Some shedding is natural and normal, but if your dog’s hair is constantly falling out and his skin starts to show where it never did before, he’s got a problem.
Your dog naturally sheds at least twice a year. The evidence is everywhere – on your clothes, in your car and on your furniture. But abnormal hair loss that leaves bald patches on your companion means there’s something wrong. Any dog with unexplained hair loss needs to be examined and diagnosed by a veterinarian. Prior to your appointment, observe your dog’s pattern of hair loss along with any other symptoms. This can help you narrow down the possible causes and prepare you for the questions your vet will ask.
An all-over approach
Once your vet determines the cause of your dog’s hair loss, she will recommend a course of treatment. This can be as simple as giving him new toys to relieve boredom, changing his diet or switching dog shampoos. In the case of infections or hormonal problems, medication may be necessary. However, a holistic approach that also includes diet, exercise, natural pest control and mental health can help deal with the many common causes of canine hair loss.
Diet – Choose the highest quality food you can afford. “Excellent nutrition leads to a stronger immune system,” says veterinarian Dr. Stephanie Ricker. This immune system boost makes for a healthy dog better able to fend off pests and infection. Opt for a food with a whole named meat as the first ingredient and no synthetic preservatives or additives. Dr. Ricker adds that fatty acids such as Omega-3s are essential to improving your dog’s skin and reducing the histamines that cause him to itch.
Exercise – Provide your dog with physical activity at a level appropriate for his age and energy level. As with humans, exercise will improve his overall well being, boost his immune system, help relieve stress and aid in balancing hormone levels. Exercise can be as simple as a walk or as complex as agility training.
Mental health – Dogs thrive on routine. Do your best to feed, exercise and play with your dog on a consistent schedule. Continual change adds stress, especially in breeds already prone to anxiety. Stimulate your dog with toys and training exercises that provide a mental challenge. Above all, maintain a calm environment: avoid shouting, loud noises or other stimuli that can upset your dog.
Natural flea prevention – Regularly vacuuming your home and washing your dog’s bedding will make a huge dent in any indoor flea problem. In your yard, apply beneficial nematodes in the spring. The nematodes munch on flea larvae and other pests; users report a noticeable reduction in fleas during the years they apply these microscopic creatures. Rubbing your dog down monthly with a small quantity of food grade diatomaceous earth will kill and deter fleas without chemicals.
Minimizing allergens – Vacuuming also sucks up pollen and other allergens that can bother your dog. Around the house, reduce irritants by opting for cleaners with natural ingredients, and minimize the use of fragrances. Bathe your dog regularly to wash away pollen and other particles that can cause allergies. To avoid aggravating any skin problems, use only gentle, natural, hypoallergenic shampoos intended for dogs, and rinse with lukewarm or cool water.
Bitter apple spray – This remedy tastes awful to dogs and helps reduce hair loss from licking. Test a small spot first to make sure it doesn’t irritate your dog’s skin.
A soft bed – Any dog, especially older ones, should be provided with a soft bed to reduce the rubbing that can cause hair loss. Make sure the bed is big enough for your dog to stretch out comfortably in.
By taking a holistic approach to your dog’s health, and following your vet’s advice, you’ll be able to reduce or eliminate his bald patches. As for the seasonal shedding… well, you’re probably happy to accept it as part of living with your best friend!