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Should I be concerned that my cat is losing hair?

My cat Scabbers looks like he is losing hair. I noticed it a while back. It looks like it is growing back, but I recently...

Dr. Eric Barchas  |  Aug 17th 2007


My cat Scabbers looks like he is losing hair. I
noticed it a while back. It looks like it is growing
back, but I recently noticed balding on other parts of his
body. Should I be concerned or could this pass? I
have no money to take him to the vet–that is why
I’m asking. He’s not sick from what I can
tell. His behavior has not changed.

Sabrina
Los Angeles, CA

There are many syndromes that can cause cats or dogs to lose hair. Some, such as issues with over-grooming, are relatively benign and harmless. Others, like infestation with certain mites or ringworm, can be more serious and uncomfortable. Ringworm can even be spread to people. And sometimes, hair loss can be a symptom of serious diseases such as cancer, thyroid disease, or metabolic problems.

However, in my practice, allergies are by far the most common cause of hair loss in pets. I can comfortably say that, among my patients, allergies cause more problems with hair loss than all of the other causes combined.

In people, allergies cause sneezing and hay fever. In pets, they most often cause skin problems.

Before I go any further, let me point out that the best thing for Scabbers would be a trip to the vet. That is the only way to ensure that nothing serious is going on.

But, if he truly seems healthy, and hasn’t had changes to his appetite, thirst, or weight, then the most likely thing happening is allergies.

If you have allergies, or know someone who does, you know that allergies are very frustrating. And there are millions of plants, foods, pollens, spores, and insects out there that can cause them.

But for pets, especially in Los Angeles, one culprit stands above all others: fleas. Flea bites are incredibly irritating to sensitive pets. And you don’t have to see fleas for them to be causing problems. For many pets, one or two bites a month is enough to cause problems.

So, if you truly can’t take Scabbers to the vet, I recommend that you apply Advantage or Frontline to all of your pets. If you do it regularly for several months, you will minimize the impact of fleas.

Do not use cheaper lookalike or imitation products. They don’t work as well, and some are very dangerous to cats.

I can’t even begin to count the number of pets I know (including those who didn’t “have fleas”), whose skin problems went away after a few months of consistent flea control.

But, if Scabbers is still having problems after you have implemented this protocol, or if any other symptoms develop at any time, you will have only one choice left: go to the vet.