Hair Loss in Healthy Young Dog

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Hair Loss in Healthy Young Dog

Postby sclazar » Wed Dec 16, 2015 10:32 am

Hi everyone,

New member here. I'm at my wit's end trying to figure out what's wrong with my dog and hoping some experienced Britt owners might be able to help!

We adopted Bentley in June when he was a little under a year old. His coat was pretty typical for a Britt, despite a little bit of shagginess and sun bleaching on his back (we were told his previous owners left him outside all the time). His coat stayed that way throughout the summer, but then in late September his hair started thinning and it has been progressing over the past 3 months. We live in New Hampshire, and it is just about winter now. If he had a thick coat in the winter and then it thinned in the spring, I might think it was normal -- but this is the opposite!

It started on the underside of his neck, which is now totally bald. I thought this might be from his collar rubbing, so replaced it with a super soft soy collar, but it didn't make a difference. He does wear a collar with metal contacts for the invisible fence when he is out in the yard, but never for more than a couple hours a day. He next started thinning on his chest, near where his harness strap goes across. Again, I suspected friction from rubbing, but he doesn't wear the harness all that much. Now it has progressed to where the hair is very thin/bald on his entire underside and lower legs, as well as thinning at his temples, and now it is happening on his sides as well. I can see the skin all those places, especially when he's wet.

The hair loss is his only symptom. The skin looks healthy, and doesn't seem to itch or bother him. Tests for mites were negative. The vet suspects an allergy, but I am skeptical because it seems like allergies cause hair loss because the dog scratches, which isn't the issue here. Rather, it seems to be falling out or not re-growing. Since the hair loss in symmetrical, I would suspect a hormonal condition, but it doesn't seem like he fits the description of any of those conditions, which seem to affect older dogs, female dogs, or intact males (he is neutered). He also is super energetic, hasn't changed his weight (he's been a slim 35 pounds since we got him), and seems completely normal and healthy otherwise. He eats Purina Pro Plan (Savor) Chicken and Rice.

Does anyone have experience with something like this??

Thanks for any thoughts!
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Re: Hair Loss in Healthy Young Dog

Postby britlover » Wed Dec 16, 2015 3:54 pm

First thought I have is thyroid issues , was that looked at?
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Re: Hair Loss in Healthy Young Dog

Postby sclazar » Wed Dec 16, 2015 4:03 pm

britlover wrote:First thought I have is thyroid issues , was that looked at?


Thanks for the thought. I agree that the pattern of hair loss seems consistent with hypothyroidism, but that condition is associated with a slowed metabolism, including weight gain, lethargy, and mental dullness. Bentley is the exact opposite of that picture -- he eats a ton but stays skinny, bounces off the walls, and is constantly alert! That said, he hasn't had blood work to check for a thyroid condition. It just seems unlikely given the rest of the picture.
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Re: Hair Loss in Healthy Young Dog

Postby Cindy » Wed Dec 16, 2015 4:21 pm

A vet visit and blood work for certain I'd say. Our Jill was borderline hypothyroid and was very energetic and pretty thin so you just never know. Having lived in NH for 12 years, this is NOT the time to be without your "winter jacket!" :lol: :lol:
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Re: Hair Loss in Healthy Young Dog

Postby sclazar » Wed Dec 16, 2015 4:28 pm

Cindy wrote:A vet visit and blood work for certain I'd say. Our Jill was borderline hypothyroid and was very energetic and pretty thin so you just never know. Having lived in NH for 12 years, this is NOT the time to be without your "winter jacket!" :lol: :lol:


Thanks. Good to know that the hair loss could be the only symptom of hypothyroidism. I hadn't heard that before.
And I agree -- I wouldn't want to be balding in a New Hampshire winter either! I just bought him a jacket with full chest and belly coverage for that purpose! :wink:
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Re: Hair Loss in Healthy Young Dog

Postby Cindy » Wed Dec 16, 2015 5:53 pm

Please let us know what you find out. This is always interesting to file away for the future ... just in case.
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Re: Hair Loss in Healthy Young Dog

Postby kat » Wed Dec 16, 2015 8:33 pm

I agree with Cindy, definitely check his thyroid. I would also change his food - try something grain free and no chicken. Poor fella, I hope you figure it out soon, please let us know.
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Re: Hair Loss in Healthy Young Dog

Postby Barb Wright » Mon Dec 28, 2015 12:58 pm

If you decide to do a thyroid test be sure it is a COMPLETE panel, not just T3 T4. It would be worth the cost to have your vet send it out to Hemopet http://www.hemopet.org/ for the complete test. Dr. Jean Dodds is a giant in the bloodwork field.

