Pet columnist Rene Knapp on bald pets.
It seemed as if it was overnight that my dog Daisy and two of my cats, Dreamer and Skye, started losing hair. All three were chewing and scratching at themselves constantly, and any part of their body they could reach ended up pretty much hairless.
We knew it was not an allergic reaction to food because we had not changed the diets for either our feline or canine companions, nor were there any environmental changes in our home or product use. Daisy’s body was a bright pink with hot spots all over her stomach and inner thighs, while the cats just had chunks of hair missing all over their body.
And so began our journey to find out the cause of our pets’ ailments. Were they simply overgrooming or was there another answer?
Sporadic baldness in cats and dogs can be physical or emotional. For many, the answer may lie in allergies, parasites or even an infection of some type. If all of these tests come out negative, then there is the challenging question of why this is happening. Careful examination and questioning is necessary in order to determine if the hair is spontaneously falling out or if the animal is yanking it out on their own. Before you can figure out the treatment, you have to begin the painful process of figuring out the cause.
For Daisy, the answer was easy. Dogo Argentinos are all white and have a tendency, as they become older, to develop an allergy to themselves. It is a type of immune deficiency that can be treated by medications. Sometimes it takes months for the dog to get better, and there is no guarantee it won’t come back, but after quite a few false starts, Daisy started to improve. Today, she has all of her hair back and no ugly red splotches all over her skin.
The cats were harder to confirm, even though I knew it was all going to stem down to some type of stress-related problem. But the normal course of tests would go something like this: Is there any chance there could be fleas or parasites as the cause of the condition? Cats are commonly allergic to fleas. The allergies occur when fleas bite a cat’s skin before drawing blood. If fleas or flea dirt is found on the cat, the first thing to do would be to treat the cat with Revolution or Frontline to rid the cat of its fleas and help stop the itching with a steroid shot.
If there are no fleas, the next step would be food allergies. The tests are expensive and usually nonconclusive.
The next step is allergies to dust or pollen, just like people. Should this be the case, there are shots available, just like humans.
Fungus is the worst offender of hair loss. Ringworm causes shudders in all petowners because it takes so long to get rid of and is very contagious. Since none of our other animals were affected by Dreamer or Skye, we ruled out fungus.
And so it comes down to stress. In our multicat house, stress can be a common factor. Grooming is a comfort and is often used as a method of relaxation. In a time of stress, the cat can turn to excessive grooming to ease anxiety. Dreamer was craving more attention and Skye was being cowed by the more aggressive cats in the household. With the help of steroid shots to stop the itching and Mega-Tek to help with the regrowth of the hair, both cats started to improve. We are also making a conscious effort to change their environment to eliminate the stress that causes the overgrooming.
Of course sometimes the only answer is to rehome the cat into a less-stressful environment. While we would hate that to be the answer, we will do what is best for both cats.
Contact Rene Knapp at firstname.lastname@example.org.