Why is My Dog Losing Hair Around The Eyes and How to Treat it?


Hair loss is a concerning issue in dogs just as much as it is for humans. Most of the time, balding happens naturally with age in dogs as it does to some humans, but there are some types of balding that are not normal – such as around the eyes. 

So, why is my dog losing hair around the eyes? Your dog could be losing hair around the eyes because of parasites such as fleas, mange, ringworm, or yeast which are the most common reasons for hair problems in dogs, and it could also happen because of allergies, an infection such as hot spots, or hormonal problems such as Cushing’s. 

Usually, the hair grows back once the underlying issue has been resolved. To learn how to treat it and get your dog’s hair to its original condition, keep reading. 

Golden Retriever peeking

The 10 Causes of Hair Loss in Dogs

  1. Poor Nutrition 
  2. Genetics
  3. Ringworm
  4. Parasites (Fleas and ticks) 
  5. Mange
  6. Bacterial Infections 
  7. Pressure Sores
  8. Rashes/Hives
  9. Cushing’s Disease
  10. Other Causes: 
    1. Foreign Body Reactions
    2. Post-Clipping Alopecia
    3. Hypothyroidism 

Let’s Break these causes down one by one and see how you should treat each of them.

Poor Nutrition 

The most common cause of hair problems in dogs is hair is poor nutrition. Dogs that are not on a balanced diet or are not getting the nutrients they need for their coats to thrive are likely to suffer from skin issues and hair problems – including hair loss around the around or bald spots in other areas of the body. 

How to know if it’s the cause?  

Out of all the causes that could be causing your dog’s hair loss, this one is easiest to treat. It’s also pretty easy to identify as well. Dogs that develop problems after going through radical diet transitions such as starting a raw diet or a vegan diet can develop hair fall issues.

What to do? 

 If this happens, all you need is to simply quit this diet and put them back on a nutritious diet that has plenty of proteins, fats, and other nutrients. Fats especially need attention, and you need to make sure that they’re getting plenty of Omega-3s and Omega-6s in their diets as these are important for your dog’s coat and skin.  

You can also discuss with your vet if your dog needs supplements. I had to use supplements once before and I didn’t really stop since then (don’t worry, it’s vet-approved). The supplements I use are the Vetoquinol Omega-3 Fatty Acid Supplement Capsules with Fish Oil for Pets which you can check here on Amazon, and I do recommend giving them a try. 

They also help with rashes and help your dog’s immune system get stronger. For dosage, I do recommend checking in with your vet first. 

Want to feed your dog a good diet? Make sure to check my recommended dog foods for Golden Retrievers at every age.

Genetics

Some dogs just naturally lose hair as they age and develop these rings around their eyes. Sometimes the hair turns whiter, sometimes it becomes thinner, and other times it can be greyer. Whatever it is, if the parents developed these conditions when they grew old, it’s likely their genetics that is causing this and you can’t really change their genetics. 

There are also some dog breeds that are “hairless” such as the Crested and Mexican hairless dogs. Other dog breeds are also more prone to baldness and hair fall than others such as Greyhounds, dachshunds, and Italian Greyhounds.  

How to know if it’s the cause? 

Well, if you own one of these dog breeds, it’s probably the cause. If you can also track the parents, you can ask their last or current owners if they have developed these conditions as they grew up. 

Of course it’s also easy to track the breeder if you’ve gotten your puppy from a breeder, which is something I’m strongly against by the way. Adopt, don’t shop. 

What to do? 

Other than giving them the best nutrition you could, there is really nothing you can do about it. We’re not currently in the point of our history where we can easily manipulate genetics (this comes later in our history, I’d give it 30 years at max). 

And don’t worry, you will learn to live with it easily. Just give it a couple of weeks. 

Ringworm 

Ringworm is actually not a worm, which shows that vets are not really that great at naming things.

Rather, it’s a fungal infection that is highly contagious. The most common symptom for ringworms is actually a hair loss around the eyes in the shape of rings which is sometimes accompanied by itching, redness, and lesions. 

This fungus lives in the skin and hair follicles and spreads from one animal to another through direct contact. 

Warning
Humans are also susceptible to ringworms and can be passed on to you by direct contact such as when petting your dog.

Unfortunately, these little nasty things can also fall around the house and stay viable for more than one year if they fell in a place that’s similar to furs such as furniture and carpets.

If one or more of your pets gets ringworms, you will need to carry out a regular decontamination routine through regular cleaning and vacuuming to clean out the house of any remains of them.

How to identify if that’s the cause?  

If your dog’s hair loss is accompanied by itching, redness, and lesions, you should put Ringworms as a suspect. Other symptoms can also include hair loss around the ears and mouth. 

