Dear VetBabble: Why are my dogs scratching and losing hair even if they don’t have fleas?
It’s common for pet owners to become concerned when they observe their dogs scratching excessively and losing hair. While fleas are often the first thing that comes to mind, there are other potential culprits that can cause these symptoms in dogs, such as mites, lice, or allergies. As a veterinarian, let me share some insights on these potential causes and help guide you on what to do next for your furry friends.
1. Mange (Mites)
Mange is a skin condition caused by microscopic mites that infest a dog’s skin. There are two main types of mange, sarcoptic and demodectic, which are caused by different mite species and have different symptoms and treatments.
Sarcoptic mange, also known as scabies, is highly contagious and can rapidly spread between dogs. It causes intense itching, hair loss, redness, and crusting of the skin. Demodectic mange, on the other hand, is less severe and usually results from an overgrowth of mites that are already present on a dog’s skin. This type may present with patchy hair loss and mild to moderate itchiness.
You can have your vet perform a skin scraping test to check for the presence of mites and determine the appropriate treatment for your dogs.
Just like humans, dogs can get lice too. Dog lice are species-specific, meaning they cannot spread to humans. These tiny parasites can cause itching, hair loss, skin irritation, and anemia if there is a severe infestation.
A thorough examination of your dog’s skin and coat by your veterinarian can help diagnose a lice infestation. Regular grooming and using preventive products such as insecticidal shampoos and spot-on treatments can help keep lice at bay.
Allergies are a common cause of itching and hair loss in dogs. There are different types of canine allergies, such as food allergies, contact allergies, and environmental allergies like atopic dermatitis.
Dog allergies typically cause symptoms like itching, redness, bumps, and hair loss, especially around the ears, face, belly, and feet. It’s essential to determine the specific allergen causing the reaction to manage your dog’s symptoms. Your vet can help diagnose these allergies and recommend appropriate treatments such as hypoallergenic diets, medicated shampoos, and medications like antihistamines or corticosteroids.
Talking to your Vet and Possible Tests
It’s crucial to consult with your veterinarian if your dogs are experiencing persistent itching and hair loss. Your vet can determine the exact cause by conducting a few simple tests and recommend appropriate treatments or management strategies.
Your vet might perform skin scrapings, allergy testing, or even blood tests to diagnose the cause and rule out other issues such as alopecia or other causes of hair loss in dogs. With the right diagnosis and treatment, you can help your dogs find relief and prevent further complications.
Maintaining regular veterinary check-ups and following your vet’s recommendations for grooming, flea and tick preventatives, and overall pet care will help maintain your dog’s skin health and keep them itch-free in the long run.