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Alopecia (Hair Loss)

What is alopecia?

Alopecia is complete or partial hair loss.

What causes alopecia?

The causes of alopecia are numerous. A partial list includes:


What are the signs of alopecia?

Alopecia is a clinical sign. The animal may have a thin hair coat, patchy loss of hair, or generalized hair loss. Signs related to alopecia will depend on the underlying cause of the hair loss. The animal may or may not scratch. The animal's skin may be pink or red, bumps or pustules may be present, or the skin may be thin and fragile. The location of the hair loss, the presence or absence of scratching, and the identification of other skin signs will help the veterinarian determine the cause of the alopecia.

How is alopecia diagnosed?

A physical examination is done to determine the extent of the hair loss and whether it is patchy, localized, or generalized. The veterinarian will check for external parasites. Diagnostic tests may include skin scrapings (to look for mange mites), bacterial and fungal cultures, or skin biopsies. For widespread alopecia, a complete blood count (CBC), blood chemistries, and urinalysis should be done to evaluate underlying disorders.

How is alopecia treated?

Treatment must be individualized and based on the underlying cause. Not all hair loss needs treatment.

What is the prognosis for animals with alopecia?

The prognosis (outcome) for alopecia is variable. It depends on the cause of the alopecia. Many conditions (such as allergic skin disease or demodectic mange) are chronic and will require long-term treatment. Other conditions may respond more quickly. A few conditions leading to alopecia can be potentially fatal. The pet should be monitored during and following treatment.

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