In this case, take them to the vet who will be able to carry out a physical exam and a diagnostic test to determine whether it’s ringworms. They may also take a sample of your pup’s hair or skin and examine it under special ultraviolet light that’s called a Wood’s lamp to have a definitive diagnosis. 

How to treat it? 

Most Ringworm infections are mild enough and require light treatment via creams, ointments, and shampoos. As a group, these are called “Topical Therapy”. Most vets will recommend a combination of systemic therapy that includes antifungal drugs with these topical therapy methods. 

In order for the treatment to be really effective and to prevent other pets or people in the house getting the disease, complete decontamination of the living environment.

Parasites (Fleas and Ticks)  

Parasites such as fleas and ticks can cause all kinds of problems to your dog’s coat and skin. The most common and obvious way is that they make your dog’s skin itchy which causes them to scratch themselves a lot and this leads directly to hair fall. 

They can also carry all kinds of diseases which can infect your dog and cause the hair loss. 

How to know if your dog has fleas? 

If you’re not sure your dog has fleas, simply take a flea comb and a white tissue paper. Groom your dog with the flea comb and if you notice little black or grey specks on the comb, put them on the tissue and crush them. If they stay black or grey, then it’s dust. If it leaves red traces, then it is blood and these are fleas. 

How to treat it? 

Simply get rid of the fleas and give your dog time to regrow the hair. You can treat the fleas in many ways, but I personally found the Adams Plus Shampoo to be quite effective, and you can also try this fleas collar

Mites 

Dogs naturally host small colonies of mange mites on their skin at all times. These colonies are called demodex canis, and they are usually in small numbers and pose no problem to the dog as long as their numbers are contained. 

However, when the dog’s immune system is weakened or something else goes wrong, those numbers easily go out of control and this leads to many problems. 

The first problems they cause are hair loss and scaling around the dog’s eyes after which the hair loss reaches all over their bodies. 

How to know it’s the cause? 

Mites and mange can drive dogs crazy. Excessive itching doesn’t even describe it. It will be very easy to notice the changes in your dog’s behavior before the problem becomes really serious. 

What to do? 

Once you notice the itching, take them to the vet for an exam. The vet will take a sample of the hair or skin and study it using a microscope to determine it’s mites. To treat mites and mange, you will use topical applications of compounds (certain formulations) and sometimes Oral treatments. In extreme cases, the vet may recommend trimming or even shaving parts or all of their coats. 

Bacterial Infections

There is a wide range of bacterial infections that can cause hair loss in dogs – among other health problems of course. 

There are some small infections that will heal on their own and you may not even notice them, but others could be serious and need to be diagnosed quickly and treated. 

Bacterial infections are also contagious so if you have a multi-pet household, you really want to treat any bacterial infections before it spreads to all your other pets. 

Bacterial infections are also problematic because they often develop in or around your dog’s wounds or injuries which makes things worse pretty quickly if your dog has an untreated wound that you have not noticed. 

How to know it’s the cause? 

Bacterial infections on the dog’s skin will usually leave the area red and sore. You can also notice other symptoms such as itching, a sore throat, changes in behavior, and even difficulty breathing, drinking, or eating food (throat problems). 

How to treat it? 

Most bacterial infections are treated with antibiotics. I would recommend against getting OTC (over the counter) antibiotics for your dog without the vet’s recommendation. Instead, please take your dog to the vet for a diagnosis and a prescription as they will know what’s the best antibiotic to take and the correct dosage. 

Please give your dog the full antibiotics course as recommended by the vet and don’t stop the treatment just because the dog is getting better. This is the same advice we humans get, and it’s for exactly the same reasons. 

Pressure Sores

Some dogs – particularly older and overweight ones – are prone to pressure sores. Pressure sores are red areas on your dog’s body that result from the friction between the dog’s body parts and the hard or rough surfaces your dog’s body is in constant contact with. 

Overtime, the constant pressure and the friction between the dog’s skin and those surfaces will cause your dog’s skin to thicken and cause hair to fall out. It will also form calluses in these areas, which will bleed or crack if left untreated and become very vulnerable to bacterial infections. 

How to know it’s the cause? 

Pressure sores develop in the dog’s “bony” parts of the body such as the elbows and knees. They also happen mainly to older and heavier dogs.

How to treat it? 

You can treat this by giving your dog a comfortable and cushioned bedding and helping them lose weight. If they develop infections in these sore spots, you will need to use antibiotics to fight infections and use bracing in some cases. With time, your dog’s skin should heal and their hair will grow back normally.

Rashes / Hives

Rashes and hives can cause your dog’s hair to fall out as well. Insect bites and stings, medications, chemicals, and plants can cause your dog to develop a rash or hives which can result in bald spots. Even some shampoos can cause the same reaction. 

