Dog hair loss is when a dog’s hair thins or falls, causing bald spots. The medical term for hair loss is alopecia. 

Hair loss in dogs results from environmental factors and underlying conditions, such as genetics, allergies, skin infections, parasites, nutritional deficiencies, endocrine imbalances, autoimmune disorders, anxiety, and cancer. 

Pet owners visit the vet asking, “Why is my dog losing hair?” or reporting issues like a dog’s bald spot and a dog losing hair in patches and scabs. 

The treatment for dog hair loss depends on the cause and includes topical therapies, medications, supplements, food trials, and surgery. 

CBD products are popular supplements for skin and hair health in dogs. CBD is used topically and orally and is safe to combine with other hair loss treatments. 

What is Hair Loss in Dogs?

Hair loss in dogs, medically known as alopecia, is a common condition manifesting with hair thinning or bald patches. 

Dog hair loss, depending on the underlying trigger, is accompanied by other symptoms such as scratching, skin lesions (red spots, pimples, hives, flaking), and general skin irritation. 

Many health conditions cause hair loss in dogs, and the distribution of alopecia says a lot about the cause. For example, a dog losing hair on its back is suspected to have an allergy, while circular patches of hair loss on dogs often indicate mange.  

Hair loss or alopecia must not be confused with shedding. Shedding is a normal part of the hair growth cycle and occurs seasonally (in spring and fall) in outdoor dogs and year-round in indoor dogs. 

Regular shedding is normal, but a dog bald spot or spots indicates a more severe problem and warrants veterinary attention. 

What are the Common Causes of A Dog Losing Hair?

The common causes of a dog losing hair are listed below. 

  • Genetic Causes: Genetic disorders in certain dog breeds, including greyhounds, dachshunds, whippets, and chihuahuas, cause hair loss. Genetic causes of hair loss in dogs include follicular dysplasia, pinnal alopecia, pattern baldness, color-dilution alopecia, post-clipping alopecia, post-injection alopecia, and alopecia X. 
  • Allergic Reactions: Dogs are susceptible to various types of allergies, including food allergies, atopic dermatitis, inhalant allergies, contact allergies, and flea bite allergies. Allergic reactions manifest with skin symptoms such as irritation, itchiness, and hair loss. Allergies are the leading cause of dog hair loss. 
  • External Parasites: External or ectoparasites in dogs cause skin issues and hair loss. These parasites include fleas, lice, and mange mites like Sarcoptes and Demodex. Parasite-related hair loss is unique and typically occurs around the dog’s eyes, ears, chest, abdomen, and groins. 
  • Skin Infections: Skin infections (dermatitis) trigger skin changes and hair loss. Two types of skin infections are primary and secondary. Primary infection is caused directly by an infectious organism (bacteria, yeast, ringworm, virus, parasites), and secondary infection results from an underlying condition (allergies, Cushing’s disease). 
  • Canine Anxiety: Dog hair loss is directly related to stress. Severe, chronic anxiety pushes hair follicles into a resting phase, while acute anxiety causes stress shedding. Anxious dogs tend to lick themselves to self-soothe, which damages the skin and triggers hair loss. 
  • Endocrine Diseases: Hormonal imbalances manifest with dog hair loss. The top three endocrine diseases causing hair loss are hyperadrenocorticism (Cushing’s disease), hypothyroidism, and adrenal sex hormone imbalance (SHAP). 
  • Autoimmune Conditions: Pemphigus foliaceous is dogs’ most common dermatological autoimmune disorder, accounting for one-third of all autoimmune diseases. Pemphigus foliaceous manifests with hair loss and symmetrical skin lesions on the dog’s face and ears. Lupus is another autoimmune condition that causes hair loss but is rarer. 
  • Nutritional Imbalances: Long-term starvation and poor-quality diets lacking essential nutrients (protein and fat) cause hair loss. Hair loss is associated with vitamin and mineral deficiencies. Low levels of vitamin D, A, B12, zinc, and copper, for example, cause hair loss. 
  • Environmental Factors: Environmental factors cause dog hair loss. Living outdoors and hot, moist, and filthy conditions are environmental factors that cause dog hair loss. For example, hot spots are bacterial skin infections, but prolonged stays in a hot and humid environment stimulate their development. 
  • Certain Cancers: Skin (cutaneous) lymphoma in dogs affects the hair growth patterns and triggers skin lesions such as nodules, ulcers, plaques, scaling, and hair loss. Cutaneous lymphoma is uncommon in dogs, making up around 5% of canine lymphoma cases. 

