Written by Ella White
The adorable Chihuahua comes in two types: long-haired and short or smooth-haired. Both tiny, stubborn, and affectionate, these dogs are exactly the same but for their coats. Which means they are both also susceptible to unexplained hair loss.
Owners of Chihuahuas might notice that their pups lose hair in a way that is different to their usual shedding, which results in bald spots on their coat. Sometimes this is purely an aesthetic issue that can be improved by better skin and coat care, while in other cases it can be an indicator of something more serious.
In this article we’ll look at the causes and treatments for different causes of hair loss in Chihuahuas.
There are a number of reasons that Chihuahuas lose their fur, with some being more serious than others.
One of the most common causes of hair loss in dogs is allergies. Allergies cause irritation, often on the dog’s skin which can be itchy and sore just like human allergic reactions. So if your dog is allergic to certain foods, pollen and other environmental triggers, or insect bites, they might lick, bite, and scratch the itch in an attempt to relieve it.
This persistent scratching can cause hair loss in the affected area. The best way to treat the allergy and prevent itching is to remove the allergy trigger, make sure your dog is up to date on any vaccinations that help their allergy, and apply any topical or oral antihistamines.
Alopecia is a condition that causes the hairs to stop growing. There is no treatment for this disorder, but its symptoms are purely aesthetic and should not cause your dog any further issues. In some cases, dogs can also suffer from a form of temporary alopecia after clipping.
Post-clipping alopecia can cause bald spots, but the hair will grow back – owners just need a little patience while they wait, but it’s nothing to worry about.
Caused by an overproduction of the cortisol hormone, Cushing’s Disease or Cushing’s Syndrome, can lead to hair loss in dogs. The condition is more common in older dogs, and can be treated with medication and sometimes surgery. If you notice your dog has developed a pot belly and is drinking, eating, and urinating more than usual then you may want to get them checked by their vet.
Some hair loss in Chihuahuas is genetic and cannot be avoided. Genetic hair loss usually appears within the first year of their life, and if you know the genetic history of your dog you should be able to identify whether or not they are prone to this.
Though genetic hair loss does not have any impact on your dog’s overall health, it can be worrying when you first notice them losing their hair. To rule out any other cause, owners are advised to have their dog checked at the vet just in case.
Breeds prone to baldness include Chihuahuas, Dachshunds, Greyhounds and Italian Greyhounds, Whippets, and ‘hairless’ dogs including the Mexican Hairless and the Chinese Crested.
When the thyroid gland is unable to produce enough of the thyroxine hormone, dogs can develop hypothyroidism. Thyroxine controls the metabolism and without it, a dog’s coat can reduce in quality and sometimes result in hair loss.
Hypothyroidism is most common in middle-aged dogs and especially larger breeds, so it’s a less likely cause of hair loss in Chihuahuas, but still worth seeking veterinary attention to rule this out as a cause.
Breeds prone to hyperthyroidism include Boxers, Cocker Spaniels, Dachshunds, Dobermans, Golden Retrievers, and Irish Setters.
Infections are a common cause of bald spots in dogs. Usually caused by bacteria, fungus like ringworm, or parasites like mange mites and flea bites, it results in irritation and sores on the skin.
If you notice your dog is experiencing hair loss around their eyes, ears, and mouth this could be a symptom of mites. Mange mites make the dog’s skin oily and thick, and it will often appear inflamed and lead to itching. It should be treated with topical or oral medications and, in some cases, with antibiotics.
If your dog has circular or irregular hair loss with crusts around the infection, this could be ringworm. This infection is contagious and affects any area with fur including the skin and claws. These areas will become infected and inflamed, and should be treated with antifungal medication.
External injuries and irritations caused by foreign bodies like thorns, ticks, glass, and even their own fur can lodge in a dog’s skin and cause inflammation, which can lead to hair loss. A dog’s reaction to swelling and irritation is to lick and scratch so, like with allergies, any area that is injured and therefore being licked a lot can be susceptible to hair loss.
