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Hair Loss & Itchiness on Dog's Mouth and Around Eyes

Hair loss

Hair loss

Hair loss
Hair loss
Hair loss
Happy dog!

When I got my dog, she had a spot below her left eye which had some hair loss, but she was otherwise super healthy so I thought nothing of it. She is a 2ish-year-old spayed female black lab mix who I adopted about three months ago from a shelter where she had been for two months after being surrendered along with another dog.

Before long, I was noticing her scratching her face pretty intensely on the carpet -- rubbing her chin and the sides of her face and groaning, totally "in the zone" with a glazed-over look.

She now scratches her chin and the sides of her face every day, multiple times, along with rubbing her eyes with her paws. She occasionally itches other parts of her body, but not very much.

It definitely is localized to her eyes, snout, and chin, although she also has one small hairless, flaky spot on one of her legs which doesn't seem to irritate her. Since I got her, she has developed some hair loss at the corners of her mouth and around her eyes.

She itches really intensely first thing in the morning, right after she wakes up, and then also periodically throughout the day -- sometimes after eating, or after waking up from a nap, or just randomly.

Her appetite, energy level, and urinary/defecation behaviors are pretty normal, although her stool is often a bit lighter in color and softer than I think of as ideal -- though only slightly.

She occasionally sneezes after rubbing her face on the carpet, and she also occasionally has a "reverse sneezing" fit, usually while she's been sleeping or after eating/drinking. Her coat is fantastic, just a little dandruff if she hasn't been brushed recently.

She's been eating grain-free, chicken-based dry food, which is different from what she was eating at the shelter (Iams, I think). I try to keep her treats to grain-free, too.

She has been getting one fish oil pill per day, though I just discovered that this isn't nearly enough to make a difference (they only have 300 units of the "good" stuff, so I've upped it to three pills per day, but this only happened a couple of days ago). I also recently started adding a spoonful of plain yogurt and canned pumpkin to her dry food in hopes of strengthening her digestion.

I have taken her to the vet, who did a skin scraping of the
eye spot and her chin and found nothing -- no yeast, no mites. She suggested the problem is allergies, probably seasonal.

I live in Wisconsin, where it has been well below freezing for weeks now, and the problem persists.

At the vet's suggestion, I gave my dog Benadryl for a couple of weeks, two tabs 3x/day (she's 50 lbs), and it didn't seem to have a huge effect -- she might have been slightly less itchy, but it also made her more tired, and she doesn't itch when she's asleep, obviously.

The vet's next suggestion was predisone, but I am very reluctant to put my dog on steroid treatments and so am hoping to manage this in other ways. She also suggested doing a topical treatment for mites, even if they didn't show up in the scraping, just to cover all bases. I have not done this yet.

As I mentioned, we live in Wisconsin, where there has been a snow covering and very cold temperatures for quite some time now -- long enough that I would expect an improvement if it was a seasonal allergy.

However, we go for walks twice a day, and more often than not my dog gets let off leash, and one of her favorite activities is rooting around in and eating junk she finds in the woods, and a few inches of snow doesn't stop her from doing this, so I guess it's possible that she is still coming into contact with allergens under the snow.

At this point, it seems to me like it's an indoor or food issue, or something unrelated to allergic reactions. But I'm not a vet!

I suppose I am wondering if this sounds like allergies to you, and if so, what type, and what treatment do you suggest?

If not, what should I be on the lookout for if it's something else?

This isn't hugely affecting her quality of life yet, but as it seems to be getting worse -- or at the very least, maintaining intensity and starting to cause hair loss -- I want to catch it before it has the chance to get really bad. I like my vet a lot, but I figured a second opinion couldn't hurt.

I have attached pictures, although it was difficult to show the hair loss in current light. There are spots around the corners of her mouth, one below her left eye, and around both eyelids.


