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Help! Why does my dog have a bald patch on their tail?

Caring for a dog requires patience, time, effort, and, yes, it also takes money. Dog parents the world over all agree on one thing: it’s worth it to see your dog happy and healthy. So, it’s only natural to worry when you discover a bald patch on your beloved pooch. What does it mean when your pup starts losing hair? How worried should you be if you find a bald spot on your dog’s tail? We’ll take a deep dive into what dog hair loss means, what you can do to treat it, and when you should see the vet

Two brown dogs lying on a wood laminate floor; the focus is on their tails.

Why is my dog losing hair? 

Depending on your dog’s breed, they may shed a little, or they may shed a lot. However, if you’ve recently noticed your pooch shedding more than usual, it could be a sign that something is amiss. Here are some of the most common causes of hair loss in dogs. 

Allergies

You’re not alone if you dread spring because of seasonal allergies. But did you know that your dog can also suffer from allergies? Like us, our four-legged friends can experience allergic reactions due to environmental factors (dust mites, pollen, and mold are common allergens), food allergies, and chemical allergies. If you’ve noticed dryness, redness, or hair loss after switching your pup to a scented shampoo, it’s probably a good sign that they’re allergic. Similarly, if your dog sneezes and experiences hair loss at certain times of the year, they most likely have seasonal allergies. 

Infections

Fungal, bacterial, and parasitic infections can all cause hair loss. Because some infections require specific treatments, it’s best to see your vet if you think your pooch may have an infection. In addition to hair loss, your pup may emit a strange odor, suffer from thickened skin, have pustules, or scratch incessantly.

Cushing’s disease

If your pup is experiencing hair loss coupled with lethargy, increased urination, thirst, and appetite, they may have Cushing’s disease. Caused by an overproduction of cortisol by the adrenal glands, Cushing’s disease can become a life-threatening endocrine problem if left unchecked. You should take your dog to the vet as quickly as possible if you suspect they have Cushing’s disease.

Pressure sores

Just like human senior citizens, older pups tend to spend a lot of time lazing about in their favorite spot. While our senior buddies have totally earned the right to rest and relax, sometimes living a sedentary lifestyle leads to pressure sores. As the name would suggest, a pressure sore is caused by an uneven distribution of body weight (i.e. excess pressure) on certain spots on the body, causing hair loss and open wounds. 

Insect bites

Itching, swelling, rashes, and hives are all common allergic reactions to insect bites, but your pup may also experience hair loss. While some dogs are born with sensitivities to certain insects, others develop sensitivities later on in life. Whichever the case may be, you (and your pup) will feel a whole lot better after you consult your veterinarian. In some cases, you can treat your dog’s reaction at home, but they may need additional treatment.

If you notice symptoms of facial swelling, severe itching, widespread redness, or breathing difficulty, take your dog to the vet immediately. Your pooch could be suffering from anaphylaxis, a potentially fatal allergic reaction that requires prompt veterinary care.

A closeup shot of a brown dog's slightly curled tail.

What does a bald patch mean?

Alopecia, the official term for partial or complete baldness in an area where hair growth is standard, typically occurs on a dog’s head, ears, stomach, and back. When bald spots are concentrated at your pup’s tail, it’s usually a sign that they’re suffering from an underlying health condition as opposed to a pressure sore. If your pup is losing tail hair, it could be a sign they have Cushing’s disease. But don’t panic just yet; there are a couple of other reasons your pooch might have a bald spot on their tail.

Behavioral issues

Does your dog suffer from anxiety? Whether your fur baby hides in the closet during thunderstorms or suffers from separation anxiety when you leave the house, bald patches on your dog’s tail don’t always mean they have a physical health problem. Dogs who suffer from anxiety and depression are inclined to compulsive behaviors, such as incessant barking or tail chewing. If your dog’s tail is constantly damp and disheveled, it’s highly likely they’ve been chewing on it while you’re away.

Flea infestation

Is your otherwise calm dog suddenly biting at himself? Have you noticed tiny brown flecks in their coat? It sounds like fleas are the likely culprit. We recommend taking your pooch to the vet for a flea treatment, having pest control tackle your yard, and deep-cleaning your house to kill these tenacious pests.

An overhead shot of a black and brown dog tail on a wooden patio.

Your dog is a member of the family, and they depend on you to be their voice when they feel under the weather. It’s possible that your dog’s bald patches are due to a minor food allergy, but it could also be an indication of a major health condition. While we want to avoid alarming you, we always recommend a trip to the vet if you notice any unusual symptoms. (Your pooch is probably due for a visit anyway.)

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