If you are unable to remove the cause of the injury yourself, take your dog to the vet. They might need surgical removal or it may be a simple procedure that does not require anesthetic. If the injury has become infected, your dog might be prescribed antibiotics. In time, hair should grow back in the affected area.
If your dog's joints are often in contact with hard surfaces, it can cause sores in the pressure areas which can lead to hair loss. This is more common in larger breeds, but older dogs can be prone to pressure sores too. So if you have a senior Chihuahua who is suddenly experiencing hair loss on their elbows or other bony joints this could be why.
The best way to prevent pressure sores is to make sure your dog always has a soft bed, bankets, cushion, or something else to protect their joints from hard floors. Moisturizers and antibiotics could be prescribed to treat existing pressure sores.
Some allergic reactions can result in a rash or hives, which causes bald spots. Unlike allergic reactions that cause an itch, which leads to hair loss due to scratching and licking, rashes and hives require further treatment.
If your dog has developed a rash as a result of a bite or sting, food, or a reaction to a chemical, medication, or plant, see your vet as soon as possible. Rashes and hives usually appear within a matter of minutes (or up to an hour) after exposure. Your dog might also experience side effects such as lethargy, vomiting, lost appetite, and a fever.
If your dog has any of the conditions listed above then they might need to see a vet for treatment. However, if you’re unable to identify the cause of your dog’s hair loss then it’s advised that you look out for other symptoms.
If your dog is also experiencing itching, infection or irritation, a bad odor around the hair loss, behavioral changes, and if any other person or animal in the family is experiencing skin issues like lesions, see a vet immediately.
If there are no other symptoms then it’s possible that your dog has genetic hair loss or alopecia. It’s still advised that owners seek veterinary advice to rule out more serious causes.
If your dog is diagnosed with a condition that causes fur loss then in most cases, the affected area will return to normal following the recommended treatment. But if health conditions are ruled out and you’re not sure why your Chihuahua is losing their fur, there are some at-home treatments you can try to improve the quality of their skin and fur.
Feeding your dog Omega supplements can help restore healthy skin and fur. This should always be prescribed alongside a healthy diet full of all the nutrients and minerals your dog needs. In some cases, dogs that do not receive a well-rounded diet can experience hair loss as a result of unhealthy skin and fur.
Melatonin can help improve the quality of your dog’s coat and the growth of their fur. Always check with a vet before adding new supplements to your dog’s diet. For a Chihuahua, 1mg per day of Melatonin should be plenty to promote healthy fur growth.
There are a number of skin products and shampoos on the market for dogs that suffer from hair loss and sore skin. Some natural remedies include coconut oil and oatmeal (for dogs that don’t suffer from allergies). These topical products can soothe sore areas and help promote a healthier coat.
Whether genetic, the result of a health condition, or something easily treatable, hair loss in dogs can be distressing for owners. In best case scenarios, the symptoms are purely aesthetic. If you own a breed prone to hair loss then you might be wondering if there are any preventative measures you can take to stop hair loss in its tracks.
The best way to promote a strong and healthy coat is through a balanced diet that provides your dog with protein, vitamins, minerals, and all the nutrients they need. Every element of a balanced diet contributes not just to their brain, heart, immune, and joint health but also to their appearance.
Dog foods like Front of the Pack’s air-dried food is designed especially to offer your dog everything they need to look and feel healthy both mentally and physically.
Making sure your Chihuahua is brushed, bathed, and groomed frequently is an easy step you can take to ensure healthy skin and coat. Brushing is especially important as it removes dead skin cells and distributes healthy oils from the skin through the coat to give it a luxurious shine.
For long-haired Chihuahuas, brushing is recommended every couple of days. During shedding seasons in spring and fall, more frequent brushing can help prevent fur ending up all over your furniture! Bathing is advised every month or so, or as needed.