The poodles’ most defining physical characteristic is their curly, tightly wound fur. Their fur protects them against the cold, collects less dander -- making poodles more suitable for those with allergies -- and looks beautiful. Unfortunately, some conditions can cause your poodle to lose some of his wonderful locks. If you spot hair loss in your poodle, assist your vet in making a quick diagnosis by monitoring the condition of the fur and skin and reporting any accompanying symptoms.
Atopic dermatitis is an inherited condition that makes your poodle less capable of handling environmental allergens such as pollen and grass. His immune system reacts badly to such allergens, resulting in hair loss. It is most common in dogs between the ages of one and three. The condition typically takes hold at the end of summer, when plant pollens are at their most abundant. Accompanying symptoms include itching, localized redness around the ears and belly, sneezing and runny nose. Your vet will most likely base the diagnosis on the symptoms alone but may take skin scrapings for confirmation. The condition rarely causes anything more than mild discomfort and itching, although persistent scratching can lead to infection. Allergen avoidance and a good cleaning regimen are the best way to tackle this condition.
Hypothyroidism is a condition that arises from a hormone imbalance. Poodles are among the more likely breeds to suffer from this condition. As well as affecting behavior, specifically by causing mental dullness and lethargy, hypothyroidism can cause fur loss. The initial symptoms include a brittle coat, pimples, greasy skin, dandruff and weight gain. If untreated the condition can cause weight gain and may give your dog a puffy appearance. Your vet will take blood and urine and will prescribe a lifelong course of hormone replacement therapy if she diagnoses hypothyroidism in your poodle.
Miniature poodles are prone to developing growth hormone-responsive alopecia. This condition is characterized by symmetrical fur loss. It mainly affects male miniature poodles and begins around puberty. Your vet can diagnose alopecia based on a visual exam, although she may wish to perform skin scrapings and biopsies to rule out related conditions such as hypothyroidism, of which hair loss is a common symptom. This condition does not affect the health of your dog, just his appearance and your vet will typically elect not to treat the condition, preferring to let your dog’s hormones reach a natural balance once puberty is finished.
Sebaceous adenitis is an inflammation of the sebaceous glands. The condition is hereditary in poodles. Sebaceous adenitis damages and can potentially completely destroy the sebaceous glands. It is characterized firstly by a lack of “kinkiness” in the hair, before developing into localized, patchy alopecia. Eventually it leads to hair loss. Your veterinarian may prescribe a medicated shampoo, hot oil treatments and in some cases, may recommend you increase the amount of omega 3 fatty acids in your poodle’s diet, namely by feeding more oily fish.
Mites, fleas, ticks, pressure sores and self-mutilation due to anxiety can cause fur loss, but these are not specific to the poodle and affect all breeds equally. If your dog’s fur loss is caused by a parasitic infestation, such as mange caused by mites or allergies from flea bites, your vet will prescribe the most suitable treatment and will recommend preventative action as well. If the hair loss is caused by pressure sores, your poodle’s lifestyle and any mobility issues must be addressed. Self mutilation is best referred to a qualified canine behaviorist. Food allergies can cause skin loss too and are typically accompanied by digestive problems.
Always check with your veterinarian before changing your pet’s diet, medication, or physical activity routines. This information is not a substitute for a vet’s opinion.
Simon Foden has been a freelance writer and editor since 1999. He began his writing career after graduating with a Bachelors of Arts degree in music from Salford University. He has contributed to and written for various magazines including "K9 Magazine" and "Pet Friendly Magazine." He has also written for Dogmagazine.net.