Outside of normal shedding periods, our cat should not lose hair, much less show bald spots or alopecic areas. Therefore, if we detect a lack of hair, we are facing a health problem.
The causes of hair loss are numerous and have both physical and psychological origin. Let’s see in detail what are the most common causes of hair loss in a pussycat. Ready ?
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Common causes of hair loss in cats
A cat can lose hair both due to physical causes and psychological disorders . Thus, we can find alopecic areas of greater or lesser extent in any part of the body.
In addition, it is not surprising that these regions end up showing damaged skin, with wounds, thickening or hyperpigmentation, that is, darkening, especially if we allow the problem to become chronic.
Therefore, if we discover that our cat is losing its hair, we must go to the vet. Different parasites, such as fungi, mites or fleas, in addition to psychological problems , can be behind this pathological hair loss.
When is hair loss a concern?
Outside of shedding, in which the cat will lose more hair, you should always consult with the vet. It is important to get a diagnosis and treat. Not only to prevent lesions from progressing, but because some causes of alopecia are contagious . Treating in time we reduce the risk of contagion, which can even affect people.
Ringworm or dermatophytosis
Ringworm is one of the most feared diseases associated with cats. It is caused by a fungus, usually Microsporum canis , that feeds on keratin, a protein that forms the outermost layers of the skin. Dogs, rabbits, guinea pigs, and even humans can get it.
It is common in young cats, malnourished or sick adults with weakened or immature immune systems. The clinical picture is variable and depends on the characteristics of the fungus and the cat. In some there are no symptoms, while others manifest inflammation and a typical lesion consisting of round alopecia areas and scaling.
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There may be itching. Alopecia also presents in an irregular and more extensive pattern. Other symptoms are granulomas, spherical masses caused by the immune system, papules or pimples. The diagnosis can be reached using Wood’s lamp or by culture. It is treated with oral or topical antifungals.
Flea Bite Allergic Dermatitis or DAPP
The DAPP occurs when the cat reacts to components flea saliva . It usually appears for the first time in cats aged three to six years. Symptoms are usually exacerbated in the warmer times of the year when the population of these parasites is highest. Symptoms are often increasingly severe.
The typical involvement is the lumbosacral area, that is, the area at the end of the loin, and the neck, although it can extend to the perineum, abdomen or both sides. This distribution is what helps to guide the diagnosis, since it is not always possible to locate the fleas or their remains.
- How to tell if a cat has fleas
The cat injures its skin by scratching, causing redness, alopecia, wounds, thickening and darkening, etc. The treatment involves avoiding the presence of fleas as much as possible.
It is an allergic reaction which appears due to contact with pollens, dust, mold, etc . It is more common in cats under three years of age. The symptoms are variable. We can find alopecia, erosions and, above all, itching.
Respiratory symptoms may also appear, such as coughing, sneezing or breath sounds, and conjunctivitis. Atopy can be diagnosed by excluding other pathologies . It is treated with corticosteroids, drugs to control itching or immunomodulators that affect the immune system.
The triggering allergen can also be sought to develop immunotherapy, which consists of making a vaccine to gradually desensitize the cat to the component that causes the reaction. Studies are lacking in cats.
This scabies is caused by a mite called Notoedres cati . It normally affects the head, but can be seen in other locations such as the front legs or the perineal area. It is characterized by intense itching and lesions on the skin, which is thickened, hairless, and crusted.
It is diagnosed according to the symptoms and observing the mite under a microscope, in the material of a skin scraping. It is a contagious disease that could be transmitted to people, although in a mild way. It is treated with acaricides.
Malassezia is a yeast that normally lives on the skin and mucous membranes of cats . When an imbalance occurs in these, such as dermatitis or a skin problem, malassezia can proliferate excessively, especially in areas of folds.
This increase in its population causes more or less itching and lesions of greater or lesser severity, which often lead to alopecia, scaling and redness. There may be a bad odor and, without treatment, the skin eventually thickens and darkens.
By taking a sample, this parasite can be discovered under the microscope. The diagnosis is confirmed if their number is very high and there is a response to treatment. This may consist of baths, ointments, or oral antifungals.
Feline psychogenic alopecia
In this case, the hair loss is caused by the cat itself, which pulls it off in an excess of self-grooming and licking . The skin is appreciated, in principle, healthy. Alopecia occurs in any part of the body that the cat reaches with its mouth.
It is mostly seen on the sides, on the hind limbs, or in the perineal region. The cause of the cat adopting this behavior is stress or anxiety . This condition can be triggered by many different causes, such as changes in your home or family. For example, a move or the arrival of a new member.
As in any other psychological cause, to diagnose it before it is necessary to rule out a physical origin. It is treated by modifying the vital circumstances that have triggered the stress and you can even resort to drugs with a calming effect.
Telogen effluvium is another of the processes that are related to stress. When this lasts or is very intense, it can interrupt the normal cycle of the hair . After overcoming this period, what happens is that the formation of the new hair is restarted, at the same time that all the old one is suddenly eliminated.
This happens between one and three months after the event that triggered the stress. The consequence is a more or less extensive alopecia. The diagnosis is usually reached by ruling out or after examining the cat’s medical history. No need to prescribe any treatment.
Feline idiopathic symmetric alopecia
A cat with this type of alopecia loses hair symmetrically and in the abdominal area , which includes armpits, belly, perineum and inside of the hind legs. The skin looks healthy and the hairs are not broken, contrary to what happens in psychogenic alopecia.
It is suspected that the origin of this alopecia lies in an endocrine alteration. Many of the affected cats can experience improvement with the administration of hormones.
How to prevent my cat from shedding its hair?
Although it all depends on the pathology that is causing excessive hair loss, at general levels these tips can help you prevent hair loss.
- Regular deworming adapted to the living conditions and characteristics of the cat.
- Early treatment of any skin disorder that we discover.
- Environmental enrichment, which consists of providing the cat with an environment in which it can develop its nature, with space to climb, places to hide, exercise, play, etc. And spend time with it.
- Stress management, in addition to an enriched environment, implies offering a safe, quiet and comfortable environment. If we have doubts, we should consult with experts in feline behavior or ethologists.
- Of course, a quality diet and regular brushing contribute to capillary health and are factors to always take into account.
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