Is Dog Hair Loss Genetic?

Yes, dog hair loss is genetic in some cases. A common genetic hair loss disease in dogs is follicular dysplasia, a hereditary condition in which the hair follicles are abnormal. 

Pinnal alopecia, pattern baldness, post-clipping alopecia, post-injection alopecia, alopecia X, and color dilution alopecia are other genetic causes of dog hair loss.

A genetic component is suspected since each condition is common in certain breeds. For example, pinnal alopecia is widespread in Italian Greyhounds, Dachshunds, Chihuahuas, and Boston Terriers, and color dilution alopecia in Dobermans, Salukis, and Bernese Mountain Dogs.

Arctic breeds, such as Siberian Huskies, Samoyeds, Alaskan Malamutes, and Keeshonds, are prone to post-clipping alopecia. Lapdogs like Yorkshire Terriers, Bichon Frises, Poodles, Shih Tzus, and Silky Terriers are predisposed to post-injection alopecia.  

What are Treatments for Dog Hair Loss?

The treatments for dog hair loss are listed below. 

  • Topical Therapy: Topical use of oils, dips, ointments, and sprays helps with various causes of dog hair loss. Medicated shampoos are another option and are simple to use. Topical therapy targets the hair loss trigger and soothes the skin, supporting hair growth.  
  • Medications: Medications help with dog hair loss, and medication depends on the underlying problem. The most prescribed medicines for hair loss include antibiotics, antifungals, antiparasitics, antihistamines, steroids, non-steroid anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), and antipruritics (oral meds like Atopica and Apoquel or injections such as Cytopoint). 
  • Supplements: Vitamins A, D, and B12, minerals (copper, zinc), CBD products, and fish oil (rich in DHA and EPA fatty acids) are skin and coat health supplements. Supplements alone are rarely enough to treat dog hair loss but are helpful when combined with other treatments. 
  • Food Trials: Food trials are reserved for dogs with suspected food allergies. The goal is to identify and eliminate the offending food from the dog’s diet. Food trials in dogs are challenging and require dedication from the owner. The pet market offers various dog diet formulas for use during food trials. 
  • Surgery: Surgery is the treatment for dogs with cutaneous lymphoma-related single lesions. Chemotherapy and radiation are options for dogs with spread lesions. Surgery is an integral part of the hair loss treatment for dogs with alopecia X. 

What Can You Do for Dog Hair Loss Caused by Food Allergies?

You can try a food trial for dog hair loss caused by food allergies. Food allergies are widespread and manifest with a dog losing hair in patches and scabs and feeling itchy. 

A food trial, or elimination diet, is essential for diagnosing and treating a dog losing hair due to allergies. The goal is to determine the food triggering a reaction and remove it from the dog’s diet. 

Food trials are done with novel diets (proteins the dog has never tasted before), commercially available hydrolyzed formulas (in which the proteins are broken down into tiny pieces the dog’s immune system is unable to recognize), or homemade meals prepared with selected and safe ingredients. 

The dog must not be fed anything other than the food prescribed by the vet during the food trial. Sticking to the guidelines is challenging for pet owners, making allergies in dogs difficult to diagnose and treat. 

What Can You Do for Dog Hair Loss Caused by Fleas?

You can use an anti-flea product for dog hair loss caused by fleas. Removing the fleas is essential for managing the hair loss problem. Dog shampoos and topical therapy help soothe the skin once the fleas are eliminated. 

Fleas make the dog itchy, and the constant scratching triggers the dog losing hair in patches and scabs. Dogs sensitive to flea saliva develop flea allergy dermatitis, which results in dogs losing hair, too. 

Anti-flea treatments for dogs are readily available, over-the-counter or with a vet prescription, and come in many forms, from oral pills and chews to collars to spot-on liquids. 

What Can You Do for Dog Hair Loss Caused by Hives?

You can see the veterinarian for corticosteroids and antihistamines treatment for dog hair loss caused by hives. Hives or urticaria is a specific allergic skin condition manifesting with raised and red skin welts. 

