*Dr. Karishma Gupte, (M.V.Sc.)
“My entire house is covered in hair, doctor! It feels as if we are drowning in dog hair!”, said one of my clients.
Shedding is a common problem faced by many pet parents. Pet parents try various over the counter supplements, shampoos and lotions before bringing the pet to us, veterinarians. As a result many times a simple problem becomes chronic and complex. The pet then requires higher medications for prolonged duration which makes it an expensive as well as time consuming affair for the pet parent.
There are over 160 different skin and hair disorders in dogs. If any self-medication or therapy is initiated without diagnosing the cause, the allergy, infection, or infestation can spread across the entire skin like a wildfire causing extensive damage to the largest organ of the body.
As a responsible pet parent I urge you to take your pet to your vet at the first sign of skin damage or hairloss.Diagnosing a particular skin disorder from myriads disorders is a daunting task for your vet. But unless disease is diagnosed, initiating a treatment is like trying to hit a bull’s eye blindfolded.
Some of the most common causes of excessive shedding in dogs are:
Lack of a healthy grooming routine, ectoparasites (fleas, ticks, lice, mosquitoes, mange mites), insect stings, infections (bacterial, fungal), allergies, a genetic predisposition to develop allergic reactions or diseases, anxiety-related or underlying pain with self-trauma, autoimmune disorders, endocrine diseases (e.g., hyperadrenocorticism, hypothyroidism), Nutritional deficiencies,environmental (e.g., outdoor, filthy, hot, or moist conditions), vaccine site alopecia, chemical exposure, burns, cancer.
In order to diagnose a skin disorder, your vet needs to know answers to some specific questions. Here are 21 questions for which you must have answers to before visiting your vet:
- How long has the problem been present?
- How old was your pet when the problem first started?
- When the problem first started did it come suddenly or developed gradually?
- What did the problem look like initially?
- How has it changed or spread?
- Has the problem been continual with medication, continual but better with medication, intermittent or sporadic
- Is the problem worse during certain times in a year, if so when?
- Over the past year how itchy has your pet been during the typical outbreak?
- How itchy has your pet been over the last month?
- Is your pet receiving any treatment now? If yes, what kind?
- When did your pet last receive any medication? What was it?
- Have any different diets been tried as a treatment? If yes which brand and how long was it fed?
- How often do you bathe your pet? With what?
- When was the last time you saw flea on your pet or another pet in your household?
- Do you routinely use flea or tick products on your pet? Which types?
- How old was your pet when you first obtained him? From where did you get your pet?
- What other pets are in the household?
- Do any of the other pets have skin problems?
- Do people in the household have skin problems?
- What percentage of the day and night does your pet spend indoors and outdoors?
- Other than skin disease does your pet have any other diagnosed medical problem?
The clinical sign(s) shown by your pet and its degree of severity should also be noted systematically.
- Scratching or biting or licking at self
- Hairloss or poor regrowth of hair
- Dandruff, flakiness, scaliness of skin
- Increased odour of hair or skin
- Crusty or scabby patches
- Open or raw sores
- Areas that ooze pus or blood
- Eyes – redness, irritation, discharge, itching
- Change in colour and texture of hair
- Darkening of areas of skin
- Loss of pigments of skin – black areas turn pinkish
- Ear infection
- Diarrhea or loose motions
- Sneezing or wheezing
- Change in pet’s usual personality
- Change in pet’s usual activity levels
- Weight loss or weight gain
- Changes in pet’s water intake
- Changes in pet’s urinary habits
- Change in pet’s appetite
Finally, the affected areas need to be defined by you. Which area(s) are losing hair and level of itchiness
- Legs/ Arms
- Abdomen (belly)/ genital area
- Armpits/chest/side of the body
- Ears/ear flaps
- Along the back or rump
- The tail itself
- The anal area
Make sure you take your time to think and answer all the questions accurately. After all you are the bridge between your pet and your vet since our fur babies cannot talk.
How to control shedding?
Treating alopecia and shedding depends entirely on the cause. Once you are able to answer all the above questions accurately, the solution will literally walk to you. Depending on the cause, your vet may recommend one or more of the following:
Medications (antibiotics, antifungals, steroids, antihistamines, anti-parasiticides, anti-inflammatory or anti-pruritic medications )
Topical therapy (medicated shampoos, sprays, ointments, or dips)
Surgical removal etc.
If the underlying cause of shedding is identified, avoiding the cause in the future is very important. It is not always that simple, however, so controlling what you can will go a long way in managing your dog’s shedding. That includes using effective, regular flea control; keeping your dog clean and well groomed; and avoiding known allergens.
*Holistic Veterinarian and Director,
Vetbiotics Animal Healthcare Pvt. Ltd.