Cat Hair Falls on Own Schedule

Ericson, a practicing Orange County veterinarian, is immediate past president of the Southern California Veterinary Medical Assn

Q: My mother has had a beautiful calico cat for more than 10 years. Since the day the cat was brought home, she has never stopped shedding (she does not have particularly long hair). No matter how much we brush her, she still sheds like crazy. Otherwise, she’s the finest and healthiest cat around. What’s the story?

Jonathan Palmer, Newport Beach

A: Shedding is a normal process that is often independent of any disease or skin disorder. Normal hair growth on both cats and dogs follows a cycle of growth, loss and replacement. In cats and dogs, the shedding is called a “mosaic pattern” because each hair follicle is at a different stage of development, and they do not shed at the same time. There is some apparent seasonality to shedding, with the most loss occurring in the spring and fall, but in Southern California, this pattern becomes less apparent.

When a cat becomes stressed or ill, there may be more loss. Of course, skin parasites or fungus can cause abnormal loss but these generally occur in patterns. Diet deficiencies, certain metabolic disorders and excessive bathing can all result in excessive shedding. It may be a good idea to have your cat checked by your veterinarian to make sure that the coat is normal and that there is no disease. Otherwise, regular grooming will help keep the shedding down and you should also consider the use of a hairball medication if your cat is licking off all this excess loose hair.


Q: Last week, our 3-month-old Labrador was stung on the lip by a bee. We put some ice wrapped in a washcloth on the lip and the swelling went down. She ate well and did not act sick. Is there something else we should have done and what should we watch for if she gets stung again?

Leslie Turner, El Toro

A: Insect stings can become serious if the dog has become hypersensitive because of a prior sting. Also, if a dog is attacked by a nest of bees and suffers multiple stings, there can be serious reactions. Normally, there is local pain and swelling at the site of the sting. The swelling may extend to adjacent areas such as the face or ears. You must be aware of any breathing problems or signs of weakness that could indicate that shock is occurring. It is best to have your veterinarian examine your pup.

Got a question about your pet? Write to: Dr. Glenn Ericson, Ask The Vet, Orange County Life, The Times, 1375 Sunflower Ave., Costa Mesa, Calif. 92626.