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Hair Loss in Cats

Posted November 09, 2014 in Cat Diseases & Conditions A-Z

Does your cat seem to be going bald? What does that mean? Is he sick? Why is it happening? And what, if anything, can you do about it? There are, in fact, lots of reasons why a cat can be bald or suffer from hair loss or alopecia.

Cat looking up

Sometimes cats are born bald.
Some cats, like the Sphynx, are born with hardly any hair. In these cats, the lack of hair is a genetically-determined and desirable characteristic among proponents of the breed. Some folks seek out this particular look in a cat just like others might prefer a long-haired cat over a short-haired.

Sometimes feline hair loss is benign and temporary.
There are also transient reasons for hair loss. Just like people go through stages where they lose more hair, cats do too. Shedding is a natural and normal process that can vary in degrees. Cats that are sick or stressed for other reasons (illness, fevers, respiratory infections1, pregnancy, etc.) can shed excessively. These are not conditions that demand treatment since the cat’s coat should return to normal over time.

Sometimes the hair loss is medically important.
It is important, however, to consult your veterinarian if you are noticing any changes in your cat’s coat or if he is developing bald areas. Sometimes hair loss is due to a medical problem that does require intervention since the underlying reason for it can cause more serious and systemic problems relating to your cat’s overall health.

Your veterinarian will want to determine if your cat’s hair is falling out on its own or if he is scratching, licking or chewing the hair off as a result of some inflammation or irritation. This distinction can help to focus the diagnostic approach in your cat’s case. Generally, if your cat is actively causing the hair loss, you and your veterinarian will be looking more for causes of dermatitis or inflammation of the skin (like allergies) or for infectious diseases like bacterial, fungal or parasitic diseases (like acne/pyoderma, ringworm or mange mites). In these cases, the answer may be found through skin scrapings, cytology, cultures or allergy testing; and appropriate therapy can result in hair re-growth.

In dogs, hormonal imbalance (underactive thyroid, adrenal dysfunctions, etc.) is a common cause of poor coats and hair loss, but these conditions are not as common in cats. Overactive

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Mike has more than 35 years of experience in companion animal veterinary practice and is a valued member of IDEXX’s Pet Health Network team since 2013.