How to know it’s the cause? 

Allergic rashes develop quickly after coming in contact with the substance that caused the rash. Sometimes the dog will develop the rash within minutes of the exposure. 

Other symptoms may include fever, vomiting, lack of appetite, and listlessness. 

What to do? 

If your dog develops these symptoms, you should contact your vet immediately and ask for advice. Sometimes they will recommend an emergency treatment, and in some extreme cases they’ll ask you to rush the dog to the nearest vet or animal hospital. 

Cushing’s Disease 

Also known as Hyperadrenocorticism, Cushing’s disease is a hormonal imbalance issue that is caused by the overproduction of hormone cortisol. It’s more common in older dogs (6 years and older). 

This disease can cause different health problems but the skin issues are the most obvious and the easiest to notice. It causes the skin to become darker, give the dog blackheads on their belly, and they will suffer from hair fall all over their bodies. 

How to know if it’s the cause? 

Other symptoms of Cushing’s disease include a large and swollen belly and that the dog becomes very thirsty and feels the need to go outside more often than normal. Your vet will need to verify that the problem is Cushing’s disease using a hormonal test on your dog’s blood. The tests will check the dog’s cortisol levels and the change that occurs between two different samples takens a few hours apart. 

How to treat it? 

Your dog will need medications prescribed by the vet to treat Cushing’s disease. However, in some dogs, surgery will be needed to remove the adrenal tumor in order to “cure” the dog of Cushing’s once and for all. The surgery can only be carried out if the disease is adrenal-dependent and the tumor hasn’t spread in the dog’s body.

Other Causes: 

There are many other causes of your dog’s hair loss such as allergic reactions, Glaucoma, and others. However, I will focus on the three which I think are more common. Of course, you already know about allergic reactions to food and chemicals, so we’ll just skip that. 

Reactions to Foreign Bodies 

When foreign objects get into your dog’s eyes, it can cause swelling, bleeding, and pain.

You will notice your dog pawing at their eyes and rubbing their face on the ground. They will also be making squinting sounds and most dogs will not let you touch their face or come close to their eyes. 

Hair fall can happen around the eyes because of the itching or because of an infection that develops there. This will only damage the broken tissue there further and cause the problem to become worse. 

If you think something has gotten into your dog’s eyes, and especially if you saw bleeding, take them to the vet immediately. Please don’t try to remove the foreign object yourself with your hands or small tools like tweezers because you can make the injury worse very easily and cause permanent damage to your dog’s eyes. 

Post-Clipping Alopecia

Some dogs, especially double-coated breeds like Golden retrievers and Siberian huskies, can develop persistent bald spots after getting their hair clipped. This is one of the many reasons why you shouldn’t shave your golden retriever. 

What to do? 

There is not much you can do except give your dog the proper nutrition, keep their grooming routine, and be patient. Most dogs will regrow the hair in these spots but it may take some time. There is no specific treatment for post-clipping alopecia, you just need to be patient.

Hypothyroidism 

When the dog’s thyroid glands can’t make enough thyroxine, the hormone which controls metabolism, the dog’s coat and skin are affected negatively and this can lead to hair loss. This can happen in all breeds, but some breeds are more prone to it than others.

Dog breeds more prone to Hypothyroidism

  • Golden Retrievers
  • Doberman Pinschers
  • Irish Setters
  • Boxers
  • Cocker Spaniels
  • Dachshunds

The disease is also more common to middle-aged dogs that are between 4 and 10 years old. Spayed/Neutered dogs were also found to be more at risk of the disease even though vets are still unsure why that is.

How to treat it?

Unfortunately, there is no cure for Hypothyroidism, and your dog will have to take oral replacement hormones for the rest of their lives. Dogs’ coats usually begin to improve and the hair will start growing back in these places after they start their treatment course, and the vet may lower their dose once their condition becomes stable but they will still need to be on meds.

When Should I See The Vet? 

You should see the vet if you’re not sure what is causing your dog’s bald spots or if you’ve tried treating it already and the hair didn’t grow back or didn’t grow back normally.

You should also check the vet if the bald spots or the hair loss is accompanied by any of the following symptoms: 

  • Bad Smell (Odor) 
  • Changes in Behavior
  • Mood Swings 
  • Irritated or Infected skin 
  • Any skin lesions in other pets or people that they are in contact with 
  • Excessive itching or scratching 

If you notice your dog acting in a strange way such as they are not eating properly or are avoiding physical contact with other people and animals, you should check the vet. You should also rush them to the vet if they show any other serious signs such as bloody stool or bloating. 

Golden Retriever peeking

Sources

Dog Bald Spots

Alopecia in Dogs

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