Will My Dog’s Fur Grow Back? What to Expect After a Skin Infection

What Causes Hair Loss in Dogs

There are several potential causes for hair loss in dogs, including:

Parasites like mange mites burrow into the skin and cause irritation, inflammation, and hair loss. Mites spread easily between dogs through contact.

Bacterial or fungal skin infections often lead to localized hair loss, skin lesions, and itchiness. Common examples are bacterial folliculitis, ringworm, and yeast infections.

Allergies to food, environmental factors, or other substances can trigger intense itching, licking, chewing, and scratching that damages the skin and fur. This is called atopic dermatitis or allergic dermatitis.

Hormonal imbalances like hypothyroidism or Cushing’s disease disrupt the hair growth cycle leading to shedding and bald patches. This is more gradual than hair loss from infections or parasites.

Common Skin Infections in Dogs

Dogs can get several common skin infections that cause hair loss. Some of the most frequent include:

Hot Spots

Hot spots, also known medically as acute moist dermatitis, are localized skin infections that cause painful, red, irritated lesions. They often start with your dog obsessively licking or scratching at an area of skin, which damages the skin and allows bacteria to enter (source). Hot spots can develop and spread quickly.

a dog with a hot spot skin infection

Pyoderma

Pyoderma refers to a bacterial skin infection, usually secondary to an underlying condition like allergies or endocrine disease. There are two main types – surface pyoderma that affects just the top layers of skin, and deep pyoderma that penetrates into deeper tissues. Pyoderma often presents as red, scaly, crusty patches with hair loss and papules or pustules (source).

Ringworm

Ringworm is a fungal infection of the skin, hair, and nails. It causes circular patches of hair loss and scaling. Ringworm is highly contagious and can spread between dogs and humans through direct contact and contaminated surfaces (source).

Yeast Infections

Yeast infections, caused by the Malassezia species of yeast, often occur in association with allergies, hormonal imbalances, or antibiotic use. They lead to itchy skin, redness, greasiness, scaling, and hair loss, often around the paws, ears, armpits, and genital area (source).

Will the Fur Grow Back?

In most cases, a dog’s fur that was lost due to a skin infection will grow back once the infection has been properly treated and resolved. However, how long it takes for the fur to return to normal depends on the cause and severity of the infection.

For relatively mild surface infections like hot spots, the fur often begins growing back within 1-2 weeks as the skin heals. With treatment, superficial bacterial or fungal infections allow fur to regrow within several weeks in most dogs [1].

More extensive infections that damage hair follicles like deep pyoderma may take 1-2 months for fur to fully regrow. The worst cases of deep infections like severe generalized demodicosis can sometimes cause permanent hair loss if the hair follicles are completely destroyed. But even with demodicosis, fur usually regrows eventually if properly treated.

The key is that the underlying infection must be cured and the skin returned to health. As long as the cause of hair loss is addressed, the fur will generally grow back given time. But it may require several weeks or months of treatment before the coat returns to normal.

Treating the Underlying Cause

Getting to the root of what’s causing the hair loss and skin infection is key for getting your dog’s fur to grow back. Bacterial skin infections are typically treated with oral antibiotics like cephalexin or amoxicillin. Antibacterial shampoos or topical ointments can also be used (source). For fungal infections, antifungal medication is needed, either orally or topically applied. Allergies should be managed with steroids, antihistamines, or allergen-specific immunotherapy.

a dog receiving antibiotic treatment

It’s important to follow your veterinarian’s recommendations and complete the full course of treatment, even if your dog’s symptoms improve. Stopping treatment early can allow the infection to return. Typically 4-8 weeks of medication is needed to fully resolve bacterial skin infections.

Providing Symptomatic Relief

While treating the underlying infection, there are some things you can do at home to provide relief for your dog’s symptoms and make them more comfortable:

Antimicrobial shampoos containing ingredients like chlorhexidine or benzoyl peroxide can help reduce bacteria on the skin and soothe inflammation when used a few times per week. Allow the shampoo to stay on your dog’s coat for 5-10 minutes before rinsing for maximum effectiveness [1].

Your vet may prescribe or recommend over-the-counter topical ointments containing hydrocortisone, lidocaine, or other ingredients to relieve itching and inflammation. Apply these as directed.

Preventing your dog from scratching, licking, or chewing the affected area can help avoid further irritation and infection. Place an Elizabethan collar on your dog or use breathable dog clothing to cover the affected skin while it heals.

a dog wearing an elizabethan collar

With patience and following your vet’s treatment plan, your dog’s symptoms should start improving within a few weeks as the infection clears up.

