Ask The Vet

Cats may overgroom themselves, causing hair loss.
Cats may overgroom themselves, causing hair loss.PHOTO: SHIRLEY LIEW

SINGAPORE - In this fortnightly column, veterinarians from the National Parks Board answer questions about pet health and behaviour.

Dog sheds a lot of fur

My 10-month-old female dog, a husky cross spitz, is shedding quite a lot. Is the underlying cause dietary, medical or something that is seasonal?

Sandra Soh

Shedding of fur is a normal process for many animals, including dogs. The quantity and frequency of fur shedding depends on the breed and genetics. What may appear to be excessive shedding in some breeds may be normal for others.

Excessive shedding could be due to factors such as stress, nutrition or medical issues. Do you notice more frequent shedding recently? Has there been a recent change in the environment, such as a new pet or excessive noise near your home?

After ensuring that your pet is in a stress-free environment, it is important to check that it has a complete and balanced diet that is appropriate for its stage of life. Your vet or veterinary nurse will be able to guide you.

Do also keep up-to-date with anti-parasitic treatments as parasites can affect skin condition, which may present as fur loss.

After eliminating stress and nutritional factors and the shedding of fur is still considered excessive or increasing in quantity or frequency, your vet may have to investigate possible underlying medical issues, such as allergies, fungal or bacterial skin infections and metabolic issues.

Some of these issues can be picked up with routine blood tests, as part of regular veterinary health screenings.

Cat's bald spot on belly

My cat has a big bald spot on his belly, but there are no signs of flea or skin infection. I Googled his condition and the reason given was that it was due to boredom, so my cat apparently excessively groomed himself. Is this true? What can be done to stop further hair loss?

Shirley Liew

Does your cat show signs of itchiness at the bald area? How long has the bald area been there?

There are many causes of hair loss and these would be some of the questions your vet may ask to rule out certain diseases.

Note that other than fleas, there are also parasites that can cause hair loss. It is important to keep up-to-date with anti-parasitic treatments. Your vet may also conduct further tests to ensure that the cause of hair loss is not due to allergies or metabolic diseases.

Cats may overgroom themselves, causing hair loss. This is sometimes a sign that your cat is stressed. It might be helpful to identify the cause and remove it to reduce such behaviour.

However, purely behavioural or psychogenic reasons for overgrooming are also rare, so it is important to first rule out other conditions. Have you or your family members observed this overgrooming behaviour? If so, take a video of it, which will help your vet's diagnostic process.

You may also wish to increase the interaction and socialisation with your cat, and provide more enrichment such as food toys during feeding time.

Keeping your pet engaged and mentally stimulated is beneficial for his overall well-being.

Answers by Dr Teo Boon Han, a veterinarian in the Animal & Veterinary Service under the National Parks Board. Dr Teo graduated from the Royal Veterinary College in Britain and is an adjunct lecturer in veterinary programmes at institutes of higher learning in Singapore.

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