It’s no secret that dogs lose their hair, your couch and carpet can attest to that. Normal dog shedding should take place in a whole body fashion and not go the extreme of creating bald spots. So, if it’s not a normal shedding pattern, then what is behind your dog’s sudden raccoon-eye appearance and will their beautiful hair ever come back? Let’s look into why your dog may be losing hair around their eyes and what you can do to bring back their complete haircoat.
Before we start into the causes of a dog losing hair around their eyes, and before you start panicking too much that your dog will be ring-eyed forever, it’s important to know that the vast majority of cases of hair loss around the eyes will completely return to normal once the underlying issue is taken care of. It’s also important to know that the regrowth of hair takes time, so don’t expect your pup’s face to fully return to normal in a matter of days. Think more along the lines of weeks to months.
Reasons Why a Dog May Be Losing Hair Around the Eyes
With hair loss around the eyes, it can be the result of an issue with the eyes themselves or the skin around them. Let’s further look into the differences between these two issues and how to determine the culprit.
A problem of the eye
A dog may be losing hair around the eyes as a result of rubbing a sore or uncomfortable eye. If you’ve ever seen your pup paw at their eye or even scoot around the carpet on their face, it’s because they’re trying to rub that eye. With these types of movements, it’s no wonder your pup may experience a bit of hair loss. Eye issues like conjunctivitis (pink eye), glaucoma, keratoconjunctivitis sicca (dry eye), or an eye injury can cause pain, itchiness, and discomfort enough to have your dog rubbing the hair out around their eyes. With eye issues you will also notice other symptoms like clear or colored discharge, redness, or swelling around the eye. If your dog has an eye injury, the globe may be red and spidery or cloudy blue as well.
A problem of the skin
Skin issues that cause hair loss around the eye are a little more varied and are more likely to spread to other areas of the body.
- Demodicosis: You’re not going to want to hear this, but your dog hosts a small colony of mange mites called demodex canis on their skin at all times. If kept in small numbers, these mites are no problem, but if something goes awry and those numbers get out of hand, it could lead to hair loss and scaling around the eyes and beyond. Dogs with a demodex infestation are usually the result of a weakened immune system either due to age, illness, or some other underlying issue. Demodicosis typically isn’t itchy and the hairless patches may spread from around the eyes and mouth to the rest of the face, head, and then body.
- Ringworm: Contrary to popular belief and to what the name implies, ringworm is actually not a worm at all, but it can appear as a ring. Rather, a ringworm infection is a highly contagious fungal infection. Hair loss and scaliness of the skin are the primary signs, along with possibly redness and itching. The hair loss commonly shows up around the eyes and on the face because that’s what dogs typically use to greet others and with the contagious nature of the disease, it makes sense that the face would be the first place for it to show up. That’s not to say that it can’t show up or spread to other areas of the body. Also, it likes humans as well, so be careful how you pet your pup and always wash your hands!
- Allergies: A dog may lose hair around the eyes as a result of allergies. This is because the mucous membranes, like those around the mouth, eyes, and nose, are highly sensitive to pollen, dust, and other allergens. The itching and swelling that allergies produce can cause your pup to rub and scratch at their eyes, taking the hair with them as they do. Allergies usually also show up with a runny nose, sneezing, and watery, red eyes. They may also be worse during certain times of the year.
- Dermatitis: If allergies or eye issues are left untreated, your pup’s constant rubbing at their face and eyes can lead to dermatitis, or a skin infection. Along with losing hair around the eyes, dermatitis may also lead to open sores, thick, colored discharge and a foul odor.
What Should I Do If My Dog Is Losing Hair Around the Eyes?
Most cases of a dog losing hair around their eyes should involve your veterinarian. Issues of the eyes should be immediately seen as you’ll quickly want to prevent further damage that could permanently affect your pup’s vision. Your vet will be able to determine the cause of your dog’s hair loss by looking at the eyes and possibly performing tests for glaucoma and dry eye.
If the eyes aren’t the problem, your vet may take skin scrapings to look for mites and fungus. They will check over the rest of your dog’s body for hair loss and ask you about any other pets in the house that may be showing similar signs.
How is Hair Loss Around the Eyes Treated?
How you get the hair to grow back around your dog’s eyes is going to depend on why it was lost in the first place. Once your veterinarian has diagnosed the reason your dog is losing hair around the eyes, they will line out a treatment. Again, don’t expect immediate hair regrowth. These things take time. Also, treating the skin around the eyes can be very tricky and you’ll want to avoid the eyes with some medications. Always follow your veterinarian’s instructions carefully to prevent any unnecessary damage.
In the case of an eye issue, your veterinarian may prescribe eye drops or ointments to clear up any infections or to treat an eye injury. For glaucoma, your pup may be referred to a specialist. If your dog is experiencing a lot of thick, colored discharge from the eyes, you can help ease the irritation by gently wiping the area two to three times a day with a warm, wet washcloth.
For demodicosis and allergies, your vet will probably take a whole body approach. Demodicosis requires an anti-parasiticide and allergies may take an anti-histamine or anti-inflammatory to reduce the itching and inflammation. Allergy testing may also be necessary as it’s easier to remove an allergen than to treat an allergy. For demodicosis, your vet may perform additional tests to help determine why there is a lapse in their immune system. Some dogs even require immune boosters to prevent other illnesses due to a weakened immune system.
Dogs with hair loss around the eyes due to dermatitis or ringworm will get an antibiotic or antifungal. These can either be topical and placed right on the affected area, or oral to treat the whole body.
If your dog is losing hair around their eyes, it could be a bigger deal than them just looking funny. Hair loss around the eyes can indicate that something more major is going on that needs to be addressed in order to prevent further issues. It’s important to involve your veterinarian in any cases of hair loss in your dog. Not only will they be able to pinpoint the exact cause, they will also be able to get your dog started on a treatment that will have their face fully furred, just like it was before.