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Hair Loss

Shih Tzu Hair Problems

Overview

The Shih Tzu's coat is hair, and not fur. While there is not a heavy shed that severely thins the coat, this breed does lose some hair on a continual basis as the coat re-news itself. This section will discuss coat thinning issues that go beyond this; as we discuss severe and sometimes rapid hair loss. 
If the coat of your Shih Tzu is thinning, determining that medical issue will be the task of a collaborative effort between you and your dog's veterinarian.

Hair loss can happen at any time, to a dog of any age and appear in many forms. The coat of the Shih Tzu may show a patch of missing hair or an all over thinning.
 
The first step will be to determine possible causes and then work with your trusted vet to resolve the problem. The majority of coat loss issues with the Shih Tzu can be solved.
Alepecia on Shih Tzu

Can Stress Cause Hair Loss in a Dog?

The answer is a resounding yes. Neurodermatitis is a condition in which the Shih Tzu will compulsively lick their coat to the point of damaging the follicles thus resulting in hair loss. The dog many concentrate on one area of the body or in many areas.

This medical condition is thought to be caused by the Shih Tzu being overstressed, anxious or overly bored. This is diagnosed by ruling out other medical issues. This is cured by resolving the stresses or boredom that is afflicting the Shih Tzu. While behavior training is an option, changing the home environment often solves this hair loss issue. 

Acantosis Nigricans

This is a medical condition that is rare in the Shih Tzu breed; however can occur. This diagnosis covers coat loss from hormonal imbalances, hypersensitivities or friction. Testing will be done by a veterinarian to determine the exact cause. Treatment may include steroids and/or vitamin E supplements.

Allergic Dermatitis

Loss of coat is a common symptom when a dog has an allergy that manifests externally. Dog shampoo, conditioner, even the rug cleaner an owner may use is a possible culprit in causing this reaction to the Shih Tzu. Not only will the dog suffer from hair loss, there may be red blisters, sores or lesions on the skin as well. 

Fortunately, this can be quickly corrected once it is determined what is causing the Shih Tzu's reaction. A veterinarian should perform patch testing to find the cause and then the owner must eliminate that element. In moderate to severe cases, antihistamines and/or steroids may be prescribed to help the Shih Tzu recover.

See: Allergies10 to 20% of dogs suffer from some sort of allergy.

Alopecia

This hair loss issue is as much of a mystery as is the often spontaneous recovery that a Shih Tzu will have. Theorized to perhaps be an autoimmune disorder, this will cause patches of hair loss on the dog. In most cases, unlike an allergic reaction, there will be no itching. This usually fixes itself once the dog's body gains enough antibodies to fend off its inside attacker and the coat will grow back.

Dermatomyositis

This is a rare disorder in which the hair loss actually occurs alongside a negative reaction to sunlight or UV rays. The cause remains unknown; however there is still help available.
This condition can be confirmed with a small skin biopsy. Not only will the coat thin, the skin will be affected as well. There may be scabs, sores, redness and irritation. 

The resolution to helping your Shih Tzu recover begins by severely minimizing their exposure to any sunlight, keeping the dog indoors except for elimination times. Prednisone may be given in short and small doses initially, followed by vitamin E. The recovery rate for dogs having this is currently 86%.

Food and Flea Allergies

Any dog''s coat loss may be explained by a simple allergy to a food ingredient. Luckily, this is reversible and can be quickly diagnosed. An owner of a Shih Tzu should always bring their dog to the veterinarian when any unexplained hair loss occurs; however it will be the owner that will cure the dog in the case of a food allergy. 

One must begin feeding the Shih Tzu a very strict, bland diet, such as boiled and de-boned white chicken meat and sweet potatoes. Every 3 weeks, a new ingredient is introduced; thus allowing the owner to be able to determine which element is causing the reaction.

Hypothyroidism

This condition happens to the Shih Tzu when the thyroid begins to slow down and produce a smaller amount of hormones. Before hair loss occurs, the coat may become very dry and hair may break off easily. The under active thyroid may also cause weight gain and weakness. This can be diagnosed when the veterinarian runs thyroid tests. Treatment will be medication, often needed for the rest of the dog's life. Recovery is a progressive process; in most cases the Shih Tzu will make a complete recovery.

How to Resolve Hair Loss and Speed Up Coat Recovery

ONLY once all health issues have been ruled out, should you then take steps to help stop the loss and prompt the coat to re-grow. If there is an underlying condition as mentioned above, these steps will only be temporary.

This said, there are some products that you can use to help.

1) Melatonin - This has been found to help, when used in conjunction with other methods (below). Please take note that while this can be purchased over the counter, it can make a dog feel sleepy. Check with your vet before giving this to your Shih Tzu.

2) Omega 3,6, 9 - This supplement is vital for healthy skin and coat.  

3) Rescue lotion and hair stimulating shampoo & conditioner. We highly recommend:
Note: If you wish to see all of the recommend hair loss products together, look to 'Hair Loss Help' in the Shih Tzu Specialty Shoppe
See Also:

Dry Skin Problems - This is one of the most common skin issues seen with this breed. Read about symptoms, prevention and at-home treatments.
More Information

Details of Hair Issues, Helping the Coat to Grow, Detailed Baths and Grooming, Photos of Every Color Tzu in the World...Literally, the only Shih Tzu book you will ever need. Now in both print & eBook.
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