Monday 13 July 2015

Hair Loss In Cats

Hair Loss In Cats

IF you have always regularly brushed your cat and made sure they have all their inoculations and flea and tick treatments, it can come as a shock to find they are scratching constantly or losing hair in frightening amounts.

When my cat first came to me she suffered from eczema and would scratch herself raw in places. I took her to the vet who said she was extremely allergic to the cat flea. We treated her with Frontline and then treated the house. Her eczema cleared up practically overnight. She was fine for about a year and then it came back. It seems she had become immune to Frontline so we switched to Advantage. That was six years ago and since then, fingers crossed, she has had no trouble at all.

We groom her at least once a week with a fine-toothed flea comb, which she loves, to make sure no little strangers have hopped on board.

Many cats possess flea bite hypersensitivity, where an intense reaction to the saliva of the flea is experienced. Common symptoms include extreme itching, redness, scaling, and hair loss. An infection may also develop as a result of saliva contact with the flea.

But it's not only sensitivity to fleas that can cause a cat to scratch.

Hair Loss In Cats

Allergic and Irritant Contact DermatitisA cat may experience an allergic reaction when they become exposed to a variety of substances and objects that comes in contact with the skin. This may include metals (such as nickel), rubber, wool, plastic, and chemicals (dyes and carpet cleaners). Irritating substances, such as poison ivy, may also cause the inflammation that can lead to hair loss in cats. Additional symptoms include cat skin redness, small bumps and blisters, and itching.

Atopy (allergic inhalant dermatitis)When a cat inhales house dust, pollen, or mould, an allergic reaction may follow. As a result, they may display redness, itchiness, inflammation in the ear, and hair loss. In some cases, an infection develops or a cat experiences hot spots.

MangeIt is a particular mite species that causes the infection that leads to itchiness, scales, and some hair loss in cats when the condition is severe.

Facial Alopecia
It is normal for cats to lose hair located between the eye and ear when suffering this condition. Usually, facial alopecia is seen when cats are between 14 and 20 months old. Shorthaired and dark-haired cats are the most affected.

If an area of the cat's body is painful she may lick the specific area. If it is a disease that causes itchiness the licking will cover a wider area. As cats lick a lot anyway, under these circumstances she will over-lick causing a potential hair loss.Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine refer to cat doing this as "fur mowers". The area(s) licked help in diagnosis. Fleas, for example can infest areas around the neck (where a cat can't lick) and also at the base of the spine before the tail begins. If a cat over-licks there it could be fleas. An allergy to pollen or food may in result in "fur mowing", the back and abdomen for example. Licking is normal but when it results in hair loss it is not and there will be an underlying problem. If you can't identify and cure an obvious problem, then take the cat to the vet.

Stress displacement behavior
Any number of reasons can cause stress in cat, for sure cats like stability and routine. For example it can take many months (perhaps up to a year) to fully settle into a new home. In the meantime she may be stressed. Licking can be a form of displacement behaviour. When we are uncertain and trying to think through a difficult problem we may scratch our heads, bite our nails or fiddle with something! Cats do the same. The classic is to lick their nose (the human equivalent of head scratching). If it goes beyond that it can indicate severe stress and a habit. The root cause must be addressed. It will most likely be something that we have done to break the routine of destabilize the environment. These should be easy to rectify. It might be separation anxiety, for example. A vet will probably prescribe a mild sedative and a change in lifestyle.

Pregnancy and Nursing Hair Loss
When a stressful situation (such as giving birth) takes place, a cat may experience hair loss. Sometimes a loss in hair can surface as a sudden symptom, which can spread across the entire body. When the underlying condition is treated or is no longer a concern, the hair will grow back.

HyperthyroidismHair loss and strands that are easily pulled out are common symptoms of hyperthyroidism, which causes skin lesions in about 1/3 of affected cats.

Psychogenic DermatitisThe constant licking that some cats possess as a habit can lead to hair loss. Some of the possible causes of this condition include stress, boredom, and a reaction to changes in their environment, such as a new member in the household. Symmetrical hair loss is a common symptom.

RingwormSeveral different kinds of fungus can cause the ringworm infection, which creates crusts, scales, and hair loss in cats. Cat ringworm is the same as human ringworm and it is transmittable from a cat to a human (zoonotic). This is a reason why (some say) a cat should not sleep on your bed (I totally ignore this).

Rare or Uncommon Hair Loss Conditions in Cats
Sometimes hair loss in cats is not easily detected or beyond the remit of the average pet owner and it requires the assessment of a veterinarian in order to receive effective and accurate treatment. Below are a few instances that may or may not offer a straightforward remedy:

Apocrine Sweat Gland CystAlthough a rarity in felines, water-filled nodules may appear in the head, neck, and limbs, which can cause hair loss in cats.

Alopecia AreataWith alopecia areata, patches of hair loss in cats are seen about the head, neck, and body. Itching is not a symptom of this condition. Usually, cats are able to recover from this suspected autoimmune disorder without any medical treatment.

Bacterial Infection
Hair loss in cats may take place when they are battling a bacterial infection caused by parasites, allergies, or a condition that affects the hormones.

ChemotherapyWhen a cat undergoes chemotherapy as a treatment for cancer, they lose hair that eventually creates a soft and fuzzy appearance about their coat. Some cats may even lose their whiskers. After chemotherapy treatments are discontinued, the hair will grow back. Interestingly, the new hair may appear a different color or display a dissimilar texture.

Congenital Hypotrichosis
Kittens born with congenital hypotrichosis possess little to no hair. Any signs of hair are lost by the time the kitten reaches the age of four months.

Cushing's Disease
When a cat produces or comes into contact with an increase of corticosteroids, they may experience a thinning of the skin, as well as hair loss.

Drug or Injection Reactions
Hair loss in cats sometimes occurs when they suffer a rare skin reaction to a drug that has been given orally, topically, or when inhaled. This type of reaction is most often seen when a cat comes in contact with penicillins, sulfonamides, and cephalosporins. Symptoms usually occur within two weeks of receiving the drug, which may also include itching, redness, swelling, ulcers, the formation of papules, and wound drainage.

When an infection has attacked the hair follicles of a cat, pustules develop and open up to create crusts, which may itch and cause hair to fall out. Symptoms of folliculitis often surface on the face, head, and neck.

Solar Dermatosis
Some cats are more susceptible to the sun, where a reaction causes redness, scaling on the nose and ears, crusts, ulcers, and hair loss. This condition is mostly seen in cats with white ears.
Additional considerations that can lead to hair loss in cats include food allergies; feline acquired symmetrical alopecia (the symmetrical loss of hair on the on back of thighs, abdomen, and genital areas); granulomas (solid nodules); hair loss at the site of a vaccination (can last for months); infestation of lice; sebaceous adenitis (the unknown deterioration of the sebaceous glands); and seborrhea, which is inherited or part of a secondary infection.


  1. Thank you for the information! I'm noticing that my elderly cats have become bald on the backs of their ears, especially toward the tips. Hyperthyroidism did affect the one, whom we sadly lost last August to breast cancer but she never suffered related skin issues. The other is healthy except for a stubborn case of obesity exacerbated by trying to keep our deceased cat from becoming too thin(!) - frustrating times. Sometimes, her ear tip folds down and sticks to itself. The silly dear doesn't seem at all bothered when I fix the rare occurrence.

  2. Yikes, all sorts of issues with hair loss. Pretty terrible to be allergic to fleas. That had to be miserable.

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