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Cat losing hair.

Species: Cat
Breed: domestic shorthair
Age: 8-11 years
I have 4 cats and they are all indoors. I realize that cats can get fleas even when they are not exposed to the outdoors. And if her problem ends up being fles, I'm sorry to have wasted your time...but in case it's not.... Minnie has pulled out all her hair around her rear end, and the first 2-3 inches of her tail as well as her underbelly and some off her "pants" I have checked her for fleas and do not see any. She does NOT have any flea dirt. I have had cats for 30 years and my parents and I were breeders for persians. I am very familiar with what flea dirt looks like. Minnie has had it before as well.
Minnie has small raised bumps that have been in the same area for a couple of months. I have used flea treatment, but it hasn't gotten any better. None of my other cats have done this. Initially I thought it may have been stress induced because of a change in our houshold, but things have resumed normal for a month now and I've seen no improvement.
I am fairly certain she has ear mites which I know can be treated with mineral oil and cotton swabbed out (gently). Could it be possible that when she scratches her ears if there are mites they could be biting other areas after she scratches? It seems improbable, but I had to ask.
Finally if it is an allergy, what if any OTC meds can I give her. She weights 6 lbs. What doseage would you recomend, if you feel it is an allergy.
Thank you for your time and patience. I appreciate it and I would rather hear you say "it's fleas" for $8.00 than "it's fleas" for $50.00 from our local I hope you have a happy holiday.
Thanks again,

Online vet, Dr. Marie

Dr. Marie replied:

Hi Kelly and thanks for your question!

It's tough to know what to say here. I'll give you my thoughts on what you have written.

Is any of the hair loss above the base of her tail, like in this area:

flea allergy

If so, then this does make a flea problem higher on my list of possibilities. Normally, if I am at all suspicious that there is a flea problem then I will try a flea treatment, like you did, and see if there is an improvement. Did you use a prescription product or an over the counter one? If it was an OTC then they don't tend to be very effective. Most of the time the vet will be willing to dispense a prescription flea product as long as you have been in within the last year. It may be worthwhile to try this and see if there is improvement. If there is, then in order to completely clear things up you'd need to treat all cats (and any dogs) in the house for at least 3 months in a row. (For more information on fleas, see my article about fleas.

There are other things that can cause hair loss like this though. Sometimes we can see hair loss, especially on the back legs and belly because of overgrooming. Overgrooming is a tough one to figure out. We tell people that cats who do this do it because of "stress", but the source of stress can be super hard to figure out. For some cats, it is obvious that they are stressed. But for others "stress" can be something that we wouldn't perceive as stress. Some cats exhibit stress symptoms just because there are one or more cats in the house. If this is a case of overgrooming then sometimes an anti-anxiety medication such as amitriptylline can make a difference. Or, installing a Feliway plugin may help. Here is some more information on Feliway.

In some areas, cats that have balding on the stomach and back legs can have a parasite called demodex gattoi. However, usually if this is the case then the other cats would be affected as well.

An allergy is also a possibility. It is often really hard to know what a cat is allergic to. While you will read stuff online about using over the counter antihistamines in cats, my experience is that these really don't work at all. If this were my case and I was suspecting allergy I may try a steroid injection and see if this improves things. I would also consider a prescription hypoallergenic food as well.

It's also possible that she has a skin infection, especially if you are seeing some red bumps. If this is the case then oral antibiotics are going to be required. This seems less likely to me though.

It's unusual that she has problems with her ears as well. Ear mites are not that common on adult cats. And if she had mites, you would probably find that the other cats had mites as well. I'm suspicious that she could have an ear infection. Unfortunately if this is the case then there is once again no over the counter medicine that can help. Cats with allergies are very prone to ear infections.

There are some autoimmune conditions that can cause ear and skin problems, such as pemphigus, but these are not common.

Unfortunately it does sound like a vet visit is going to be necessary here. If I had to bet I would suspect that there is some mild allergy here. If this is the case then a steroid shot or some steroid tablets can make a huge difference. But your vet will be able to help you determine if there are fleas, infection, an autoimmune condition or anything else.

Sorry that I can't solve the problem for you! I hope I have helped somewhat though.

Dr. Marie.

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Disclaimer: Although Dr. Marie is a qualified veterinarian, the information found on this site is not meant to replace the advice of your own veterinarian. and Dr. Marie do not accept any responsibility for any loss, damage, injury, death, or disease which may arise from reliance on information contained on this site. Do not use information found on this site for diagnosing or treating your pet. Anything you read here is for information only.

Customer reply:

Thank you for your advise. It looks like a visit to the vet is in order. She does have hair loss in the area you highlighted, but the majority of her hair loss is actually on her tail. I measured 4 inches. The undercoat is there still but all the "fluffy" fur is gone. She doesn't like for any of the places to be touched. So evidently there is some pain involved or some type of discomfort. Whether it is fleas or something else she is grooming excessivly from itching. The raised bumps have been in the same place for weeks. She has no hair loss on the back of her neck. It's strange. Well anyway thank you for yout time. I will schedule an appointment for her this week. She will not be a happy If you have any further suggestions as to what this might be, I welcome them. I hope you have a safe and prosperous New Year.

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Dr. MarieDr. Marie is a veterinarian who practices in a busy animal hospital in Ottawa, Ontario. She created Ask A Vet Question as a resource for good, accurate veterinary advice online. Dr. Marie treats dogs, cats, hamsters, guinea pigs, and rats. She has been a vet since 1999.

Is an online vet visit just as good as a trip to your veterinarian? No! But, many times, asking an online veterinarian a question can help save you money. While Dr. Marie can't officially diagnose your pet or prescribe medications, she can often advise you on whether a vet visit is necessary. You can also ask Dr. Marie for a second opinion on your pet's condition.