Caring for the Affected Skin

When a dog has a skin infection, it’s important to care for the affected skin properly to help promote healing. Some tips for caring for infected skin include:

Gentle Cleaning

Use a gentle, antimicrobial shampoo to clean the skin. Avoid harsh soaps or scrubbing, which can further irritate the skin. Only bathe when necessary, as over-bathing can dry out the skin. Rinse thoroughly after bathing.[1]

Moisturizing

Keep the skin moisturized to prevent cracking or scabbing. Use a vet-recommended lotion or cream for dogs. Avoid human lotions, as these may contain ingredients that could further irritate the skin.[2]

Massaging

Gently massage the affected areas to increase blood flow and relax the skin. Avoid rubbing or putting pressure on sore spots.

Nutritional Supplements

Supplements like fish oil, vitamin E, and zinc can support skin health. Check with your vet before starting any supplements.

When to See the Vet

You should schedule an appointment with your veterinarian if your dog is experiencing persistent skin infections that do not improve with at-home care. Look for signs that your pet seems uncomfortable, such as persistent itching, licking, or biting of the affected area. You should also see the vet if your dog has patches of skin that have lost hair and remain bare. According to Guilford-Jamestown Veterinary Hospital, bacterial and fungal skin infections often require oral antibiotic or antifungal medication prescribed by a veterinarian to fully resolve (source). Trying to treat a persistent bacterial or fungal infection at home likely will not be effective. See the vet promptly if your dog’s skin shows no improvement within a few days of starting home treatment. This will help ensure your dog’s comfort and prevent the infection from worsening.

At-Home Remedies

There are some simple home remedies that can provide relief for dogs with irritated skin after a skin infection:

Oatmeal Baths

An oatmeal bath can help soothe itchy skin. Grind 1-2 cups of colloidal (finely ground) oatmeal and run a warm bath, adding the oatmeal to the water. Allow your dog to soak for 15-20 minutes. The oatmeal will help relieve irritation. Oatmeal contains saponins which are natural cleansers with anti-inflammatory properties [1].

a dog soaking in an oatmeal bath

Coconut or Olive Oil

Applying coconut or olive oil to the affected areas can moisturize, soothe, and promote healing of the skin. Rub a small amount gently into the skin. The fatty acids have anti-inflammatory and antimicrobial effects. Be sure to use pure, organic, unrefined oils [2].

Aloe Vera Gel

Pure aloe vera gel can be applied to irritated areas a few times a day. Aloe contains polysaccharides that help heal skin abrasions and promote skin growth and repair. It also has antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties to soothe the skin [1].

Preventing Recurrence

The best way to prevent skin infections from recurring is to address the underlying cause. According to the article PetMD, underlying conditions like allergies, endocrine disorders, or autoimmune diseases can make dogs prone to repeated skin infections. Working with your vet to properly diagnose and manage any underlying condition is crucial.

You can also help prevent recurrence by improving your dog’s diet and nutrition. Feeding high-quality food designed for your dog’s age and activity level helps support skin health. Supplements like fish oil, vitamin E and zinc may also be beneficial. Regular grooming and flea/tick control are also important preventative measures, as reported by Today’s Veterinary Practice.

While skin infections can be frustrating and upsetting, being vigilant about managing any underlying conditions, improving diet and nutrition, practicing good grooming habits, and using flea/tick preventives can help get recurrences under control.

The Outlook

The prognosis for hair regrowth after a skin infection is excellent with proper treatment. Once the underlying infection is addressed, the inflammation and damage to the hair follicles should subside. This allows the fur to return to a normal growth cycle. However, it may take weeks or months for the fur to fully grow back, depending on the severity of the infection. With superficial infections, the fur may grow back within 4-6 weeks. But deeper or chronic infections can cause longer-lasting damage that requires 3-5 months for the fur to return.

It’s crucial to identify and treat the underlying cause of the infection, whether bacterial, fungal or parasitic. This will create the conditions for the skin to heal and allow the fur to regenerate. Any secondary problems like itching, wounds or dry skin also need to be managed. With time and care, the fur should make a full recovery. Preventing recurring infections through proper skin care and hygiene will ensure the fur growth continues unhindered.

With appropriate veterinary treatment and at-home care, dog owners can expect their pet’s fur to grow back after a bout of skin infection. Patience and persistence are key, but the prognosis for regrowth is good. Keeping infections at bay will enable your dog’s coat to return to its former glory.

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