Hair loss and skin darkening in dogs

April 13, 2012

Skin diseases that cause hair fall and skin darkening are one of the most common problems of dogs and dog owners. These skin concerns normally cause the dog discomfort. Dog owners on the other hand will be most concerned not only because the condition can mar the appearance of the dog but most importantly because it would have an adverse effect on the quality of life of the pet. Resolving these concerns would need the expertise of a vet. It would even be much better if a veterinary dermatologist will be consulted. However, it would be important for a dog owner to know the causes of these concerns. As they say, an ounce of prevention will always be much better than cure. The vets are the experts but because of the close ties formed between owner and pet, the dog owner will be in a better position to know what is wrong with the pet.

Hair fall and skin darkening can be due to a lot of reasons. A dog hypersensitive to pollen, dust, to some types of food and to bites of parasites like fleas and mites would have skin irritations. The dog may also have contact dermatitis so that the metal, leather that the skin gets contact with will be inflamed and become very itchy. The constant biting and scratching will result to bald patched and darkened skin. Allergies are not contagious as it results from the dog’s immune system irregularity. Some skin diseases that cause hair loss and skin darkening must be given prompt attention as it can be transmitted by the dog to other pets and also to the human family. Demodectic mange is an infectious skin disease caused by mites. Symptoms are severe itching, hair loss and darkened scaly appearance of the skin. Bacterial and fungal infections can result to cracking and blistering skin. Hair loss and skin darkening will be noticed in the infected skin along with scabbing and foul smelling discharge.

Darkening of the skin and hair loss can be indications of a medical concern. Cushing’s disease is caused by the malfunctioning of the adrenal glands. Excess production of cortisone causes hair loss and thinning of the skin. The pet will initially lose the top coat. The undercoat will eventually fall off if treatment is not administered. To protect the skin, the dog’s system will produce melanin, the natural substance that gives color to the skin. The darkening of the skin is one indication of Cushing’s disease. Black skin disease is another reason for the hair loss and the darkening skin. There is no known cause for this disease that causes hair loss and darkening of the skin that starts from the neck and spreads to the body and to the tail. This disease is also called wooly coat, coat funk and alopecia X as male dogs are more prone to this disease. Hyperthyroidism is an autoimmune disease that causes the immune system to develop antibodies that will fight the thyroid tissues. A low level of thyroid hormone can result to obesity, lethargy, slowed heart rate as well as hair loss and darkening of the skin. Large breeds of dogs and dogs advanced in age commonly grow calluses. These thick skinned and hairless areas develop in body parts that come in contact with the ground. A dog may have calluses on the elbows and also on the pads of the paws. Calluses formed in any area of the body will be hairless and have thick skin to protect the area that often receives pressure.

Hair loss and skin darkening per se are not dangerous. Hair will again grow on the bald patch. The darkening of the skin would be the same if the dog is exposed to sunlight. But as these conditions can be symptoms of underlying disease, a vet consult is necessary.

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