As Kat suggested, I too would definitely change to a high quality dog food, one that is grain free and probably a different protein source than chicken. You might start adding some salmon oil to his diet, 4000 MG per day would not be too much. Get capsules and if he won't eat them with his food, puncture them and sprinkle them on his food. I would also start feeding wet instead of dry....easier on the kidneys and brings out more flavor. Just let the dry kibble soak in broth or water for a bit before feeding. Or add some high quality canned food to the dry mix, just something to add moisture.

He might have some exotic hair loss condition, but give the diet change a chance to work....at least a month or two before you decide it didn't help. Also a good idea to change brands of food, or at least protein sources, every bag or so....this way you cover a broad spectrum of nutrients which you cannot do if you feed just one food all the time. Probably a good idea to stick to home-made treats for a while as well. That way you know just what ingredients are in the food....not always easy to tell what is in the food/treats these days.

Since the hair loss started where the hair is "abused", that is, rub or wear areas, that does indicate that it is most likely a nutritional problem (the hair is weak) rather than an external environmental issue.

Hope you can solve the mystery....let us know how it goes and what does and does not work :)
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Re: Hair Loss in Healthy Young Dog

Postby sclazar » Wed Dec 30, 2015 9:09 am

Hi everyone,

Thanks for all of your thoughts and suggestions. Unfortunately, this is still a mystery! Bentley had full blood work done (including an analysis that's meant to check for some kinds of allergies), and we also sent away for the full thyroid panel. As it turns out, EVERYTHING is completely normal!

The vet tells us that the food he's been eating is nutritionally excellent, and I forgot to mention before that we also add wild salmon oil to it as a supplement. So, it doesn't seem like he has any nutritional deficits.

Even though the vet thinks it's probably not an allergy, the next step is a food trial (for lack of other options). Putting Bentley on a strict diet with no treats will be very difficult to do, both because he's a picky eater and also a wild man who needs treats to manage him and chews to keep him occupied!

Since the diet will be difficult and his symptoms really don't seem like an allergy or deficit, I'm still searching for any other causes of his hair loss. It seems like some weird combination of extremely sensitive skin (it chafes super easily) and delicate hair that falls out/rubs off/doesn't regrow normally. If anyone has any thoughts about this please let me know! I'm considering alopecia areata, though he doesn't seem to really fit the description of that condition either!

In the meantime, I just ordered him another winter coat...
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Re: Hair Loss in Healthy Young Dog

Postby Barb Wright » Wed Dec 30, 2015 12:06 pm

I believe if you read the ingredients label on Purina Pro Plan you will find it is not an optimum nutritionally supportive food for dogs. Here is a breakdown to explain some of the ingredients: http://www.retrieverpro.com/dogtraining ... gredients/

There are quite a few other brands of dog food that offer far better quality and nutritional sources. Learning to read and understand ingredient labels is very important when buying commercially prepared dog foods, especially when you are dealing with mysterious afflictions. Grains can be a nasty source of hormone/endocrine affecting chemicals, pesticide residue, and really aren't carnivore appropriate. IMO you should change to a grain-free food and one that has true meat sources for it's protein. Also, if you are feeding just one brand of food you have no chance of covering a broad spectrum of nutrients unless you supplement with other food such as eggs, cottage cheese, any home-cooked or raw meats, fish, etc. Dogs need variety in their diets, as do humans.

If you are going to do a proper and effective elimination diet you probably will need to plan on home preparing the food. And you can make home-made treats easily, just thin slice any meat and cook it in a slow (200 degree) oven til dry.....real food, tasty, wonderfully healthy!!!

Of course I can't shut up until I recommend a raw diet, the way a carnivore should actually eat :) There are several brands available that are as easy to feed as kibble, Nature's Variety is a good one. This would give you a true break from processed (cooked) dog food and properly span the nutrients essential to good health for canines. Don't expect over-night miracles....any changes you make will take time for the body to utilize and make adjustments and repairs. A nutritional approach to health issues always takes time, just be patient and give it a chance. Fortunately Bentley seems healthy and happy otherwise so time is on your side :)

And still, you may be dealing with some rare disease, so all your research will certainly help you eliminate some of those, hopefully. Thanks for keeping us up to date, it will be helpful to all of us to see this play out.
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Re: Hair Loss in Healthy Young Dog

Postby Cindy » Wed Dec 30, 2015 2:46 pm

It's been my experience that all vets are not necessarily up to date about the best brands of dog food. If you don't want to feed a raw diet (and I don't) then you might want to explore this list of recommended dry foods: http://www.dogfoodadvisor.com/best-dog-foods/best-dry-dog-foods/ . I used to feed California Natural a number of years ago and that was a quality dry food. But, when I switched to Taste of the Wild, a saw an unbelievable difference in all 3 of our dogs' coats. I guess there are several potential options you can try to find a solution so I'm just throwing this out as "food for thought."
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Re: Hair Loss in Healthy Young Dog

