail.
Pet owners who have a dog that is genetically predisposed to losing fur can help prevent it from happening by grooming the fur regularly and properly supplying their dogs with the right nutrition and diet.
6. Nutritional Deficiencies
A deficiency in certain vitamins or minerals can cause a German Shepherd dog to lose fur. Keratin is the building block of hair. It needs sulfur amino acids in order to be synthesized. Without them, your dog’s hair might grow slower, the hair may feel coarse and brittle, and eventually, the hair may fall out completely.
Similarly, biotin is also important for hair growth. When a dog doesn’t have sufficient biotin, the deficiency might lead to hair loss that can be localized on certain parts of the body or maybe all over.
7. Cushing’s Disease
Cushing’s disease may not be the most common cause of hair loss in dogs, but it is one of the most serious. Cushing’s disease occurs when there is a problem with your dog’s body’s production and regulation of the hormone cortisol.
The signs of this disease can include the loss of fur on your dog’s paws, ears, and other parts of the body. Other symptoms are darkening of the skin, excessive drinking, urination, and the development of a potbelly.
8. Autoimmune Disorder
Autoimmune disorders are a group of diseases that are characterized by the immune system’s inability to recognize and fight foreign substances in the body. They are often seen as a result of genetics, but certain environmental factors can also cause them. This results in the immune system attacking healthy cells, causing an autoimmune disease.
This disease can also affect dogs’ fur causing their hair to fall out in patches. Unfortunately, this condition can’t be cured completely, but treatment options are available that can help manage the symptoms.
9. Hormonal conditions
Hormones play a vital role in your German shepherd’s fur health. Hormonal conditions like hypothyroidism or adrenal gland disorders can cause your dog’s fur to fall out in patches.
One common example is when your dog’s testosterone levels drop. After going through a spay/neuter surgery, many dogs find that their fur is falling out or losing its color.
10. Pressure Sores
Pressure sores, also called decubitus ulcers, are a condition when pressure is applied to the dog’s body for an extended period of time, causing it to lose fur and develop cracks and open wounds in the affected area.
These pressure sores are usually seen on older dogs, especially those who come from large breed households. When a pressure sore develops, the skin will start to break and bleed, forming an open sore. Eventually, the skin will become callus, and the fur around this open sore will start to fall out.
Dogs that are exposed to constant sources of stress like moving into a new environment or being spayed can start losing their fur.
12. Serious Medical Conditions
Underlying serious medical conditions like kidney disease and cancer can cause your dog’s fur to fall out. This is because your dog’s body will shift and prioritize resources to other organs, like its vital internal organs, leaving nothing for the fur.
Also, some medicines for these conditions can cause your dog’s body to react in strange ways. For example, some cancer treatments like chemotherapy and radiation can affect your dog’s fur, causing them to fall out or lose their color.
Diagnosing Hair Loss in Your German Shepherd
Most of the time, German Shepherds will lose their fur naturally without any underlying medical conditions. However, there are cases when a more serious condition is responsible for your dog’s fur falling out. The best way to find out if this is the case is through proper diagnostic tests.
There are a variety of methods a vet can use to diagnose the cause of your dog’s hair loss, such as a physical examination, a blood test, a urine test, skin biopsies, skin scrapping, and an elimination diet.
After diagnosing the cause of your dog’s hair loss, your vet will work with you to choose an appropriate treatment option based on their age, heredity, breed, medical history, and other factors.
In some cases, your vet may prescribe anti-parasitics, antifungals, antibiotics, or steroid treatments to cure the hair loss condition. Other times, a cure for the cause of hair loss may not be available if the cause is a genetic problem or auto-immune disorder. In these cases, the most that can be done is to help manage the symptoms and slow down hair loss.
Hair Loss Signs in Dogs
Even though there are many reasons for fur loss in dogs, they all have some common signs that you can keep an eye out for. Your dog’s hair feeling brittle or dry can be the earliest sign that something is wrong. Usually, this means that the natural oils from your German Shepherd’s skin are not properly being distributed to their fur.
