This week’s word is alopecia.
noun al·o·pe·cia\ˌal-ə-ˈpē-sh(ē-)ə\. Deficiency of the hair or wool coat, can be because the hair fails to grow, or because it falls out after growth.
Note that the cat in the image is a Sphynx, a breed that is known for a lack of fur, although it is not completely hairless. Genetic analysis has shown that the mutation in the Sphynx DNA makes the hair follicle dysfunctional, so that hair is formed but is easily dislodged. This leads to a fine coat of “down” on the body of Sphynx cats.
There are many medical conditions that cause hair to fall out or not be formed correctly in dogs, cats, and other animals. Examples include:
- Hypothyroidism (or low thyroid hormone)
- Cushing’s disease (hypercortisolism)
- Feline endocrine alopecia
- Psychogenic alopecia
- Alopecia areata
- Post-clipping alopecia
- Color dilution alopecia
- Dermatophytosis (ringworm)
- Flea infestation
For a list of breed-related skin conditions, some of which cause alopecia, check out this page. If your pet develops an area of hair loss, it’s something you should have your vet check out. He or she will ask you lots of questions about your pet’s history, will examine your pet’s skin, and may take samples of the skin and surrounding hair. Sometimes blood tests will be necessary, to rule out conditions like hypothyroidism or Cushing’s disease. Treatment will depend on the cause of the hair loss.