What could be causing my dog’s hair to fall out and compulsive licking?

Original Question: Hi Dr. Greenway, we have a 10 year old Pomeranian and last year he developed a licking issue. After much testing and medication for stones that he didn't have after all was said and done, he started losing chunks of hair. The licking continues, and he has now been diagnosed with hypothyroidism. He has been on 3mg per day of thyroid medication. It doesn't appear to be stopping the hair loss. I'm starting to wonder if there is some kind of allergy or even wondering if ticks can do this. Another dog in our family (that doesn't live with us) is always getting ticks and ours has never had a tick. Just reaching for something here. Thanks - Jim

What could be causing my dog’s hair to fall out and compulsive licking? Mar 5, 2018

Hi Jim,

Thanks for the question and sorry to hear you’re dealing with this. Firstly, ticks won’t cause general hair loss so I don’t think that’s the issue.

The hypothyroidism can cause hair loss but usually only once it’s advanced. I would recommend you have your vet re-check the thyroid level with a blood test to see if the dosage you’re using is controlling the condition. Also, another fact about hypothyroidism is that you can have low thyroid levels due to other conditions in the body, so it may not be true hypothyroidism but by doing blood tests and monitoring the response to treatment, it should indicate whether it is true hypothyroidism. If the hair loss is caused by hypothyroidism, then it usually takes quite a while for the hair to regrow once the thyroid condition is controlled.

If the hair still doesn’t return, we need to investigate other causes. The first test to perform is a skin scraping to see if there is an infectious agent on the skin. If one is found, then your vet will recommend a treatment. If the result is negative then allergies would be a consideration. This would be suspected based on history of the condition and your veterinarian can help establish that.

There are many more questions I would need to ask about the licking before I could make a recommendation. If your dog is licking its paws and elsewhere on the body, then performing a skin scraping may rule out a bacterial or yeast infection, before considering allergies. If your dog is licking surfaces in the house, I would consider a gastrointestinal issue like a diet sensitivity, intestinal parasites, nutrient deficiency, dental disease, oral irritation, or other related conditions.

I hope this gives some outline of ideas to pursue. Unfortunately, I can’t be more specific with the limited information provided.

Good luck.

Dr. Clayton Greenway

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