A dog losing hair in patches and scabs due to hives, which are associated with insect stings and bites. Toxic plants, chemicals, shampoos, and medications cause hives and dog hair loss. 

Hives are treatable with injectable corticosteroids and antihistamines. They are itchy, and constant scratching aggravates the dog’s hair loss problem if untreated. 

What Can You Do for Dog Hair Loss Caused by Vitamin Deficiency?

You can use dietary vitamin supplements for dog hair loss caused by vitamin deficiency. A dog losing hair due to lacking certain vitamins, such as A, D, E, or B12, benefits from daily vitamin supplementation. 

Vitamin deficiency is an issue for a dog losing hair in patches and scabs, especially if fed a low-quality diet or malnourished for a prolonged period. 

Vitamin supplements are available in many forms and over the counter, and vitamin deficiency in dogs is manageable at home. Consult the veterinarian to ensure the correct supplementation and doses are administered to the dog.

Can Dogs with Hair Loss Due to Genetic Be Treated?

No, dogs with hair loss due to genetics cannot be treated. Modern veterinary medicine does not offer treatment options for congenital hair loss in dogs. 

The secondary effects of genetic dog hair loss are treatable and include skin lesions, excess irritation, and skin infections. 

How can CBD Oil Help Dog Hair Loss?

CBD oil helps dog hair loss by reducing inflammation and itchiness, promoting skin health, and managing allergies and anxiety. 

Dog hair loss is related to inflammation, and CBD has a strong anti-inflammatory potential. CBD’s anti-inflammatory feature was shown in a 2021 study, “Effect of Cannabidiol (CBD) on Canine Inflammatory Response: An Ex Vivo Study on LPS Stimulated Whole Blood,” published in Veterinary Sciences. 

Hair loss in dogs is accompanied by itchiness, which worsens alopecia. CBD has been shown to have an anti-pruritic effect or reduce itchiness. 

Veterinary Dermatology published a study, “The Effect of a Mixed Cannabidiol and Cannabidiolic Acid-Based Oil on Client-Owned Dogs with Atopic Dermatitis,” in 2022, demonstrating that dogs given daily doses of CBD scratch less compared to dogs not supplemented with CBD. 

CBD supports general skin health, too, and healthy skin is vital for normal hair growth. A human study, “Cannabinoids in Dermatology: A Scoping Review,” from 2018, found that cannabinoids promote the production of fat molecules that protect and hydrate the skin. 

CBD for dogs manages allergies and reduces anxiety. Canine allergies and anxiety are common causes of hair loss, and targeting the conditions prevents and treats alopecia. 

What is CBD Oil?

CBD oil is a natural product sourced from the Cannabis sativa plant. The active compounds in CBD oil are called cannabinoids or phytocannabinoids since they are extracted from plants. 

CBD, or cannabidiol, is a cannabinoid, accounting for roughly 40% of the cannabis extract. CBD was first discovered in 1940, and today, it is shown to be safe and beneficial for pets. 

The Cannabis sativa plant features various subtypes, including hemp, marijuana, and ruderalis, each with a unique cannabinoid profile. Cannabidiol (CBD) is primarily found in the hemp version of the cannabis plant. CBD oil for dogs is always sourced from hemp. 

CBD oil for dogs works naturally through the endocannabinoid system (ECS), a regulatory system that manages vital body functions. 

Is CBD Oil Safe for Dogs?

Yes, CBD oil is safe for dogs. Hemp-sourced and THC-free CBD oil made exclusively for pets is safe for dogs when used rationally, with the veterinarian’s approval, and by the manufacturer’s guidelines. 

Human CBD products are sourced from marijuana, contain THC (tetrahydrocannabinol), and are unsafe for dogs. THC is psychoactive in people (makes them “high”) and toxic in pets. CBD is safe for dogs when sourced from the hemp variety of the Cannabis sativa plant. 

The safety of pet CBD oil from hemp was found to be “well tolerated in clinically healthy dogs for six months,” in a study titled “Long-Term Daily Feeding of Cannabidiol is Well-Tolerated by Healthy Dogs,” 2022, and published by Frontiers in Veterinary Science. 

Dog CBD causes mild side effects, like stomach issues and lethargy, in some dogs. The effects are temporary and resolve once the CBD dose is determined and the dog gets used to the supplementation.