Moulting is a normal part of any dog’s life, however, if your dog seems to be losing more hair than usual, across specific times of year, it may be a case of seasonal flank alopecia.

Now that the days are shorter, and there is significantly less light exposure, hair loss in dogs can occur more frequently. Make sure to inform yourself of the ins and outs of seasonal alopecia in dogs and keep an eye out for any excessive shedding.

What is seasonal alopecia in dogs?

Seasonal alopecia, also known as cyclic flank alopecia or recurrent flank alopecia, is a disease that affects canine hair follicles. This disease causes hair to fall out, creating bald and patchy areas across their coats.

This skin condition is more prominent during the autumn and winter months when there is less exposure to sunlight. Canine flank alopecia tends to appear in early adulthood and can often continue on an annual basis for the rest of the dog’s life.

Which breeds are affected?

Seasonal flank alopecia is a fairly common condition that can affect any breed. Nevertheless, some breeds are particularly prone to developing this disease over others. Other animals, such as cats and horses, also experience seasonal alopecia.   

For example, seasonal alopecia in Boxers is extremely common and almost half of all cases pertain to this breed. Other breeds that are typically affected include, Airedale Terriers, English Bulldogs, French Bulldogs, Labradors, Schnauzers, Staffordshire Bull Terriers, and Dobermans.

What causes seasonal alopecia in dogs?

It is difficult to pinpoint what causes alopecia in dogs, but research suggests that seasonal changes and a lack of light exposure is what causes hair to fall out. It is thought that a lack of sunlight poses an effect on the pineal gland, which is responsible for producing melatonin, a hormone that helps regulate sleep. Although there are no direct links, this condition appears to be more prevalent in areas with darker winters.

What are the signs of seasonal alopecia?

Seasonal flank alopecia in dogs can occur from the ages of 1 to 10, however, most cases begin to develop between the ages of 3 and 6. 

Some of the most common clinical signs include: 

  • Bilateral symmetrical hair loss 
  • Bald patches 
  • Itchy skin 
  • Excessive shedding
  • Scaly skin 
  • Hyperpigmentation 
  • Brittle and dry coat 
  • Dandruff 
  • Inflammation and irritated skin near hair loss areas 

When to contact your vet

At the end of the day, nobody knows your dog as well as you do. If you suspect that your furry friend has canine flank alopecia or is exhibiting symptoms, it’s best to contact your local vet and get a professional opinion. The sooner you pick up on any problems, the faster your dog’s seasonal alopecia can be treated.

How is seasonal alopecia diagnosed?

Before seasonal alopecia in dogs is diagnosed, your veterinarian may want to rule out other possible causes behind the hair loss. This involves some routine blood work to eliminate the possibility of a hormonal disease, or skin scrapes to rule out possible cases of ringworm or fungal cultures. 

If your vet wants to confirm that your dog has seasonal alopecia, they will conduct a skin biopsy. In most cases, seasonal flank alopecia is easily diagnosed based on clinical symptoms and whether your dog is a predisposed breed. 

What treatments are available for seasonal alopecia?

When it comes to seasonal alopecia in dogs, treatment is rather straightforward. Even an increased exposure to sunlight in the months between November and March can make a world of difference. Simply spending more time outdoors during the autumn and winter can significantly reduce the chances of your dog developing seasonal flank alopecia. 

Adversely, your veterinarian may decide to prescribe melatonin for seasonal alopecia in dogs. This can be administered through oral medication, injections, or even as implants. 

Once the hair has already been lost, this hormone can help promote thick and rapid hair growth within two to three months. If melatonin is administered four to six weeks before the predicted hair loss, it can also prevent the onset of seasonal flank alopecia.

What is the prognosis for seasonal alopecia?

The prognosis is rather unpredictable, seasonal alopecia in dogs may occur as an isolated incident for some and continually progress for others. In some rare instances, dogs may never regain all their hair, and, in others, the hair grows back in a different colour or texture. 

Most importantly, seasonal flank alopecia is a purely cosmetic disease, meaning it will pose a minimal impact on the health of your dog, even if the issue becomes an annual recurrence. 

At Dogwood Referrals, we’re always happy to lend a helping hand. We promise to offer an exceptional level of care and support for the dogs that we treat and meet. We provide advanced treatments and specialist knowledge in a wide range of conditions and illnesses. 

We hope you found this guide to seasonal alopecia in dogs helpful and that it answers all your questions and concerns in regard to your pet’s health. If you need any further advice, please don’t hesitate to contact us.