Comments for Hair Loss & Itchiness on Dog's Mouth and Around Eyes

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Dec 07, 2013
Addition to Above
by: OP

Also, I should have said: my dog's eyelid hair loss is worse on her left eye, which is not pictured. The skin is a bit bumpy and swollen.

Dec 08, 2013
"My Online Vet Response to: Hair Loss & Itchiness on Dog's Mouth and Around Eyes”
by: Dr. Lisa Brienen

Hello, I think this is an allergy. It is often difficult without skin patch testing to know the cause(s). Dogs can be allergic to all kinds of things in the house (wool, dust mites, human dander, all the things coming out of the heating system vents, various molds and fungi trapped in carpet and furnishings). One good plan is to lower the level and numbers of allergens to which she’s exposed. Things you can do around the house to minimize potential irritants and allergens: duct cleaning, make sure you have a new filter for your furnace – there are some particularly made for households with pets, remove unnecessary carpets, wash pet beds / bed covers twice weekly, use washable furniture covers /protectors, if she sleeps on the bed – use a coverlet that can be washed.

I’d shift to a food with no chicken and ideally a raw diet or some raw each week if possible. It has been found that it is a good idea to rotate proteins to prevent development of allergies. This is discussed in recipes and full detail in Dr. Becker’s Real Food for healthy Dogs and Cats. I agree, no grains, at this point is best. The yogurt (I’d still supplement with probiotic) and pumpkin are fine (1 tsp per 10 lbs). Read more under Food and Treats on the tab to the left.

Start probiotics (Proviable DC, Nutramax and Vetri-mega probiotics, Vetri-Science are good options) there are a number of studies to indicate that keeping the digestion healthy results in fewer allergies.

There are several studies regarding the antihistamine properties of grape seed extract. I like the Animal Health Options product, Proanthazone, which also contains a number of other antioxidants. The dose of Proanthocyanodin / Grape seed extract is 50 mg per 50 lbs per day (double the dose the first week).

Fish oils have been found to decrease inflammation throughout the body, so I commend your use of these. She could also eat ½ tin of sardines twice a week. Nordic Naturals, Grizzly and Iceland Pure are a few of the brands I suggest. I think 1000mg is a good amount each day or follow bottle instructions.

You can brew a batch of strong green tea and sponge down itchy spots as often as needed (fold a piece of paper towel to apply). This is often more helpful than you’d imagine, so I’d start with the green tea, which is perfectly safe to get in the eye. For eyelid that is red and bumpy, you can use the compress for a few minutes. Another option as a soothing application is a mixture of 25% witch hazel and 75% aloe vera juice – this is safe and comfortable around the eye area. After coming in from play time, wash her around her eyes and mouth thoroughly with a clean wash cloth – which will remove contact irritants and allergens.

see the 2nd posting for the rest of my comments

Dec 08, 2013
continuation"My Online Vet Response to: Hair Loss & Itchiness on Dog's Mouth and Around Eyes”
by: Dr. Lisa Brienen

It would be ideal to team with a holistic veterinarian to further fine tune diet, supplements and environmental changes to strengthen and rebalance her immune system. Veterinary homeopaths ( and other holistic practitioners treat reverse sneezing and allergies with homeopathic remedies, herbs, diet changes etc. – but it takes a longish consult and fine tuning based on response.

Click here to find a holistic veterinarian in your area. Another resource for vets knowledgeable in homeopathy is

"Please keep us posted by coming back to this page and clicking the 'click here to add your own comments' link below"

Sincerely, Dr. Lisa Brienen

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DISCLAIMER: The above should never replace the advice of your local veterinarian, as they have the ability to evaluate your dog in person.

Dec 08, 2013
by: OP

Thanks so much for your help. I will take it all on board and implement as many changes as I can. It is so frustrating because she seems to be getting worse, so I am obviously continuing to expose her to the allergen; this is totally bewildering and a bit defeating because it could be anything! I had hoped the problem would abate in winter, to no avail. Oh well. I'll keep trying!

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