What does hair loss in cats signify?

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By Tess Thompson



The condition of skin and coat is an important indicator of your pet cat’s general health. Many common cat and dog skin problems are similar to human skin afflictions. Cat dandruff is the most discussed cat skin disorders. But feline hair loss seems to be the most prevalent reason behind frequent visits to the veterinarian. Alopecia, the medical term for hair loss, in cats is also a symptom that is common to numerous cat skin disorders and diseases.

At an overall level, the frequency of skin diseases like dermatitis (inflammation of the skin) is lower in cats as compared to dogs. Irrespective of how often it happens, the fact of the matter is that once the skin problems starts, it is equally uncomfortable for cats and dogs alike. Excessive hair loss is actually a symptom of some deeper disorder that the pet is probably suffering from.

There are many conditions that can cause the symptom of hair loss. The illness that is troubling your cat can be identified only in conjunction with other symptoms. One should be aware of the possible issues that might actually be behind the unreasonable hair loss.

  1. Inadequate functioning of the immune system - Sometimes symptoms like chronic skin infections, abscesses and excessive hair loss imply that the immune system is not functioning adequately. Hair loss can also be caused by fungal infections, like ringworm, since the infection weakens hair shafts.
  2. Allergic reaction to certain allergens – For cats and dogs, the skin is the first organ that reacts to an allergen. The issue, like in humans, is that it is extremely difficult to hone into the cause of the allergy. The process of identifying the allergen is even more difficult in pets since one cannot really keep a log of all that the pet has come in contact with. Food items and environment and chemical substances are only few of the common allergens that give rise to allergic reactions in cats. Allergies induce itching and can lead to broken skin, lesions and hair loss. Cats have also been known to develop feline acne due to the use of a simple plastic bowl.
  3. Insect bites and hot spots – Cats are less prone to hot spots than dogs. Some experts state that hot spots occur due to stress. There is also a body of researchers that believe that hot spots actually occur due to certain insect bites. When the pet scratches the insect bite, the area becomes wet with serum and eventually leads to painful hot spots.
  4. Fleas – The presence of fleas in the fur can cause your cat to be extremely irritable. Even a single blood sucking flea has the capacity to cause dermatitis and intense itching throughout the body. The webs between toes are the most affected areas. Hair loss actually occurs in such cases when the presence of fleas leads to yeast or bacterial infection.
  5. Mange – Another skin disease that can cause excessive hair fall is mange. It is a persistent condition that is also contagious. Demodectic mange is genetic in nature, and Sarcoptic mange is contagious and causes intense itching. Cheyletiella mites attach themselves to the hair shafts and cause irritation. The infested cats scratch and lose hair.

Significant hair loss is actually an important symptom that can ultimately lead to proper diagnosis of the underlying disease. If you consider hair loss as a significant and pertinent indication, timely intervention can help in early detection.

References:
http://www.thepetcenter.com/exa/hotspots.html
http://www.thepetcenter.com/gen/itch.html

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