Have you noticed your cat scratching just a bit more often these days? If your cat is starting to lose their hair, there maybe an underlying health reason such as allergies or thyroid diseases. Find out here the most common reasons your cat might be losing hair, and how to treat and prevent more hair loss.
A shiny, full, luxurious coat is a great sign of a healthy cat. Likewise, if your cat begins losing hair in patches, clumps, or overall, it could be a sign of a greater health issue. The possible causes of cat hair loss, called alopecia, are many, and diagnosing the condition that underlies hair loss might take some time. You should work closely with your vet to identify the source of the problem.
Common causes of cat hair loss, or alopecia, can range from allergic reactions to hormone imbalances to an infestation of some pest or another. Although the different causes can be difficult to pinpoint, most are fairly easy to address and remedy.
Below are some of the most common reasons your cat might be losing hair and what can be done about it.
Cat Hair Loss Due to Allergies
Like humans, cats can suffer from both environmental and food-based allergies. Such allergies are a leading cause of feline alopecia and can present in a patchy loss of hair and itchy, inflamed skin.
Determining the exact source of an allergic reaction can be difficult. Your vet can run a series of skin tests to pinpoint the cause. You can also try removing certain things from your cat’s play area to see if that has any effect, or slowly change elements of your cat’s diet if you suspect the allergy may be foodborne.
In the case of environmental sources, your vet may prescribe topical or atopic allergy medications and treatments. If your cat is allergic to their food, you will need to change their diet over the course of a week so as not to upset their digestive system. Cats particularly prone to food allergies may do well with hypoallergenic cat foods.
Feline Hair Loss Due to Fleas
Cats who are particularly sensitive to fleas may develop hair loss during an infestation. It’s not the fleas themselves that cause hair loss, but their saliva. Flea-based alopecia is particularly evident as patchy hair loss on the cat’s hindquarters.
Rid your cat of fleas using a cycle of flea shampoos and treatments. You may also treat itching and hair loss with corticosteroids or antihistamines. Prevent future flea infestations by applying a regular monthly spot-on treatment.
Ringworm as a Cause of Feline Hair Loss
Another common cause of feline hair loss is a fungal infection known as ringworm. Ringworm, which is easily spread through contact with infected animals, causes the hair in adult cats to become brittle and break off in patches. Kittens exhibit reddish areas on the face, ears, and paw pads, sometimes accompanied by a white or gray crust.
Your vet can determine if a ringworm infection is present through a fungal skin culture. Those cats who test positive will be treated with antifungal shampoos, creams, sprays, or medications.
Thyroid Disease as a Cause of Cat Hair Loss
Cats can suffer from conditions of the thyroid gland that cause too little or too much thyroid hormone to be produced. Hyperthyroidism in cats can cause many problems, including hair loss. Hair can become very dull and brittle, thin, or may be easily pulled out while you’re petting or brushing your cat.
Again, a trip to the vet is the only reliable way to determine thyroid disease. Treatment for hyperthyroidism may include surgery or the use of radioactive iodine.
Psychogenic Dermatitis as a Cause of Hair Loss in Cats
Some cats may suffer from alopecia due to excessive grooming habits. This condition is known as psychogenic dermatitis, and your cat may have it if they lick to the point of hair loss.
Usually, excessive grooming is the result of stress or boredom. This condition is best treated through changes to your cat’s environment. If you can make your cat’s world more exciting, less stressful, or more interactive, you might see a positive effect.
Medications for behavior and anxiety modification are also available.
Steps To Take To Prevent Hair Loss In Your Cat
Brush their hair regularly. When you brush your cat's hair, the natural oils can be distributed throughout the coat, which will make it shiny and healthy!
Brush their teeth often! Brushing a cat's teeth can help prevent gum disease—and it can also help them keep their breath fresh!
Don't give your cat too much food at once! If you're worried about getting into a routine of giving your cat too much food at once, try portioning out what they'll eat over the course of a day instead of putting it down all at once. That way, they won't get too full to eat later on in the day when they're hungry again! Feed them high-quality food. If you're feeding your cat dry food, be sure to check the ingredients and compare them with other brands before purchasing. You want to look for foods that don't have too much filler or too many chemicals in them, just real meat! A healthy diet includes both dry and wet foods (like canned tuna or salmon).
