Signs of Unhealthy Dog Fur

The appearance and smell of the coat are health indicators.
The appearance and smell of the coat are health indicators. (Image: DTP/Digital Vision/Getty Images)

An unhealthy looking coat can signify localized skin or fur problems as well as wider health problems. A well-fed, well-exercised and healthy dog has a glossy, full coat that is free from pungent odors. If you notice Lucky's coat isn't looking, feeling or smelling its best, note accompanying symptoms to assist your veterinarian in arriving at a swift diagnosis.


Often the first sign of unhealthy fur is the dog’s own reaction. Typically in the form of scratching, biting and rubbing, your dog can signify a problem with the fur, especially if this is located in one area. Regular bathing, unfortunately, is rarely a solution: Bathing your dog too often can cause the fur to become unhealthy as the natural protective oils that keep the coat shiny get stripped away. Bathe your dog no more than once a month, unless he gets himself particularly dirty.


A dull coat can signify a number of problems, from nutritional insufficiency to more serious health problems. Poor diet is a common cause of dullness. If your dog is getting insufficient fatty acids and essential oils, his coat will not have that lovely shine. You can fix this with nutritional supplements or by altering Lucky's diet.

Gradual Hair Loss

Gradual hair loss around the tail, neck or chest may signify hypothyroidism. This is a treatable metabolic condition caused by an underactive thyroid. Accompanying symptoms include lethargy, puffiness and intolerance to cold. Your veterinarian will typically prescribe a course of hormone replacement therapy to treat hypothyroidism. Other causes of gradual hair loss include alopecia, symmetrical hair loss most common in males going through puberty; dermatitis, typically accompanied by inflamed and crusty skin; and ringworm, a fungal infection causing bald patches characterized by a red ring.

Dramatic Hair Loss

Dramatic hair loss can be the result of infection such as mange or ringworm, or parasite infestation such as fleas or dermatitis. Infections in the follicle, such as folliculitis will cause fur loss in dogs. Folliculitis often occurs as a complication following mange, scabies or seborrhea. Accompanying symptoms include pustules in place of fur when the fur has fallen out, pus discharge and scaliness.

Excess Shedding

All dogs shed to some degree, but shedding an unusual amount of hair can be a sign of internal health issues such as kidney disease, stress and anxiety, or a reaction to environmental conditions such as central heating in the home.


All dogs smell a little , especially if they've been rolling in trash, swimming in stagnant ponds or chasing skunks. A dog with an extremely pungent or unusual odor is not a healthy dog. Dogs invariably have a certain musk that owners grow to tolerate, but when the coat has a distinctive stink it can mean that the dog is suffering from an unhealthy coat. If the odor remains after bathing the dog, consult a veterinarian, as this can be a sign of poor coat health.

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