What are Baldness Disorders?
Feline alopecia may be located in one area like the base of the tail, or you may see a general thinning of your cat’s fur. Skin diseases are tenacious and can be passed on to other family pets and to humans. Cats with alopecia need to be treated by a veterinarian as soon as possible.
Baldness in cats is an alarming and worrisome condition to pet owners. You may first notice your cat’s hair loss when you are petting your cat and come across an area of missing fur. Feline alopecia or cat baldness can be a symptom of a disease, or it may be a disease on its own. Feline alopecia can result from a minor scrape, or it may be indicative of a serious health issue. When you notice that your cat is losing hair or acquiring bald spots, your cat needs to be evaluated by a veterinarian to ensure a quick recovery and to keep the bald spots from spreading.
Symptoms of Baldness Disorders in Cats
Some of the symptoms of alopecia in cats are very obvious like a thinning or patchy coat, but other symptoms are less obvious but important to note for an accurate diagnosis.
- Areas of baldness or hair thinning
- Excessive grooming, scratching or biting
- Scaly or flaky skin
- Oozing sores
Causes of Baldness Disorders in Cats
Although it is obvious when your cat’s fur starts to thin or fall out, it’s more difficult to determine the cause. This list comprises some of the reasons for cat baldness:
- Feline atopic dermatitis
- Bacterial and yeast infections
- Flea or mite infestations
- Injuries from bites or accidents
- Food, flea, mite or environmental allergies
- Acne or abscesses
- Excessive grooming
Diagnosis of Baldness Disorders in Cats
Baldness in cats is tricky to diagnose. Even if your cat has suffered from alopecia in the past, you need to seek professional help for each episode of hair loss. Never give your cat old medicine or over-the-counter medicine for hair loss including creams and ointments that your cat will likely ingest during grooming. Your veterinarian will most likely do one or more of the following procedures:
- Examination: Your veterinarian will visually evaluate your cat’s coat, look for fleas and mites and perform a general wellness exam including taking vital signs and your cat’s temperature.
- Skin scrapes: This test is important to identify Demodex, Cheyletiella and Notoedres mites.
- Allergy testing: By testing for allergies, your veterinarian can identify the allergens or foods that are causing your cat to lose hair.
- Blood work: In some cases, blood tests can help identify the cause of your cat’s hair loss when a visual examination indicates more than one disease.
- Biopsy: A simple biopsy can rule out many bacterial, fungal or parasitic infections.
Treatment of Baldness Disorders in Cats
Your veterinarian will devise a treatment plan depending upon the underlying reason for your cat’s alopecia.
- Bacterial, fungal and parasitic infections: Infections may be treated with antibiotic or steroid creams and may require oral medications. In a case of ringworm, for example, multiple veterinarian visits and medications including body dips may be necessary before the infection is cured. Ringworm is highly contagious and can spread to other household pets and also infect humans. In some stubborn cases, medical treatment for ringworm may last for as long as a year
- Flea infestations: If fleas are causing your cat’s hair loss, your veterinarian may recommend oral or topical flea medications. Once the fleas are no longer living on your pet, or in your pet’s environment, the inflammation, itchiness and resulting hair loss can be cured.
- Mite infestations: Your veterinarian will devise a medical plan to rid your cat of mites after tests indicate the specific mite infesting your cat. Treatment may include baths, ear washes, and topical or oral medicines.
- Food allergies: One of the easiest cures for alopecia caused by diet is to remove the allergenic foods from your cat’s diet.
- Abscess: Once the abscess is drained, antibiotic therapy usually cures the infection and the fur grows back in the affected site.
Recovery of Baldness Disorders in Cats
Depending upon the severity of your cat’s hair loss, and your pet’s medical diagnosis, recovery can be relatively quick, or it may take time and patience to see the results you anticipate. Since cats with skin problems are often dealing with itchiness due to inflammation, it’s crucial you monitor your cat’s behavior and skin. If your cat continues to lick, bite or scratch at the area of baldness, it may be necessary to use a cone collar to prevent re-injuring the skin. Follow-up appointments are necessary to monitor the healing progress and to ensure the alopecia does not spread to new areas.