Certainly one of last 12 months’s litters of foster kittens brought greater than joy and heart-melting cuteness to my house. Unfortunately, the outdoor kitties and their mom got here with a pack of fleas, and the pests took up residence within the fur of my resident cat, G.G., who had a maddening itch. The itch soon was thinning hair on her belly, at the bottom of her tail and on her hind legs. So, is your cat losing hair? What causes cat hair loss? In G.G.’s case the hair loss turned out to be attributable to a flea allergy. Let’s learn more about hair loss in cats, also often known as alopecia in cats.
First, let’s define cat hair loss
First, what exactly is hair loss in cats? Photography by Ramon Espelt Photography / Shutterstock.
A cat losing hair — also called alopecia in cats — could be complete or partial and happens in felines for a wide range of reasons, essentially the most common of which is skin allergies, experts say. Dr. Fiona Bateman, assistant professor of dermatology on the University of Georgia’s Veterinary Teaching Hospital, often sees hair loss in cats at her clinic.
Is alopecia in cats ever ‘normal’?
Some cats have hereditary alopecia. For instance, Sphynx cats are born without hair and never grow any.
One other style of normal hair loss is pinnal alopecia – hair loss on the surface of the ear pinnae — which is common in Siamese cats but often resolves by itself. Many adult cats also experience preauricular alopecia — thinning of fur on the skin strip between the ears and the eyes, which is taken into account normal in cats, Dr. Hayworth says.
What about acquired alopecia in cats?
The remaining of the cat population, which is born with normal fur, gets acquired alopecia — which is a symptom of a disease or condition, and never a disease itself. The veterinarian will diagnose the underlying condition, Dr. Bateman says.
With a cat losing hair, will that hair grow back?
The excellent news for cat parents is that this hair loss in cats often doesn’t indicate a serious illness, and the hair can often grow back, Dr. Bateman says. Dr. Hayworth, of VCA Northview Animal Hospital within the Pittsburgh suburbs, explains that how well a cat losing hair could be treated and reversed is dependent upon the underlying cause.
“Generally, if we are able to reverse the cause, then we are able to get the hair to grow back,” Dr. Hayworth says. “This is very true with over-grooming related to allergies. So, in the event you notice hair loss in your cat, it is certainly value a visit to the doctor.”
These are six of essentially the most common conditions behind a cat losing hair. Note that this isn’t an exhaustive list, as alopecia in cats is a broad condition with many potential aspects.
1. Allergies — Particularly to Fleas — and Itching and Over-grooming
An example of G.G.’s hair loss attributable to a flea allergy. Photography courtesy Kellie B. Gormly.
Fleas can bite and irritate any cat, but some cats have a hypersensitivity to antigens inside the flea saliva. These allergic cats get miserably itchy in the event that they encounter fleas — and lots of of them will over-groom as a way of scratching the itch. The hair doesn’t just fall out; the cats actually lick it a lot that they pull their hair out.
“It’s not that the hair can’t grow,” Dr. Bateman says. “These cats are licking it out faster than it will possibly get replaced.
“About 90 percent of those cats we see in our clinic are over-grooming,” she says. “It is way less likely that the hair is falling out and never regrowing.”
Sometimes, a cat may engage in compulsive grooming due to neuropathic pain from nerve damage within the skin. In rare cases, a cat may groom an excessive amount of and lose hair for psychogenic reasons, like anxiety after a stressful event; but, it’s more likely that cats licking off their hair are itching from flea allergy, Dr. Bateman says.
Mange, scabies and lice also could make a cat’s skin itch — resulting in the identical over-grooming and a cat losing hair. Mites, food allergies and environmental allergies also may cause itching and over-grooming.
Sometimes, a cat will lick an area of his body an excessive amount of not since it itches, but since the tissue underneath the skin hurts, Dr. Bateman says. A cat with arthritis, for example, may lick on the achy joint continually since it is painful, and licking helps relieve the discomfort. The issue is, the cat licks away the hair, too.
Dr. Bateman once saw a cat who had a fractured rib. The kitty licked on the painful rub a lot that he had grow to be bald around that bone.
This isn’t as common a reason behind a cat losing hair as allergies are, but it surely does occur. Cats with infectious conditions like staph infections and fungal infections like ringworm may lose hair within the affected areas, Dr. Hayworth and Dr. Bateman say.
4. Endocrine Disorders
A cat losing hair can have hyperthyroidism — an overactive thyroid, which causes weight reduction and other symptoms. Outside of the thyroid, if cats have a hormonal imbalance and an increased level of steroids within the body, the hair follicles may die; and with abnormal hormone levels, recent hair may not grow back. As an example, Cushing’s disease, a metabolic disorder that produces an excessive amount of cortisol, may cause alopecia in cats.
5. Medication Side Effects
Transdermal prednisone causes alopecia and curling of the ear pinnae. Normally, Dr. Hayworth says, stopping the medication will reverse this condition.
Thankfully, cancer is a rarely the explanation for a cat losing hair; it’s much more likely that your kitty’s hair loss is nothing serious. But neoplasia — a term for abnormal growths attributable to uncontrolled division of cells — may cause hair loss in cats. One other serious condition that happens secondary to cancer is paraneoplastic alopecia, which is hair loss related to itching and moist skin, Dr. Hayworth says. Nonetheless, these serious causes are rare.
The underside line on hair loss in cats and alopecia in cats
Don’t panic over a cat losing hair — just take your cat to the veterinarian for an exam. “Likelihood is, it just isn’t serious,” Dr. Bateman says. “But you don’t know that just by taking a look at the cat, which is why it’s essential to get it checked out.”
Tell us: Have you ever had your individual experience with a cat losing hair? What issue was at hand?
Concerned about hair loss yourself? Read this!
Thumbnail: Photography ©foaloce | Thinkstock.
This piece was originally published in 2018.