October 2012 Issue

Is it Normal Shedding or Hair Loss?

A disease, compulsive disorder and even the stress of a veterinary visit can cause bald spots.

With the exception of hairless breeds such as the Sphynx, cats are known for their furry pelts, so if a cat starts to lose his coat, it’s justifiably cause for concern. How can you distinguish between normal shedding and abnormal hair loss? It’s easy: Shedding doesn’t cause bald spots. If the skin is visible, best to schedule a veterinarian exam or ask for a referral to a dermatologist. Hair loss, or alopecia, takes two main forms, says dermatologist William H. Miller, VMD, Medical Director of the Companion Animal Hospital at Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine: “The hairs fall out spontaneously.” Though it’s a rare occurrence, spontaneous hair loss can be related to stress, endocrine diseases such as Cushing’s disease (an overproduction of cortisol by the adrenal glands), hyperthyroidism (excess production of the thyroid hormones), and some forms of cancer, including lymphoma, liver or pancreatic cancer.

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