Make sure your cat gets regular vet check-ups and vaccinations. This will help prevent illness from affecting their fur and skin, which can cause issues like dryness or patchiness in their coat.
Feed them treats with omega-3 fatty acids, like fish oil or tuna juice! These fatty acids are essential for keeping their skin and coat happy and healthy. Also, give them cat supplements that contain vitamin E or A. These vitamins help maintain healthy skin cells (which means less shedding).
Frequently Asked Questions
Should I be concerned if my cat is losing hair?
It depends on the severity of the hair loss and any other symptoms your cat may be experiencing. If the hair loss is mild and temporary, it may not be a cause for concern. However, if the hair loss is severe or accompanied by other symptoms such as itching, redness, or inflammation, it could be a sign of a medical condition, and you should consult your veterinarian. Common causes of hair loss in cats include allergies, parasitic infestations, and hormonal imbalances. Your veterinarian can determine the underlying cause and provide appropriate treatment.
Why is my cat getting bald spots?
There are several potential reasons why your cat may be developing bald spots. Some common causes include allergies, where cats can develop allergies to certain foods or environmental allergens such as pollen or dust, which can cause itching and hair loss. Parasitic infestations like fleas, ticks, and mites can also cause itching and hair loss, as well as secondary skin infections. Hormonal imbalances, such as an overactive or underactive thyroid gland, can also cause hair loss in cats. Stress or anxiety can also cause cats to over-groom themselves or pull out their hair. Skin infections like fungal, bacterial, or yeast infections can also cause hair loss, itching, and redness. Nutritional deficiencies can also cause hair loss. It's important to consult your veterinarian for a proper diagnosis and treatment plan. Your vet may conduct a skin scraping, blood test, or skin biopsy to determine the underlying cause of the bald spots. Once a diagnosis is made, your vet can provide appropriate treatment to help your cat regrow its hair.
How can I treat my cat's hair loss?
Treatment for your cat's hair loss will depend on the underlying cause. Identify and address the underlying cause: Your veterinarian will conduct a physical examination and may perform diagnostic tests such as skin scrapings, blood tests, or skin biopsies to determine the cause of the hair loss. Once the underlying cause is identified, your veterinarian will be able to provide appropriate treatment. Medications such as antibiotics, anti-parasitics, or anti-inflammatory drugs may be prescribed to treat underlying conditions such as infections, allergies, or hormonal imbalances. Your veterinarian may recommend using a specialized shampoo that can help soothe the skin and promote hair growth. If your cat has a nutritional deficiency, your veterinarian may recommend adding supplements to their diet. If stress or anxiety is causing hair loss, your veterinarian may recommend behavioral modification techniques to help your cat relax and reduce their grooming behavior.
Can cats recover from hair loss?
Cats can recover from hair loss, but the success of treatment depends on the underlying cause. Some causes of hair loss, such as allergies or parasitic infestations, can be treated, and your cat's hair will grow back. However, in some cases, hair loss may be permanent, such as in cases of scarring from severe skin infections or certain types of cancer. If a hormonal imbalance is the cause of hair loss, cats can recover as long as the underlying condition is treated.
What disease makes cats lose hair?
There are several diseases that can cause cats to lose hair. Some common ones include feline hyperthyroidism, which is a condition where the thyroid gland produces too much thyroid hormone, which can cause hair loss. Other diseases, such as ringworm, a type of fungal infection that affects the skin, also cause hair loss, itch, and redness. Cushing's disease, a hormonal disorder caused by a tumor on the adrenal gland, can also cause hair loss. Certain types of skin cancer, such as squamous cell carcinoma, can cause hair loss as well. In addition to these, skin allergies, flea infestations, mite infestations, stress, and poor nutrition can also cause hair loss in cats.
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This information is for informational purposes only and is not meant as a substitute for the professional advice of, or diagnosis or treatment by, your veterinarian with respect to your pet. It has, however, been verified by a licensed veterinarian for accuracy.