Itchy Cat Ears and Hair Loss

Help! My cat has itchy ears and cat hair loss! At Pet Assure, we care about pets. We know you do as well, and we welcome your questions about giving your furry family members the best lives possible. Last month, one reader wrote to us about an issue with her cat.

Dear Pet Assure,
My cat’s ears are very dry and itchy. She scratches at them constantly and has actually lost some fur. What do you think is causing this condition? The poor thing is fairly miserable.
Thanks in advance,
Itchy in the City

Well, Itchy, after a bit of research, we’ve unearthed a few issues that could be causing your kitty’s discomfort. Consider the following and make a vet appointment at your earliest convenience.

Start with her breed. Some cats are genetically predisposed to hair loss. These include kitties from the Birman, Burmese, Devon Rex and Siamese breeds. However, if hair loss was a hereditary issue for your pet, she wouldn’t be exhibiting signs of irritation. So you can likely rule out genes in this case.
Check for ear mites. The most common variety is Otodectes cynotes. They often cause severe itching and resultant hair loss on a pet’s ears and head. Additional signs that this may be the cause of your kitty’s discomfort include head shaking and rubbing, waxy build up in the ears and a bad odor. Your vet will treat mites by gently cleaning kitty’s ears and then applying medication in the canals. You will then repeat the treatment at home for up to ten days.
Look for fleas. If you live above 5,000 feet, fleas are probably not the issue. However, if you’ve made your home anywhere else, Ctenocephalides felis is a likely culprit. Flea saliva causes an itchy reaction that leads to scratching—and too much scratching can result in hair loss. If your cat is suffering from these little devils, you’ll be able to see them (or the droppings and eggs they leave behind) in her fur. Ask your vet to recommend a treatment product. He may suggest Program, Advantage, Frontline or another medication.
Rule out feline ringworm. This itchy fungal infection can cause hair shafts to break, leaving bald spots. Crusty patches may also develop on your cat’s skin. It’s very contagious and can spread to humans and other pet species, so get to your vet as soon as possible. He will diagnose ringworm with a fungal culture, skin biopsy or microscopic exam. The problem can be treated with oral medication, a topical ointment or antifungal shampoo.
Think about her food. Food allergies can result in itching (and subsequent hair loss), especially on the face and around the ears and neck. If your vet has ruled out insects and fungus, an allergy could be to blame. He may suggest a restricted diet or pet food formulated for cats with allergies. To determine exactly what she is allergic to, he may have you reintroduce other food and treats one at a time until a reaction is noted.
Consider other allergens. Environmental irritants such as mold, pollen and dust can also produce an allergic reaction in some cats—causing scratching around the head and ears. If your vet suspects this type of allergy, he may ask you to limit your pet’s exposure to potential sources of allergens (like your yard or garden, if you have an outdoor cat). He may also prescribe antihistamines to relieve symptoms of the reaction.

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