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Canine Alopecia - Joey the Balding Dog

Case report from guest author Richard Young DVM, DABVP, CCRT

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Joey the Dog by Richard Young DVM, ABVP

Joey the Dog

Richard Young DVM, ABVP
Guest author Richard Young DVM, DABVP, CCRT shares this interesting case report of Joey, a deaf terrier mix who was losing his hair. It was a very symmetrical pattern of baldness (alopecia) in an otherwise very healthy dog.

Dr. Young was puzzled about this case, so he referred him to a veterinary dermatologist. What they found was not only interesting, it serves as a great warning for keeping our pets safe from "common" medications.

As always, anytime that you suspect your pet is sick or even "not himself," please call your veterinarian for a consultation.

From Dr Young
I learned something today. This is Joey. He is deaf and his mom has trained him to respond to visual commands; hand signals and body language. Six months ago he began to lose hair. No itching I was promised. No sores. The skin was a little red and irritated.

He had what we call "bilaterally symmetric alopecia." There was a mirror image of hair loss on his body.

These are usually hormonal problems, but after checking for thyroid problems, I was scratching my head. What the heck was going on? He was about to be totally bald and I was lost. Maybe it was a sex hormone imbalance? Kind of looked like it, but I never really see that. Well, off to the dermatologist with you, little Joey.

Dr. Reid Garfield, practices dermatology (yes a real live veterinary specialist) in Dallas, Texas, and he made a diagnosis in ten minutes.

He asked the owner if she happened to use topical estrogen therapy. Well, yes... she puts a dose on the inner part of her forearm each day. Of course, Joey snuggles with her everyday, and has been getting a nice daily dose of estrogen himself. Goodbye hair and hello whatever mixed messages a little guy gets when he's on estrogen.

Happily Joey is doing great, but it's a good warning for us baby boomers to remember. (That means were getting a little older). Whether mom is cuddling with her dog, cat or human grandchild, remember that these "transdermal" drugs penetrate whatever skin they come in contact with.
- DrYoung

I loved this story for many reasons:

  • Look at that face - Joey is adorable.
  • Baldness is a common problem, but this was an unusual cause.
  • Dr Young's humility and humor showcase what a great veterinarian he is - willing to find out the answer quickly for the good of the patient.
  • Veterinary specialists are a great resource for general practitioners.
  • This story is a great alert for all types of potential topical toxicities that our pets may encounter. Pets have fur to protect them somewhat, but both human and pet skin readily absorb many medications, lotions, creams and patches.

Timely warning for all pet owners
What is good for us may not be good for our pets. In fact, it may be lethal. Please do not use human medications on pets, unless specifically directed to do so by your pet's veterinarian. Just because something is "over-the-counter" doesn't mean it is inherently safer. Dogs, and especially cats, metabolize things differently than humans - doses are different, and as mentioned, some drugs that are fine for humans are toxic to pets.

Thank you, Dr. Young, for sharing Joey's story and educating everyone about this potential for trouble.

Meet Richard Young DVM, ABVP

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