A sleek and shiny coat is one sign of a healthy dog. Changes in your dog's coat, either in color or in thickness, can signal that something is not quite right. Many things can cause these changes, from normal aging to more serious conditions that require attention. Paying attention to your dog's coat over time can help you gauge the quality of his health and be attentive to his needs.
Much like people, dogs tend to lose pigmentation in their fur as they get older. Generally, white or graying fur on an elderly or middle-aged dog is most noticeable around the muzzle, although white or gray hairs can spring up throughout the dog's entire coat. Thinning fur is also common among aging dogs. These are usually accompanied by other signs of aging, such as a gradual loss of hearing or vision, or the dog having difficulty moving as well as it used to. If your dog is advanced in years but otherwise healthy, then graying or thinning hair is most likely nothing to worry about.
There are a number of medical conditions that can cause hair loss or changes in pigmentation in dogs. These range from skin conditions, such as mange or flea dermatitis, to hormonal deficiencies such as hypothyroidism or Cushing's disease, to more serious illnesses such as cancer. If fur loss or discoloration seems more extreme than simple aging, or is accompanied by other symptoms such as a rash, unexplained lumps on the body, or changes in appetite or stool consistency, or anything else about your dog that strikes you as not quite right, you should have him checked out by a veterinarian as soon as possible.
Dogs are very sensitive creatures who don't react well to stress. Too much stress can cause dogs to suddenly lose their fur. After removing the source of the stress from the dog's environment, or removing the dog from the stressful situation, its fur will most likely grow back in time.
Pattern baldness in a dog, focused mainly around the ears, can be a sign of malnutrition. If you notice this type of hair loss, check your dog's diet to make sure he is getting the right balance of nutrients in the correct amounts for his size and weight. You may need to consider adding a nutritional supplement to his diet.
Jean Marie Bauhaus has been writing about a wide range of topics since 2000. Her articles have appeared on a number of popular websites, and she is also the author of two urban fantasy novels. She has a Bachelor of Science in social science from Rogers State University.