Alopecia (Hair Loss) is the most common skin disorder which is characterized by a partial or complete loss of hair on the pets body.
Types of hair loss seen in cats
Congenital hair loss – This occurs when a cat is born with this condition. Causes can be either a genetic inheritance or development defects or abnormalities of hair follicles. Bald spots, lack of hair in some areas may be seen at the time of birth or when a pet reaches maturity.
Acquired hair loss – This is a result of underlying or secondary diseases of the skin, endocrine abnormalities, immunity system disorders, neurological and lymphatic system conditions, bacterial, viral or parasitic infections, accidents, injury, poisoning, trauma and diet or nutritional deficiencies which cause hormonal imbalances.
Alopecia should not be confused with shedding. Shedding is a natural occurrence where existing or old hair is replaced by new or growing hair. A hair loss often results in scratching (pruritis), inflammation of the skin, redness, pain, discomfort, unkept appearance, body odor, abscess and scaling.
All pets are susceptible to hair loss. Cats with existing diseases and conditions, pregnant females are at high risk.
Certain cat breeds are highly susceptible to this condition.
There are numerous causes which can lead to loss of hair.
› Bacterial infections such as Leprosy, Pyoderma
› Parasitic infections resulting from ticks, mange, mites, lice.
› Fungal infections such as Malassezia Dermatitis, Ringworms (Dermatophytosis)
› Viral infections such as Feline Immunodeficiency Virus (FIV) and Feline Leukemia Virus (FeLV)
› Allergic reactions to pollen molds, objects
› Endocrine disorders such as Cushing’s Disease, Addison’s Disease, Hypothyroidism
› Growth disorders and hormonal imbalances
› Genetic disorders such as Albinism
› Poisoning from snake and spider bites
› Trauma, wounds, territorial fights, accidents, burns and emergencies
› Lack of nutritional intake and poor diet
› Unhygienic living conditions, poor sanitation, crowded places such as kennels, catteries, high populated animal areas
Clinical Signs & Symptoms
Common symptoms include:
› Hair loss
› Bald spots
› Dry skin
› Dermatitis (inflammation of skin)
Veterinarians will require a complete history of your cat which includes medical history, vaccination records, existing health concerns, current and previous medications, onset of symptoms, diet and exercise routine and any information which can help in establishing a correct diagnosis. Diagnosis is done with a combination of tests. These include routine lab examinations and special tests. They are:
› Physical examination (This usually confirms the diagnosis)
Other tests are performed to check the underlying disease which is causing hair loss.
› Fungal culture test
› Bacterial culture test
› Microscopic examination
› Skin biopsy
› Tests for skin parasites
› Skin scrapping
› Complete Blood Count (CBC)
› Allergy test ( for food or environmental such as pollen)
Hair loss is not a disease but a symptom of other known diseases. Treatment consists of:
› Antibacterial medications
› Anti-fungal medications
› Anti-parasitic medications
› Topical ointments, creams, powders, lotions, cream and sprays
› Anti-inflammatory medications
› Treatment of wounds and scars
› Treatment of any and all underlying diseases
With proper medications, hair loss can be successfully treated. Diseases which are causing a reaction should be consulted with your veterinarian. Proper and nutritional diet with supportive care is essential.
There is no prevention for this condition. Hair loss can always resurface without warning. Timely bathing, grooming, inspecting parasites (ticks, mites, flea, lice), prompt treatment of underlying diseases can reduce the severity of hair loss. Flea infestation, ringworms, pyoderma are the most common causes of hair loss.
Home care should aim at improving the condition. Treatments can take a few days to months, depending on the severity. If you observe any behavioral changes, or if the condition does not improve, please contact your veterinarian.
› It is mandatory to provide a stress-free environment for your cat. Keep water and food bowls within reach. Aviod physical activity. Keep your cats away from any noise and commotions.
› You have to administer and monitor all prescribed medicine as directed by your veterinarian.
› Do NOT travel with your cat.
› Do NOT allow your cat to roam freely. This works two ways, firstly if the cat is infected, it greatly reduces the chances of risk of exposure to other pets and humans and secondly in-case of a healthy pet, it reduces the chances of contracting the infection.
› Use of environmental disinfectants is recommended. Prompt disposal of any and all materials after use is suggested.
› Routine and regular checkups to access the progress, further tests may be advised. Monitor and administer all medications as directed by your veterinarian and complete the dosage.
› Humans, especially children, pregnant women and ones handling infected pets need to exercise caution. Wear gloves when dealing with a pet, cleaning the litter boxes, disposing any and all contaminated materials, garbage disposals etc. A thorough wash of hands is advised. Practice hygiene.
› There is high probability that few underlying infections can reoccur. Seek veterinarian advise post recovery on ways to prevent this from happening.
› If hair loss has resulted from a wound, chewing, biting, the site will remain scarred for life.
› Do not stop medications and Do not give medications without consultation your vet. Do not give human medications. Some drugs are known to cause adverse reactions.