Hair loss in cats, or cat alopecia, is a common problem for felines. Cat hair loss can be partial or complete, and the patterns can varied or symmetrical. The skin surrounding the area of hair loss can appear normal, or it can have redness, bumps, scabs and skin loss.
Treatment options exist, though they depend on the cause of the alopecia and are limited for many of the more common causes.
Why Is My Cat Losing Hair?
There are a few different reasons for cat hair loss. Some cats experience skin allergies, which can cause hair loss to occur. Parasites that bring about mange, and fungal issues like ringworm, are also common causes of cat alopecia, especially in younger cats or those with other health issues.
Nervous disorders (e.g., over-grooming) can also cause hair loss in cats. Hormonal imbalances, specifically too much thyroid or increased levels of steroids in the body, may lead to cat hair loss. Another less common factor is heredity. Cat alopecia is common in older cats that are diagnosed with some types of cancer.
Diagnosis of Cat Alopecia
First your veterinarian will examine the characteristics of the hair loss. She will likely check for fleas and flea dirt. If the veterinarian believes that the hair loss is due to a skin issue, then a skin biopsy or culture may be done.
Apart from fleas, allergies can cause hair loss. Some cats develop wounds called eosinophilic granuloma complex (also known as rodent ulcers) that can become very large.
A blood serum chemistry panel is often done to determine if there are thyroid or other hormonal imbalances causing the alopecia. Various imaging tools, such as X-rays and ultrasounds, are used to rule out signs of cancer or abnormalities in the adrenal glands.
Treatment for Cat Hair Loss
The easiest cause of hair loss to treat is fleas. Your veterinarian will prescribe an effective method of prescription flea and tick control and recommend products for cleaning your home. If the alopecia is due to a skin disorder (e.g., skin erosions), thyroid imbalance or other hormonal imbalance, there are cat medications and topical treatments available. If cat hair loss is due to a behavioral issue, your vet might prescribe anxiety medication for cats. Treating the underlying issue may prevent further hair loss, but without restoring the hair.
Living and Management
Other than administering the appropriate medication, you should observe the cat's condition to make sure it does not become worse. Follow-up care with your veterinarian is very important to maintaining your cat’s skin health.
Keep your cat on effective flea prevention to prevent infestations of parasites that can cause hair loss. Provide cat toys and playtime for your cat to keep her mentally stimulated and to avoid hair loss from nervous disorders. Unfortunately, though, there is no way to prevent most forms of hair loss in cats.