Curly Coated Retrievers are well known for their distinctive, tightly curled coats. But sometimes Curlies can suffer from hair loss, for a variety of reasons. While some bitches might experience some hair loss just before and after whelping, others can suffer from pattern baldness, which can be temporary or permanent. In this article, we'll take a look at hair loss and the Curly Coated Retriever, what it means and what can be done.
Coat Patterning, sometimes called the "Curly Coat Problem" can be very frustrating for everyone involved. This is mostly because it is unclear why some dogs will experience hair loss while others will never have a problem. It is difficult to say exactly how many Curly Coated Retrievers suffer from Coat Patterning, because dogs with this issue are often not shown in competition, or mild cases are thought to be caused by the collar, or are thought to be caused for other reasons. Sometimes, these cases are so mild that the dog may have very light balding for a short period of time, after which the coat grows back and never has a problem again. These dogs will likely go on to lead normal, healthy lives. However, Curlies that have more noticeable Coat Patterning often have other problems such as allergies or reproductive issues. In the worst cases, the growth hormones are affected and the dog will mature at only forty pounds, where Curlies are normally between fifty and one hundred pounds. It is assumed that the Coat Patterning is somehow linked to an auto-immune disorder.
Curly Coated Retrievers that suffer from Coat Patterning very often will have a full coat when still a puppy but will start to experience baldness when they reach sexual maturity. The bald patterning can appear in a variety of places, including the back and inside of the hind legs, the flanks, the side or front of the neck, or the deepest part of the chest. Some dogs will simply have an overall thinned and brittle coat. A very small indication that a dog may have this problem is when it has a full coat but only has very curly hair along the back and on the neck. The most curious thing about this hair loss is that it is usually bilateral. That means that if the baldness appears on one leg, it will undoubtedly be found on the other leg in the same spot. The severity of the hair loss will vary from dog to dog; some will only experience a small loss of hair while others could be nearly bald all over. Some will grow back their coats in a matter of months.
Unfortunately, many veterinarians are not familiar with this disorder in Curly Coated Retrievers, perhaps because the breed is still considered to be relatively rare in the United States. Some will misdiagnose this hair loss as a thyroid deficiency, but as it seems that the syndrome is auto-immune related, they are not far off-track. Coat Patterning cannot be treated with a change in diet or dietary supplements, but most dogs that suffer from this disorder will still go on to lead long, happy lives.