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Hair Loss in the Animal Kingdom

This article is from a column called "Ask the Vet", printed in the magazine, "The Telegram". The author is Dr. Ann Huntington.

Dear Dr. Huntington: I have an 8-1/2-year-old Samoyed who has a substantial amount of hair loss from his ears, cheeks and forehead. With the onset of winter I expected there would be some hair regrowth, but it is still very thin. This has happened before and cultures have been done by my veterinarian, but they were negative. I'm assuming the culture was for mange. He does not scratch the areas. It doesn't seem to bother him and he seems healthy otherwise, except for eating junk such as cigarette butts and any other bits he can find on his walk. He also pulls out small chunks of grass to eat the soil underneath.

A big white Samoyed doesn't look great with hair loss on his face and ears. The skin on his face is mottled black where the skin is pink elsewhere on his body. I would appreciate any suggestions. He has eaten dry dog food all his life with very few snacks, except those that he picks up along the street.
-- William R., via the Internet.

Dear William: You don't describe a pretty picture, which is sad since a Samoyed is generally such a striking dog. I think it is time to get to the bottom of this hair loss problem once and for all. Speak to your veterinarian about delving further into the problem. He may want you to return for further testing, or he may recommend you consult with a veterinary dermatologist.

Whichever the case, I feel that it is time to be sure that aggressive steps be taken to pin down the diagnosis. Among the steps perhaps needed would be skin scrapings for mites, cultures for bacteria or fungi, blood tests, biopsy of the affected region, and/ or therapeutic trials. Once the cause of the hair loss and skin discoloration is correctly identified, then appropriate treatment can be instituted. Let's hope that in a few months he is back to his handsome old self.


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