Hair Loss in Cats

Veterinary reviewed by: Michele K.

Hair Loss in Cats - Symptoms, Causes, Diagnosis, Treatment, Recovery, Management, Cost

Veterinary reviewed by: Michele K.

Hair Loss in Cats - Symptoms, Causes, Diagnosis, Treatment, Recovery, Management, Cost

What are Hair Loss?

Hair loss, or alopecia, is a condition in which a cat’s hair falls out or does not grow, and it can occur in cats of any age. Hair loss can be partial or total. Partial loss may be symmetrical or can occur in random patterns. In some cases, hair loss is localized to one or more specific areas known as hot spots. Medical diagnosis is necessary to identify why the hair loss is occurring and to treat the underlying cause. Alopecia is a sign of a variety of conditions, and it may be a symptom of a serious or life-threatening issue.

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Hair Loss Average Cost

From 445 quotes ranging from $200 - $1,000

Average Cost

$400

Symptoms of Hair Loss in Cats

The most obvious symptom of alopecia is loss of hair in either patches or all over the body. Hair loss may not leave observable bald patches at first, but could begin with changes to the coat, including fuzzing, excessive shedding, or rough fur. Depending on the underlying cause of the loss, there may be various other symptoms observed, including those that do not appear related to the hair loss. 

Symptoms Include:

  • Hair loss
  • Red skin
  • Bumps or blisters
  • Scabs
  • Scaling
  • Skin loss
  • Itchiness and scratching
  • Cysts or nodules
  • Excessive grooming
  • Whisker loss
  • Easy bruising
  • Ulcers or open sores
  • Hyperpigmentation or darkened patches of skin
  • Foul odor
  • Lethargy
  • Abnormal behavior
  • Depression 
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Causes of Hair Loss in Cats

A variety of conditions can cause hair loss in cats. Alopecia can be a sign of diseases, infections, toxins, disorders, cancers, allergies, or infestations. Hair loss that occurs at or soon after birth is often related to improper development in the womb or hereditary disorders. Some common causes of hair loss in cats and other companion animals include:

  • Bacterial infections
  • Fungal infections
  • Parasitic infections
  • Skin trauma
  • Burns
  • Allergic reactions
  • Birth defect
  • Hereditary conditions 
  • Nutritional deficiencies
  • Hormonal imbalances
  • Friction
  • Stress
  • Over grooming
  • Autoimmune disorders
  • Thyroid disorders
  • Diabetes
  • Cancer or tumors
  • Cancer treatments 
  • Some medications
  • Poison or toxins
  • Fleas, lice, or mites
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Diagnosis of Hair Loss in Cats

Determining the cause of alopecia may require extensive diagnostic testing because of the numerous potential causes of the condition. Be prepared to discuss your pet’s medical history, any medications or toxins they may have ingested, and any symptoms you have observed. Your veterinarian will perform a full physical examination while paying special attention to hot spots and the condition of the skin. A smear, culture, or biopsy of the affected area may be required for analysis. Combing of the hair to identify lice, mites, or fleas and examination of the hair at a microscopic level may provide information on the cause. Veterinary staff may also draw blood and complete a full blood panel and a variety of tests for common infections. Analysis of urine, feces, or any fluids may also be required. X-rays or other diagnostic imaging techniques may be employed to look for internal causes like cancer. 

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Treatment of Hair Loss in Cats

The treatment prescribed for your cat’s hair loss will depend on the cause veterinary staff is able to diagnose. Treatment plans will vary widely because many of the causes do not share similar treatment methodologies. The success of remedies will depend greatly on accurate diagnosis of the reason for the alopecia. In some cases, like those involving congenital or hereditary hair loss, no treatment is available. Some common treatments include:

Topical Treatments 

A topical cream is often used when treating alopecia. In some cases, the topical cream may treat the cause of the hair loss, but it is also common to use one to remedy symptoms like skin irritation. When hair loss is caused by fleas or similar problems, fungal infections, certain skin conditions, and skin traumas, this is a popular option. 

Antidepressants or Antianxiety Medications 

In cases of psychogenic alopecia, or hair loss caused by mental conditions like stress, medication may be prescribed to help the cat cope with the issue. This treatment has worked successfully in many cases, eliminating excessive grooming while the medication is being taken. This treatment carries some risk of side effects from the medication, but they generally are not severe. Behavior modification and removal of environmental stressors is often used in conjunction with this type of therapy. 

