The appearance of hair loss around a dog's eyes is not only unsightly from a cosmetic perspective, but it can also be indicative of some underlying medical condition that needs to be addressed.
Hair loss in dogs can happen for many reasons, but when it only affects the area around a dog's eyes, the list of conditions can be narrowed down considerably.
If your dog is suffering from hair loss around the eyes, you may be wondering whether that hair is going to grow back.
Fortunately, the good news is that, generally with cases of hair loss, yes, the hair will grow back once the underlying condition is recognized and treated accordingly, explains Dr. James O. Noxon of Iowa State University in the book: "Textbook of Veterinary Internal Medicine."
A Possible Eye Problem
When a dog develops hair loss around the eyes, a condition that is medically known as periocular alopecia, it's important to assess whether the hair loss around the dog's eye is happening because of an underlying eye problem.
When dogs develop an eye problem, it's not unusual for them to paw at the eye repeatedly and even rub the eye around furniture and carpet.
This type of friction is what may cause the dog to lose hairs around the eye, explains veterinarian Dr. Fiona.
On top of this, discharge may cause the hairs around the eyes to stick, making the dog appear as if there are less hairs around the eyes.
It's therefore important having the dog see the vet so the vet can carry out a complete eye exam. But what eye conditions are seen when dogs develop hair loss around the eyes? Here are a few.
1) A Case of Blepharitis
Blepharitis is a medical condition known for causing inflammation of the eyelids. Affected dogs typically develop swelling, discomfort, redness, squinting and discharge. There may also be hair loss on the eyelid's skin.
While this condition is not a medical emergency, it makes dogs uncomfortable and complications may set.
Eye problems can often be accompanied by discharge, redness and pain. If there are no noticeable problems with the eye, then another likely possibility for a dog suffering from hair loss around the eyes is that the dog is suffering from some type of underlying skin problem.
2) Presence of Conjunctivitis
In more severe instances, left untreated, the inflammation of the dog's eyelids (blepharitis) may spread and the dog may develop conjunctivitis, which is the inflammation of the conjunctiva.
This inflammation may cause swelling, presence of pus and crusts and excess itching, which may ultimately lead to hair loss around the dog's eyes.
Other Eye Issues
Technically, any type of eye or eyelid problem that causes itching, discomfort or pain in the dog, can make dogs prone to hair loss around the eyes, if they are allowed to rub their eyes.
Therefore the list of eye problems causing discomfort can be quite extensive, and may include:
3) Foreign object stuck in the eye
4) Corneal ulcer
6) Dry eye
Seeing a veterinarian or a specialist in eye problems such as a board-certified veterinary ophthalmologist may help. He or she may run some tests to diagnose some eye problems such as eye staining or eye pressure tests and can then suggest the most appropriate treatment based on findings.
A Possible Skin Problem
There are several skin problems that may cause a dog to develop hair loss around the eye. Typically, the hair loss is accompanied by red and inflamed skin surrounding the eye.
Complicated cases may require a referral to a veterinary dermatologist. Following are several potential causes of hair loss around a dog's eye due to skin issues.
7) A Case of Demodex Mange
One possible skin issue is the presence of a parasite, such as demodex canis which is common in young dogs with a weakened immune system and can cause hair loss and scaling around the dog's eyes, but typically without much itching involved.
"Demodex mites are normal inhabitants of the hair follicles and are not usually problematic, but their population can overgrow in young puppies and sick or elderly dogs," explains Dr. Jennifer Masucci.
It would be a good idea to have a skin scraping done so to determine whether the hair loss around the dog's eyes is caused by mange and so the correct medication can be used.
8) A Yeast Infection
Skin infections occur once the skin is already inflamed or damaged, often secondary to underlying skin allergies.
Healthy skin has an outer barrier that protects it from infection; when this barrier is compromised, bacteria and yeast can enter into the superficial or deep skin layers and cause infection.
Skin infections cause significant itchiness in dogs, as well as red, raw, bad-smelling skin with hair loss.
Yeast infections are often associated with a dark brown discharge on the skin surface, while there may be pus on the skin surface with bacterial infections, further explains Dr. Masucci.
9) Inflammation of Hair Follicles
The hair follicle is a part of the skin that grows hair. The inflammation of hair follicles is medically known as folliculitis.
In the majority of cases it is caused by bacterial infections. However, on occasions, folliculitis can be caused by fungal infections, parasitic infestations and hormonal imbalances, explains veterinarian Dr. Ivana.
10) Presence of a Skin Allergy
Allergies can be due to something in the environment, fleas or a possible food.
Dogs affected by allergies are typically itchy, and on top of rubbing the skin around their eyes, they may have itchy faces and may be licking their paws, explains veterinarian Dr. Denise Colgrove.
When dogs can are allergic to environmental particles such as dust, mold, and pollen, it is called "canine atopy." Typically, dogs develop itchy faces, itchy feet and hair loss around the eyes.
If your vet suspects a skin problem, he or she will likely take a skin scrape of your dog's skin cells, and will then look at the sample under the microscope to try to identify the underlying cause. Treatment involves managing the itchiness and minimizing allergen exposure.
11) The Presence of Ringworm
The most common cause of ringworm is microsporum canis, but other types of fungi (microsporum gypseum and trichophyton mentagrophytes) can also cause the disease.
Dogs affected by ringworm typically show skin irritation resembling an allergic reaction, and a circular loss of hair, where infection occurs. Affected hair can easily be pulled from the skin.
Ringworm does not usually cause itchiness, but secondary bacterial infection may occur, producing crusts that cause the dog to lick and scratch itself excessively.
12) Presence of Fleas
Fleas won't typically stick exclusively around a dog's eye area, but when they do, it can cause dogs to itch and scratch the area causing hair loss.
Fleas are small, brown, jumping insects that inhabit a dog’s skin and feed on its blood. In addition to the itching caused by a flea bite, to make matters worse, some dogs are also allergic to flea saliva, which causes especially severe itchiness.
Fleas can be seen with the naked eye; using a flea comb can help to find live fleas or flea dirt (flea poop) in a dog’s fur.
Flea dirt is digested blood that looks like black debris and reveals red streaks when rubbed onto a damp paper towel. Other signs of fleas include skin redness and hair loss, especially on a dog’s back toward the base of the tail.
Fleas may be a persistent problem since they can last up to 4 months in the home. The best way to prevent fleas is to keep your dog on year-round flea prevention.
A Word of Caution
Treatment for hair loss around the eyes on dogs is based on the underlying cause. Because the area around the eyes is delicate and any products used here can end up in the eye, it's important that dog owners do not try to treat the hair loss at home using products that may be irritating to the eye and even potentially cause damage.
If your dog has hair loss around his eyes, it is therefore important to play it safe and see your vet so to treat the underlying cause accordingly.
Your vet can prescribe vet-approved products that are safe to use around your dog's eyes. If your dog is scratching the area excessively, your may dog may need to be fit with an Elizabethan collar so to not further aggravate the skin by rubbing it.