What is hypotrichosis? Hypotrichosis is the partial loss or thinning of hair in places on a cat’s body where hair should be present. This condition tends to develop in patterns or patches more on the torso and head than the legs.
How does my cat get hypotrichosis? This condition can be present at birth (congenital) or acquired. In the congenital form, a kitten can be born with symmetrical hair loss or the thinning of hair can ensue shortly after birth. Cat breeds who inherit this monogenic recessive trait have considerably less hair and are described as hypotricotic. Acquired hair loss often occurs as the result of a disease that may destroy the hair follicle or shaft or disrupt the normal growth of hair. This form of hypotrichosis can be inflammatory or non-inflammatory and triggered by bacterial, fungal or parasitic infections.
How do I know if my cat has hypertrichosis? Although you will be able to notice thinning patches on your cat’s coat, hypotrichosis can mimic other skin conditions, including alopecia, which is defined as the absence of hair. In time, some of these areas may sport additional pigmentation or skin thickening. Your veterinarian will take a thorough history of your cat and his habits as well as perform a physical exam to look for signs of skin infections or parasites like fleas. The goal is to rule out other possible causes. Other tests may be necessary, including skin cultures, skin biopsies and blood and urine tests. Skin biopsy samples will indicate if your cat has a lower-than-normal number of hair follicles, sebaceous glands and sweat glands.
What can I do about hypotrichosis? Other than treating for other related conditions, there is no true effective treatment for hypotrichosis. Medicated ointments are available to address any inflammatory conditions. Any cat with this condition should not be bred.
Is there anything I can do to prevent my cat from getting hypotrichosis? If you are interested in adopting a kitten from one of the at-risk breeds, make sure you work with a reputable breeder who does not breed any carriers of this condition.
Are there certain breeds that get hypotrichosis more often? Yes. Cornish Rex, Devon Rex, Sphynx, Birman and Burmese are cat breeds more prone to inheriting congenital hypotrichosis. Any cat of any breed or mixed breed can develop the acquired form.