Cat Hair Loss Due to Excessive Grooming

by Wendy

Explanations for Hair Loss from Excessive Cat Grooming (photo source: Dan Phiffer)

Explanations for Hair Loss from Excessive Cat Grooming (photo source: Dan Phiffer)

My cat doesn't have fleas or any skin irritation. She is suddenly losing hair all over. No changes have been made, ie: new pets, diet.

She has always been an obsessive groomer. She's 2 1/2.

What should I do to stop the hair loss?

Cat Hair Loss Due to Excessive Grooming Suggestion from our Vet

Dear Wendy,

Feline Hair loss associated with excessive grooming is not uncommon in cats. Some individuals are eventually diagnosed with “psychogenic alopecia” (in other words, a behavioral problem) but a study of 21 cats that had been presumptively diagnosed with this condition revealed that the majority did have an underlying dermatological condition. To quote the study’s findings:

Medical causes of pruritus (itchiness) were identified in 16 (76%) cats. Only 2 (10%) cats were found to have only psychogenic alopecia, and an additional 3 (14%) cats had a combination of psychogenic alopecia and a medical cause of pruritus. An adverse food reaction was diagnosed in 12 (57%) cats and was suspected in an additional 2. All cats with histologic evidence of inflammation in skin biopsy specimens were determined to have a medical condition, but of 6 cats without histologic abnormalities, 4 had an adverse food reaction, atopy (environmental allergy), or a combination of the 2, and only 2 had psychogenic alopecia.

To determine the cause of your cat’s hair loss and excessive grooming, a veterinarian should perform a complete behavioral and dermatologic examination and then run a cytologic examination of skin scrapings and a fungal culture. If necessary, the vet would then evaluate her response to trial treatment with a broad-spectrum parasiticide like (Revolution), run a food trial with an exclusion diet, assess her for environmental allergies and hormonal disorders, and/or send off skin biopsy specimens for histopathology.

Good luck,

Jennifer Coates, DVM

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