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.
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.
- Hair loss
- Red skin
- Bumps or blisters
- 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
- Abnormal behavior
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
- Allergic reactions
- Birth defect
- Hereditary conditions
- Nutritional deficiencies
- Hormonal imbalances
- Over grooming
- Autoimmune disorders
- Thyroid disorders
- Cancer or tumors
- Cancer treatments
- Some medications
- Poison or toxins
- Fleas, lice, or mites
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.
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:
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 most cases, completely 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.
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.
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.
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 Questions and Advice from Veterinary Professionals
Hi Dr. Turner,
We have a kitten named Lucky and he's about 16 weeks old. Over the past few weekss I've noticed that his hair is thinning in a few spots. It's above the eyes and below the ears. He doesn't scratch the area, there's zero redness nor is there any sign of irritation. Also, around his eyes and nose I notice brown hair (I believe it's called rusting) but he's otherwise a completely black cat. Lucky's hair has been to the vet for parasite treatment (roundworm). The first oral treatment didn't kill all the parasites so they gave him a topical. We'll find out soon if this finally killed them all. My question is, could these parasites have caused a nutrient deficiency? Also worth noting, for the past month or so since we've had him, I've made him a custom recipe of wet cat food mixed with white rice, in a 50/50 ratio. I did this because he was having diarrhea that I suspected was from too much protein (but it turned out to be from the parasites). Anyhow, I'm wondering if this food mix I prepared, being only 50% actual cat food, has caused a nutrient deficiency that could be a reason for the hair loss and "rusting". Since I noticed this hair loss and rusting, I've started him on a normal cat food diet (canned wet), and I no longer mix the cat food with rice. In summation, I know you can't formally diagnose the reason here, but am I right to suspect a nutrient deficiency (due to lingering parasite and/or the lack of protein in diet) as strong possible reason for his hair loss and rusting?
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My cat’s skin got lots of hair balls since two-three weeks ago and I saw two bald circular Points few days ago and didnt take it serious as I thought it’s might be because of taking some hair balls of him. Today I saw an almost wide bald part under his neck and so scared. Is any treatment that I can do?
my cat wants to get married is that why he is loosing hair
please answer me
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Hello, I have a 17 year old feline who is shedding a lot of fur but no bald patches yet , is this a sign of other health problems?
She also eats in small amounts but its as f she has never been fed at all but she never finishes a meal either , just cries for another meal.
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the following events of last week have made my cat 7 months old sick and now he is very lethargic and not eating.
1 he went out in the porch and an fought with another cat leaving him some injuries of scratches and swelling in the front leg then his vet gave him and injection and brufen twice daily.
2 his food was changed on altenate days he vomited out so now we are trying the old type of food but he is not interested.
note that one scratch at fore head is not curing.
he is taking water and milk but not in sufficient quantities however he is not taking he cat food or anything else.
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We have two 12 yr old 100% inside cats, both very healthy and active with no visible aging signs. They dine on CD can food because the male has the propensity to get blocked. They both eat the same food because we cannot feed separately. The female has been losing back fur for several months now and it is a patch about 4" x 3" from the base of her tail to the middle of her back, We do not see extensive licking of the area, but she has always manufactured a lot of fur balls. Even though they stay inside, they still get flea treatments. Could the CD food be adversely affecting the female ? She is high strung and a cat carrier is very traumatic for her, so we try not to make visits to our vet unless unavoidable.
There are a few reasons for a cat to loose a patch of hair, these include stress, behavioural problems, infections, allergies, parasites, hormonal imbalance and contact irritants. Given the high production of furballs it is possible that the hairloss is due to over grooming of the area. From an allergy point of view, the c/d food may be causing an allergy problem in the female, but not the male. If the female is immunosuppressed it is possible that she has parasitic condition called demodicosis and if the male has a stronger immune system he won’t show signs of the parasite; regular flea treatment product wouldn’t prevent Demodex from affecting your cat, but you would see crusting of skin and other areas of the body affected. Other external parasites would cause intense itching. Bacterial and fungal infections would show other clinical signs and can probably be discounted. The causes that are left are behavioural problems, allergies or hormonal imbalances; you would need to visit your Veterinarian to determine which one is specifically affecting your female; skin scraping and blood tests would be the first step in determining a cause. A cheaper way to test for behavioural problems (although it takes some time) is to put an Elizabethan collar on your cat to prevent excessive licking of the area to determine if the hair is falling out or being pulled (licked) out, if the hair starts to grow, it is a starting point in determining the underlying cause. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM
Hi i have 2 white twin female 1 year old cats they are always leaving alot of furr around the house but isnt patches is just like old hair but is alot and consistent cleaning im sure they are not sick they are inside cats never been outside . I need some help please
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