Bald Spots on Cats – Causes, Symptoms and Treatment


Flea allergy dermatitis   Abscess   Ringworm   Psychogenic alopecia   Food allergy   Milinary dermatitis   Feline acne   Folliculitis   Squamous cell carcinoma   Hyperthyroidism   Eosinophilic granuloma complex   Topical medications   Vaccinations   When are bald spots normal?

bald spot on cat

Bald spots are a common occurrence in cats, they can affect many parts of the body and for any number of reasons.

Hair loss can be in one small area, such as an abscess, multiple lesions (ringworm), or large patches of hair loss with conditions such as psychogenic alopecia, hyperthyroidism and Cushing’s syndrome. Bald spots may be well defined, or areas of patchy hair.

Flea allergy dermatitis

This is an extremely common condition in which your cat becomes hypersensitive to the saliva of the flea. A localised reaction occurs, including lumps and bumps (particularly around the neck and on the back, close to the tail), and thinning to bald patches of fur.

Treatment:

Flea treatment to kill the fleas on your cat. steroids can be given to help control the pruritis and allow your cat to heal. If a skin infection has developed antibiotics will be prescribed.

Abscess

Usually caused by a bite wound which becomes infected. The body walls off the area, which forms a localised area of pus. A warm lump will be felt just under the skin, hair loss may occur over the affected area, if the abscess ruptures, a foul-smelling discharge will ooze out.

Treatment involves draining and cleaning the abscess, along with a course of antibiotics.

Ringworm 

A highly contagious fungal infection characterised by the presence of circular lesions on the skin.

Treatment involves medicated shampoos/dips and medication to inhibit the growth of the fungus.

Psychogenic alopecia

This is a behavioural disorder in which your cat over-grooms as a way to relieve stress.  Your cat licks and bites the fur beyond what is considered “normal” grooming, which can result in areas of bald or thinning hair.

Treatment – Finding and addressing the cause, along with keeping your cat’s routine the same, and providing him with plenty of attention. Anti-anxiety or antidepressants may be recommended in severe cases.

Food allergy 

Hair thinning or loss due to food allergies are typically seen around the face, and neck. Non-seasonal itching and inflammation can occur. Treatment involves switching your cat over to a  “low allergenic” diet. In some cases, your cat may develop allergies to the new food.

Miliary dermatitis 

This condition is characterised by the presence of red, crusty lesions and hair loss. It is a disease complex with many causes including allergies, infection, parasites, drug hypersensitivity and hormonal disorders.

Treatment – Finding and eliminating the cause where possible, along with corticosteroids to relieve inflammation and antibiotics if the infection is present.

Feline acne

Some cats can develop blackheads on the chin which become inflamed and infected (folliculitis). The hair becomes thin/sparse and the area can look quite reddened and sore. There are a number of causes of feline acne, including poor grooming habits, using plastic food bowls, hormones.

Treatment – Keeping the area clean and switching to glass or ceramic bowls are the usual treatment. Glucocorticoids may be necessary to reduce inflammation.

Folliculitis 

This condition occurs when the hair follicle becomes inflamed and infected. It is characterised by papules and hair loss. Feline acne often results in folliculitis as the blocked pores become inflamed and infected.

Treatment – Finding and treating the underlying cause, steroids may be given to reduce inflammation and itching, antibiotics may be given to treat bacterial infections.

Squamous cell carcinoma

This is a type of skin cancer which is often caused by excessive exposure to the sun. Tumours can occur on any part of the body, but the head is the most common area. White cats or cats with white patches are particularly vulnerable to developing SCC. Symptoms include balding of the affected area and lesions which do not heal.

Topical medications

Certain topical medications such as those used to treat fleas can cause hair loss in cats. If this occurs, it is advised you use another form of medication in the future. If the area of hair loss becomes inflamed or your cat experiences other symptoms, please seek veterinary care.

Treatment includes washing the product from your cat, antiseptics to treat the wound and if necessary antibiotics.

Vaccine reaction

From time to time, some cats can develop a bald spot where they have had a vaccination. The hair grows back over time. Keep an eye on the area and check for a lump under the skin. If it grows in size or is still there after 4-8 weeks, seek veterinary attention.

Treatment – Usually no treatment is required. Hair will grow back in time.

Hyperthyroidism

This is caused by a benign tumour of the thyroid gland. Typical symptoms include weight loss, a rough appearance to the fur, increased appetite, fast heart rate and bald patches/hair loss. This condition can be treated either with radioactive iodine, which destroys the tumour or surgery.

Cushing’s syndrome

Caused by an excess of cortisol, either due to medication or a tumour of the adrenal or pituitary glands.

Treatment – Surgical removal of the adrenal gland if a tumour is responsible or gradual withdrawal of medications.

Eosinophilic granuloma complex

This is a group of skin lesions affecting different parts of the body. Due to the infiltration of cells known as eosinophils, which are white blood cells which usually attack parasites. The condition is believed to be caused by allergic reactions (for example flea bites), food hypersensitivity or inhalant allergies. Different parts of the body can be affected. Rodent ulcers are one form which is characterised by a lesion found usually on the upper lip (although the lower lip can also be affected), the area becomes red, swollen and hair loss occurs. Other forms can result in bald lesions on the body and legs. Finding and eliminating the allergen if possible, along with steroids to reduce inflammation, and in severe cases, immunosuppressive drugs. Surgical excision may be necessary if lesions do not heal.

When are bald spots normal?

A recent search term caught my eye, with a visitor looking up information on a bald spot on their cat’s belly. Now, we already know there are a number of causes of bald spots, but it should also be mentioned that cats do have bald spots on certain parts of their body. This includes:

Anus – Obviously it makes sense for this part of the body to be without fur so the area doesn’t become clogged with feces.

Nipples – Cats have eight nipples in two rows of four. Both male and female cats have nipples.

Belly button – On most cats, the belly button is well hidden by the surrounding fur, but on some cats, particularly darker ones, the belly button can be seen as a small, round area with no fur, on either side of the belly button are the nipples as in the image below.

bald spots on cat belly

Other parts of the body have fur, but it is less dense. Areas include in front of the ears, the inside of the ears and the belly, particularly towards the hind legs as well as the inner hind legs. It should be noted that these areas are also commonly affected by certain conditions such as allergies, dermatitis and overgrooming, as they are easier to reach when an itchy cat is grooming. Below is an image of a cat with severe contact dermatitis, which presented with areas of hair loss on the hind legs and redness.

contact dermatitis in cats