Alopecia in Cats: Symptoms and Treatment
Alopecia is the medical term used to describe hair loss on a cat. While this can be distressing for the pet owner, alopecia is a common problem among cats and it can be caused by a variety of factors, some more serious than others.
While alopecia can occur in any age or breed of cat, it typically affects older cats and breeds like Siamese, Burmese, and Abyssinian more so than others.
Signs of Alopecia in Cats
The loss of hair on certain parts of the cat’s body is the most common sign of alopecia, but in some cases, the hair loss can be accompanied by skin redness and inflammation, bumps, and/or scabs. The most common areas affected include the genital areas, the inside of the legs, the perineum, and the lower part of the cat’s abdomen.
Causes of Hair Loss in Cats
A cat can start losing her hair for a number of reasons. For instance, the cat may be suffering from a nervous disorder that results in her over-grooming herself. Or, she may have a skin disease like dermatophilosis. Other contributing factors can include:
- Allergic skin reactions (fleas)
- Fungal infection (ringworm)
- Hereditary disorder
- Hormonal imbalances (hyperthyroidism)
Due to the range of factors that can contribute to alopecia, a cat needs to be examined by a veterinarian so she can be diagnosed and treated according to the appropriate cause.
How Is the Cause of Alopecia Diagnosed?
The veterinarian will thoroughly examine the cat by giving her a complete physical examination, the results of which will be cross examined with the results of a litany of tests, including a complete blood panel, urinalysis, fecal examination, and imaging tests like x-ray or ultrasound, if required. If the veterinarian believes the hair loss is being caused by a skin-related issue, then a skin biopsy will be performed.
Treatment Options for Hair Loss in Cats
Treatment for the cat’s hair loss is determined by the veterinarian’s diagnosis. For instance, if the alopecia is being caused by a hormone imbalance and she hasn’t been spayed yet, then the vet will recommend spaying. Or, if she has an overactive thyroid, then the gland may need to be surgically removed and her hormones regulated through the use of a thyroid hormone replacement medication, like liothyronine.
If the hair loss is caused by over-grooming, then an Elizabethan collar and behavior modification will usually help. Likewise, if the cause is a fungal infection, an antifungal like fluconazole, itraconazole, or ketoconazole will be prescribed.
Can Alopecia Be Prevented?
There is no single way to prevent alopecia from occurring in a cat. But, there are some things you can do to help limit your cat’s risk.
You can start by closely examining your cat’s fur and skin once a week while you’re sitting with her. If you see signs of hair loss or you notice her biting or pulling her hair, then use a very fine-toothed comb and comb her in the area that is bothering her to see if she has fleas or some other condition. If you don’t find anything and she continues to behave this way, then you should schedule an appointment to take her to the veterinarian for a check-up.
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Author: Giano Panzarella