Why is my dog losing hair on his sides?

Here’s another benign skin problem that can really freak an owner out. Recurrent flank alopecia, also called seasonal or cyclic flank alopecia, is exactly what it sounds. Let’s break it down:

Recurrent/cyclic – it comes and goes…..and comes back

Flank – the sides of the dog’s belly, behind the ribs

Alopecia – fancy word for lack of hair growth; baldness

It can be freaky for your boxer or bulldog or schnauzer to suddenly have two symmetrical bald spots that appear. They never itch, there’s never a rash, there isn’t much else going on in the area. Some people assume their dog licked the hair off, yet never really see them licking it. We don’t really know what causes it, but suspect it involves exposure to daylight, as it tends to occur more in winter, when the days are shorter. However, the baldness can last well into summer. I’ve had owners of fair skinned dogs actually have to apply sunscreen to their dog’s bald spots, because they were getting burned in those areas.

boxer skin

Not every dog gets alopecia right on the flank. This guy had it a littler further back.

So no, it isn’t fatal, or painful, but it can be inconvenient if you have to constantly put sunscreen on your fair-skinned dog. Besides, that makes the neighbors talk.

It can be treated with over-the-counter melatonin. What else do we use melatonin for? It helps us sleep. So many owners who treat their dogs with melatonin say it makes their dogs sleepy…some people love this feature, some don’t. When you have an overweight bulldog that needs to exercise, the last thing he needs is to be more relaxed!

Bottom line – if you see this on your dog, have your veterinarian take a peek and make sure there isn’t an infection or something else going on. There is no test for flank alopecia; we basically rule everything else out, then call it recurrent flank alopecia!

Posted in Dermatology, General health.

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