IS CAUSED BY EXCESSIVE
GROOMING OR LICKING (Miller
and others, 2013). Most veterinary
dermatological texts describe the
condition in cats as uncommon,
although feline behaviourists believe
that psychogenic aspects may also
be a factor in some chronic pruritic
There are many potential causes of
feline stress and a very careful analysis of the history
along with a
of other causes
In one study evaluating 21 cats
referred to a behaviourist, only two
satis ed the diagnostic criteria for
psychogenic alopecia (Waisglass and
Grooming is a normal reaction of
cats to a stressful incident and it may
result in the release of endorphins,
which exert a calming effect.
Continued excessive stress could be
expected to result in over-grooming.
- The problem has been described
more often in multicat households and
in indoor cats (Waisglass and others,
- Siamese and other oriental breeds
may be predisposed.
- Affected cats may exhibit severe
anxiety during the clinical examination and appear to be generally
- Alopecia without inflammation of
the skin is characteristic. However, with severe over-grooming eosinophilic
plaques and secondary pyoderma may
develop. Primary psychogenic alopecia
does not normally produce skin lesions
other than alopecia.
- Hairs may be pulled out entirely or
be broken off near to the skin surface.
Good illumination and magnification is
- Commonly affected areas include
the caudal abdomen, medial thighs,
inguinal region and dorso-lumbar regions. Areas
with the more
skin diseases may
also be affected,
such as the forelimbs, raising clinical
suspicion for psychogenic alopecia.
(From Paterson, S., 2008)
- Ectoparasites (Fleas, Cheyletiella,
Otodectes, lice, Demodex).
- Allergic dermatitis (flea, food,
- Telogen defluxion.
- Paraneoplastic alopecia.
- History and physical examination.
- Trichoscopy. This simple test will
demonstrate hairs in both anagen and
telogen. Trauma-inducing broken-off
tips are easily visible under the low
power of the microscope.
- Rule out differential diagnosis
diseases. Due to the large number of
possible differential diagnoses, the investigation is
and may involve
(from Miller and
- Multiple skin
- Fungal culture
from a large area
using the toothbrush
- Complete blood
count – eosinophilia
- Trial elimination
diet for at least eight
weeks with the cat
- Trial ectoparasitic
therapy for eight weeks while the cat
is confined indoors.
- The above
investigations will leave atopy
as the main
- Trial use of
two weeks. Cats
alopecia will not
respond to anti-
whereas atopic cats
- Identify any
eliminate them if
- Spend more
time with the cat
and enrich the
Consultation with a
to identify ways to
reduce stress and
been proposed. The
cited of these is clomipramine
(Swanepoel and others, 1998), for
- This author prefers behavioural
modi cation and confidence-boosting
strategies, whenever possible.
- True psychogenic alopecia does
not produce lick-cycle skin lesions.
Therefore, adequate time can be taken
to allow stress-reducing strategies to
References and further reading
- Miller, W. H., Grif n, C. G. and
Campbell, K. L. In: Muller and Kirk’s Small Animal Dermatology, 7th edition,
- Elsevier, 2013.
Paterson, S. In: Manual of Skin
Diseases of the Dog and Cat, 2nd
edition, pp 227-228. Blackwell
- Swanepoel, N., Lee, E. and Stein, D. J.
(1998) Psychogenic alopecia in a cat:
response to clomipramine. J S Afr Vet
Assoc 69 (1): 22.
- Waisglass, S. E., Landsberg, G. M.,
Yager, J. A. et al (2006) Underlying
conditions in cats with presumptive
psychogenic alopecia. J Am Vet Med
Assoc 226 (11): 1,705-1,709.