Hair loss (alopecia) is a common problem for cats and can include full or partial loss that appears in varied or symmetrical patterns in the feline's coat. Although treatment options do exist, they are limited and costly, but there are fortunately a few preventative methods pet owners can try to stop their cats from suffering the symptoms of alopecia.
Another sign of feline alopecia aside from the obvious hair loss is that the skin surrounding the area of hair loss appears to have redness, bumps, scabs, or skin loss, signs that your cat could be suffering from some form of common skin disease or even dermatophilosis.
A variety of factors can contribute to feline alopecia making the diagnosis of alopecia and treatment of this disorder all the more difficult.
Causes and Diagnosis of Feline Hair Loss
While there are a variety of factors that could cause a cat to start losing its hair, almost all older cats that are diagnosed experience some form of alopecia, but nervous disorders like over-grooming can also cause cats to lose their hair.
Hormonal imbalances, such as hyperthyroidism or increased levels of steroids in the body, may lead to hair loss, as will skin allergies or parasites that bring about mange and fungal issues like ringworm. Additionally, cats can actually become allergic to fleas to the extent that they scratch hard enough to irritate the skin or bite and pull the hair out.
A complete blood count (CBC) is often done to determine if there are hormonal or thyroid imbalances causing the alopecia; various imaging tools, such as X-rays, are also used to rule out signs of cancer or abnormalities in the adrenal glands. Meanwhile, if the veterinarian believes hair loss is due to a skin issue, a skin biopsy or culture may be done.
Treatment and Prevention of Alopecia in Cats
If the alopecia is due to a skin disorder like skin erosions, thyroid imbalance, or other hormonal imbalances, there are medications and topical treatments available, and if hair loss is due to a behavioral issue, modification treatment can be taught to lessen the problem, but overall, treatment options are fairly limited.
Other than administering the appropriate medication, you should observe the cat's condition to make sure it does not become worse. As a result, if no treatment option is available, having a cat with alopecia becomes more a task of mitigating the suffering of the animal rather than growing the hair back to a full coat.
There are no surefire methods to prevent hair loss in cats, but if you observe your cat biting and pulling at his hair, a good practice would be to do a thorough examination of the skin and hair at least once a week. Use a fine-tooth comb and section the hair so you can examine individual sections, and if you've noticed the cat scratching one area more than another, pay particular attention to that area.
Ask your veterinarian to recommend a safe topical treatment to provide relief from pain and itching, because if you can break this cycle of scratching and biting, your cat has a better chance of healing.