Shedding more than normal and the appearance of bald patches can further indicate a serious problem. This is especially true if these patches are accompanied by small, scaly red lesions or inflamed skins and rancid odor.
Look also at your German shepherd’s overall conditions and behaviors. Do they lose weight even though they have been eating the same amount as usual? Do you notice a drop in their energy levels? Do they whine or yelp out in pain?
Learn to identify these signs and get your German Shepherd checked by a vet as soon as possible if you notice any of them.
Dog Simple Hair Loss Home Remedies
Here are some simple and natural treatments that you can use to prevent or cure hair loss in your German Shepherd:
1. Hempseed Oil
Hemp seed oil is a rich natural source of Omega 3 and 6 fatty acids. These nutrients are crucial for keeping your dog’s skin and fur healthy. Additionally, hemp seed oil also contains high levels of vitamin E, which is known to promote strong, glossy hair growth in dogs.
2. Lemon Juice
Lemon juice has antibacterial properties that can help fight off any external bacteria that may lead to hair loss. Mix lemon juice with water and apply the mixture to your dog’s fur and skin. Let it sit for an hour or so and rinse with warm water. Do this regularly for best results.
3. Apple Cider Vinegar
Apple Cider Vinegar has antifungal and antibacterial properties that are useful to combat allergies that may be the cause of your dog’s hair loss. Mix a small amount with water and use a spray bottle to apply this mixture to your dog’s fur. You can dip a cotton ball or cloth into it and wipe your dog’s skin with it. You can also try adding a small amount of apple cider vinegar to your dog’s drinking water.
4. Coconut Oil
Coconut oil contains Lauric acid that can kill off any harmful pathogens in your dog’s fur and skin, such as yeast. You can massage coconut oil directly into your dog’s fur and leave it for several hours before rinsing off.
5. Fish Oil
It has been widely known that fish oil is beneficial for the health of pet dogs. It is rich in Omega 3 fatty acids, which are crucial for keeping your dog’s skin and fur healthy. Fish oil can be added to your dog’s diet to boost the health of their skin and fur.
6. Greek Yogurt
Greek yogurt is a good source of probiotics that can help keep your dog’s digestive system healthy. A healthy digestive tract means healthy skin and fur. Try giving your dog a small spoonful of plain Greek yogurt first and see how they react to it before adding it to their diet.
7. Aloe Vera
Aloe Vera works well for many skin issues in dogs. It is good for soothing skin inflammation, wounds, and irritations which may be causing your dog’s hair loss. You can apply the clear gel from an Aloe Vera leaf directly to your dog’s fur.
8. Olive Oil
Olive oil has high levels of antioxidants and vitamins that make it a good choice for moisturizing dry, brittle, or damaged fur. If your dog has very dry or dull fur, massage a little olive oil into their coat and leave it in for an hour or two.
Another benefit of olive oil is that mites are known to hate the smell of it and will tend to avoid anything that smells like olive oil. If you think your dog may have mites or fleas, try rubbing a little olive oil on their fur as a natural repellent.
9. Tea Tree Oil
Tea tee oil does work well for treating flea infestations. It contains compounds that repel and kill fleas. You can mix a few drops of tea tree oil with water and spray it directly on your dog’s fur. Take caution when using tea tree essential oil. A small amount can do wonders for your dog, but using too much of it may cause adverse reactions. Remember to start with a small amount and increase the dosage gradually.
While there are no one-size-fits-all solutions when it comes to dealing with dogs that shed, adding healthy nutrients and proper grooming will help keep the fur at bay—and make cleaning up around the house easier too!
If your dog is experiencing hair loss or excessive shedding, it may be time to take them in for a veterinary exam. Before or after your appointment, you may want to try out some of the things above and see how they help.