Hair Loss Syndrome


Commonly Infected Wildlife

Mammals, including deer, coyotes, foxes, and many domestic mammals.

Is This Animal Infected?

Infected animals may have small patches of hair loss, or it may extend over most of the body.

Depending on the cause, some animals may have thickened and/or scabby skin.

Mange is a common cause of hair loss, especially in deer. See the entry on Mange for more information.

Deer suffering from hair loss syndrome, credit Jeremy Holtzer

Can I Get It?

Possibly. Many of the infectious causes of hair loss in mammals can also infect humans.

How bad can it get?

Infections in humans are usually mild and can be successfully treated by doctors using antibiotics.

Symptoms in humans

  • Contact your doctor if you think you have been exposed to an animal with a potentially infectious cause of hair loss.
  • Skin redness and rashes are most common.

Protect Myself and Others

  • Wear disposable gloves and protective clothing when in contact with an infected animal.
  • Disinfect work space and tools after skinning or handling animals.
  • Always wash your hands and arms thoroughly with soap and water after handling wildlife.
  • Most infectious causes of hair loss only affect the skin of mammals. Meat may still be eaten, but it is not recommended to consume the meat of severely infected animals or animals that appear sick. Severely affected animals may have underlying conditions or diseases that have weakened their immune systems.
  • Always cook meat thoroughly.

Safe for Pets?

No. Domestic animals can be infected by direct contact by many of the bacteria, parasites, and fungi that cause hair loss in wildlife.

What Causes It?

Hair loss can be caused by a variety of bacteria, parasites, and fungi. Two common causes of hair loss in deer are demodicosis (a form of mange usually caused by Demodex mites) and dermatophilosis (caused by the bacterium Dermatophilus congolensis). Other bacteria and parasites, such as lice, chiggers, and ticks, may cause varying degrees of hair loss.