Postby Lisa » Wed Dec 30, 2015 7:26 pm

While you're still looking for the source of the hair loss, maybe you could consider ways to encourage hair growth and strength too. For my show dog, who likes to drop coat just when I need her to be in full coat, I supplement with 5000 mcg of Biotin. I pulse it, so 1 month on, 1 month off, repeat. I empty a capsule in to her dinner each day. If you do choose to supplement with biotin, read the labels carefully! Some of the quick dissolve variants have xylitol, which is toxic to dogs. Go with the capsules with powder in them. You can also add in Selenium and Zinc - usually around 100 mcg Selenium and 25 mg zinc for a Brittany. Check your dog food and see if these are added in there, if so, reduce your supplement accordingly. Too much Selenium or Zinc can lead to increased hair loss and even toxicity, so watch the levels on that. I pulse that too - 2 weeks on, 2 weeks off.

Also, I've found that she keeps her coat better on a freeze dried raw diet - I feed Grandma Lucy's Pork formula in the mornings. In the evenings, I feed a grain-free kibble - usually Nature's Logic Lamb formula.

Some dogs just don't hold their coat as well as other dogs. Often, it can be nutritional or allergy related, but sometimes there is no solid cause and so you have to just find ways to stimulate growth and strengthen the coat.
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Re: Hair Loss in Healthy Young Dog

Postby sclazar » Fri Jan 01, 2016 1:08 pm

Thanks for the tips, everyone!

We're transitioning Bentley over to Taste of the Wild's lamb formula, and my fingers are crossed that it will make a difference. We'd tried feeding Taste of the Wild (a different flavor) when we first got him, but he wouldn't eat it. The weird thing is that when we adopted him his coat was normal, and I'm pretty sure whatever he'd been eating hadn't been high-quality (I can't know for sure, but I'm guessing that people who leave a dog outside all the time, don't give him attention, and then surrender him because they decide they don't have time for him probably don't care too much about what they feed him). He seems more interested in the lamb version of TOTW though, so hopefully it will work out.

I'm going to look into Biotin, selenium, and zinc as well. Thanks!

I'll make sure to update and let you all know how everything works out.
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Re: Hair Loss in Healthy Young Dog

Postby britlover » Fri Jan 01, 2016 7:23 pm

Your mention of the dog being left outside all the time gave me a thought. I had a rescue that had been kept in an outdoor kennel by his owner, and then surrendered to rescue at 5yrs old. I adopted him and he did not have any coat issues, but a few months later the former outdoor dog that was now an indoor dog was breaking out in hives and tearing out his fur he itched so bad. I know your dog's symptoms are very different, but I discovered my dog was allergic to DUST MITES, something that wasn't a problem when he was outside all day. I had to be very diligent about vacuuming and used pillow and mattress covers that minimize dust mites. I also used a product called NZYMES ( a chewable tablet) that completely resolved the issue.
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Re: Hair Loss in Healthy Young Dog

Postby sclazar » Wed Jun 08, 2016 3:32 pm

Hi everyone,

I wanted to post an update here in case anyone comes across this thread in the future with a similar issue!

We fully investigated allergies and tried various different diets, and nothing made a difference -- the hair loss progressed (mostly affecting the underside of his neck, chest, belly, and creeping up his sides, as well as the outside of his thighs, his tail, temples, and a general thinning all over; his formerly gloriously feathered front legs just had some little wisps).

Finally we went to a dermatologist and had skin biopsies taken and sent to a lab for analysis. The verdict: pattern baldness! A genetic hair loss condition similar to male pattern baldness in humans. Basically, the hair follicles were "miniaturized," making for thinner, weaker, slower-growing hair. Falling into the category of "Alopecia X," this type of pattern baldness is mostly seen in chihuahuas and dachshunds and has been documented in a few other breeds, but never brittanys! In my personal research (which basically consisted of looking at tons of pictures of brittanys on Instagram and other social media), I've come across several other britts that seem to have very thin hair on their undersides/necks as well -- so I think this condition is actually in the brittany gene pool, and my boy's not a total freak :wink: !

There are two things that have seemed to help: biotin and melatonin, both of which are considered very safe with no or few side effects. I first gave biotin (at a very high dose) for about 6 weeks, and it helped Bentley to regrow some of the hair on his neck, but no where else. Then the dermatologist recommended melatonin, saying that it helps about 50% of dogs with alopecia conditions. Well, it seems to be working! For about 6 weeks there seemed to be no effect, but now the hair is definitely regrowing, thickening, and starting to look healthy in all the places it was thin/bald before! The vet said it's fine to use melatonin long-term. I might try stopping it in a couple months to see if the hair loss returns... who knows, maybe the hair is just regrowing on its own, and not because of the melatonin?!

Anyway, I hope this is helpful for anyone dealing with a mysteriously balding britt!
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