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Posted on 01-31-2014

Sometimes an owner may notice that their cat is going bald. It typically appears along their sides and belly, and can be almost bare skin. It can be difficult to actually catch your cat licking or chewing at themselves since cats are notoriously private pets. If you are seeing the hairloss it is important to figure out why.

The first thing to rule out is whether your cat has been exposed to fleas. If live fleas or flea dirt is found on your cat, then appropriate flea control/prevention should be pursued. If no fleas or dirt are seen, you still shouldn’t rule out the possibility of fleas. Cats are very efficient groomers and can lick away all traces of fleas. If the hair loss has specific patterning, such as the lower back and /or scabbing around the neck, this is very typically a flea allergy. You should still pursue flea control and prevention.

After ruling out a flea issue you should schedule an exam with your veterinarian to rule out other parasites. For Example; Demodex, Cheyletiella, Intestinal parasites or ear mites can cause itching and licking. Our veterinarians at Eagle Animal Hospital can check for these things by doing a skin scrape, fecal flotation test and ear cytology. They can also culture the skin for ringworm. If these tests are inconclusive you may also choose to pursue a skin biopsy. The absence of abnormalities in the biopsy can indicate that the barbering is psychogenic (behavioral). The detection of an allergy warrants further investigation to determine whether it is an insect related, food or airborne allergy.

In order to rule out a food allergy, a food elimination diet trial is needed. This can be started by feeding your cat a diet that it cannot be allergic to such as a hydrolyzed protein diet or a novel protein diet .This trial can take 6-12 weeks to see results.

If medical reasons for your cats barbering have been ruled out the next step is to consider that it is psychogenic. This means that there is nothing wrong with the skin itself and the cause is behavioral (possible stress induced). The best approach to handling this condition is to provide environmental enrichment. Offer your cat new toys, more playtimes and less stress. Try feeding them in a different location or offer their meals in a new way. Try decreasing the anxiety and stress in their environment. There are several prescription medications also available to help with overly anxious and compulsive cats. The veterinarians and staff of Eagle Animal Hospital are always available to help you and your cat work through these bad hair days!

If you have any questions about barbering please call us at 610-458-8789.  We serve Chester Springs, Downingtown, Exton, Glenmoore and the surrounding area.

Written by

Keri LinsenBigler  CVT

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