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Open Access Alopecia: Possible Causes and Treatments, Particularly in Captive Nonhuman Primates

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Alopecia (hair loss) occurs in some nonhuman primates housed in captivity and is of concern to colony managers and veterinarians. Here we review the characteristics, potential causes, and treatments for this condition. Although we focus on nonhuman primates, relevant research on other mammalian species is discussed also, due to the relative paucity of studies on alopecia in the primate literature. We first discuss the cycle of hair growth and explain how this cycle can be disrupted to produce alopecia. Numerous factors may be related to hair loss and range from naturally occurring processes (for example, seasonality, aging) to various biologic dysfunctions, including vitamin and mineral imbalances, endocrine disorders, immunologic diseases, and genetic mutations. We also address bacterial and fungal infections, infestation by parasites, and atopic dermatitis as possible causes of alopecia. Finally, we examine the role of psychogenic factors, such as stress. Depending on the presumed cause of the hair loss, various treatment strategies can be pursued. Alopecia in nonhuman primates is a multifaceted disorder with many potential sources. For this reason, appropriate testing for various disease conditions should be completed before alopecia is considered to be related to stress.

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Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: Department of Psychology, University of Massachusetts, Amherst, Massachusetts; Neuroscience and Behavior Program, University of Massachusetts, Amherst, Massachusetts

Publication date: February 1, 2009

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  • Comparative Medicine (CM), an international journal of comparative and experimental medicine, is the leading English-language publication in the field and is ranked by the Science Citation Index in the upper third of all scientific journals. The mission of CM is to disseminate high-quality, peer-reviewed information that expands biomedical knowledge and promotes human and animal health through the study of laboratory animal disease, animal models of disease, and basic biologic mechanisms related to disease in people and animals.

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