What Is Wrong With a Dog That Is Losing His Hair & Is Itching Constantly?


If your dog can't stop scratching and his hair is falling out, he's likely suffering from one of two issues -- allergies or mange. Take him to the vet as soon as possible for diagnosis and treatment. Even though these issues can take time to resolve, your vet can prescribe medication to stop the intense itching.

Canine Allergies

Various allergic triggers can cause the constant itching and alopecia, or hair loss. If your dog isn't receiving a monthly oral or topical flea preventive, that's one place to start. Just a single flea can cause an allergic dog to literally tear his hair out.

Other dogs may suffer from food allergies, which result from a sensitivity to a particular food ingredient. Dogs with food allergies must undergo food trials, in which they eat only a prescription or single protein diet for up to four months to see if the skin issues resolve. The single protein diet must consist of a food the dog hasn't eaten before, such as venison or rabbit. He can't receive any treats or table scraps during this time. If one single protein diet doesn't do the trick, the whole process starts with another one, until a suitable food is found. The dog usually must eat just that food for the rest of his life.

Atopic Dermatitis

Some breeds are predisposed to environmental allergies, known as canine atopic dermatitis. These include:

  • The English bulldog
  • The

    golden retriever

  • The

    Labrador retriever

  • The


  • The

    Lhasa apso

  • The

    wire fox terrier

  • The

    West Highland white terrier.

Canine atopic dermatitis may appear seasonally, when certain molds and pollens are present, or year-round. Treatment includes avoidance of the trigger, if possible. Other therapy includes:

  • Antihistamines for itch relief
  • Topical shampoos and anti-itch ointments
  • Fatty acid supplements for the skin
  • Immunotherapy, or desensitization shots
  • Cyclosporine, marketed under the name Atopica

Canine Mange

Dogs are vulnerable to two types of mange mites -- Sarcoptes scabiei, who cause a condition known as sarcoptic mange or scabies -- and Demodex canis, who cause demodectic mange. While either type of mange causes hair loss, scabies results in far more itching. In both forms, lesions and secondary bacterial infections may develop. Dogs usually acquire scabies by exposure to an infested canine, although certain breeds have a hereditary predisposition to demodectic mange.

Mange Diagnosis and Treatment

Your vet diagnoses mange via a skin scraping. She'll use the scraping to find mites under a microscope. If your vet determines that scabies is the culprit, she'll prescribe medication to eradicate the mites, along with shampoos or dips to treat the condition topically. Other options include certain kinds of miticides, such as the dewormer ivermectin. It can take six weeks or more to get rid of scabies, and during that time your pet may require weekly dipping. He should have little or no exposure to other canines during treatment. You also must disinfect or throw out and replace his bed, toys, collar, harness and other items that may harbor mites.


  • If your dog is diagnosed with demodectic mange, he's probably not contagious and doesn't require total isolation from other dogs. Your vet will let you know whether she believes he is contagious. He will require dipping and topical medications. With either type of mange, your dog requires antibiotics to combat any skin infections.

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