Antihistamines 

When an allergic reaction is the cause of skin discomfort and hair loss, this category of drug will be used to reduce the body’s response to the allergen. This treatment is considered low risk, and may be combined with other therapies used to treat alopecia even if an allergic reaction has not been diagnosed. 

Cause-Specific Treatments 

Numerous other treatments may be used for the underlying condition that has resulted in your pet’s hair loss. Speak with your veterinarian to understand how treatments for infections, cancers, imbalances, and certain conditions may affect your pet and what risks are associated with the recommended therapy. 

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Worried about the cost of Hair Loss treatment?

Pet Insurance covers the cost of many common pet health conditions. Prepare for the unexpected by getting a quote from top pet insurance providers.

Recovery of Hair Loss in Cats

The chances of recovery from alopecia depend on the cause of the hair loss. The hair loss in both total and partial cases may be permanent, especially when follicle conditions are the cause. In the event that infections or other treatable conditions caused the loss, the prognosis is usually good after treatment of the cause. Continue to monitor your pet’s condition, follow all instructions provided by your veterinarian, finish the full course of medications, and return for further medical attention if the situation worsens. Reducing stress in your cat’s living environment and feeding them a healthy diet will aid in their recovery. Avoid making any major changes until your pet is well on the path to recovery. If hair loss is permanent, your pet can still live a full life. Special attention should be paid to the temperature of their living environment in these cases. 

Hair loss can be symptomatic of a serious medical condition. To avoid high vet care expenses, secure pet health insurance today. The sooner you insure your pet, the more protection you’ll have from unexpected vet costs.

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Hair Loss Average Cost

From 445 quotes ranging from $200 - $1,000

Average Cost

$400

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Hair Loss Questions and Advice from Veterinary Professionals

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tabby

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Seven Years

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10 found helpful

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10 found helpful

Has Symptoms

Over Grooming/Hair Loss

Female indoor cat adopted 3+ yrs ago with hx of seizures. 6 months ago, developed scant hair loss, now significantly worse. Given 1 round of flea tx (lasts 3 months) and 2 months of prednisolone. Is 2 month in to tx. Still excessively grooming. Vomits when off prednisolone which seems to be related to hairballs. Changed hard food 6+ months ago. Also, I adopted a kitten 1.5 yrs ago which both cats diagnosed with feline leukemia shortly after. She is the only one with skin issue. Any suggestions or new tx to try?? I don’t think stress related, she will stand in a crowd of ppl for attention.

Dec. 17, 2020

Owner

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Dr. Linda S. MVB MRCVS

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10 Recommendations

I'm sorry to hear this. Fur loss can have many causes ranging from mites and fleas to stress, environmental allergies, hormonal disorders, bacterial skin infections or pain related grooming. It would be sensible to rule out an underlying issue with a swab and/or biopsy. If not done, I would also run a basic cloud test including a thyroid test. Flea allergy is often the culprit and it can be very difficult to control fleas in multi cat households. We must be sure to treat both cats recently with prescription strength flea prevention. At the same time, we must treat the home (hot wash bedding, an IGR flea spray, daily hoovering etc. Hopefully we get on top of this soon!

Dec. 17, 2020

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Shorthaired cat

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Three Years

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16 found helpful

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16 found helpful

Has Symptoms

Constant Grooming

My male cat has been chewing and licking himself since march. Causing him to have bald spots and losing hair on almost all of his stomach and inside of his legs, under his tail, and front legs. My current vet has tried all different meds for bladder infection, anxiety & stress, and fleas. Nothing works please help!!

Aug. 4, 2020

Owner

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Dr. Michele K. DVM

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16 Recommendations

Thank you for your question. Over grooming can be a complicated problem in cats, and may require different therapies. It does sound like your veterinarian has tried many medications, but without knowing what they were, I have a hard time knowing what didn't work. It would probably be best to follow up with your veterinarian and let them know that things aren't better, and see what the next step is. If they have not tried Gabapentin, that is one medication that can be successful if other causes have been ruled out. I hope that all goes well for him.

Aug. 4, 2020

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Hair Loss Average Cost

From 445 quotes ranging from $200 - $1,000

Average Cost

$400

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