Evaluation of Alopecia in Non-Human Primates

Unit for Laboratory Animal Medicine
Jul 28, 2023 12:00 am

Alopecia is a common problem in captive, non-human primates (NHP). Alopecia is manifested as hair loss without any clinical changes at the skin surface. This condition can be a result of various causes including clinical, environmental, or behavioral factors. Due to the wide variety of clinical presentations, assessing this condition can be challenging. Potential clinical causes of alopecia include ectoparasites, allergic disease, autoimmune disease, endocrine disease, nutritional deficiencies or imbalances, aging, stress, or others (see Appendix B). Evaluation of alopecia is subjective; therefore, a standardized method needs to be implemented. The intent of this scoring schematic is to aid in consistency of diagnosis and monitoring changes over time.

  • Responsibility

    1. Veterinary Personnel
      1. Review NHP records and previous alopecia form prior to exam.
      2. Complete alopecia form and place in the medical record.
      3. Develop a plan with faculty based on clinical assessment.
  • Procedures

    1. Frequency

    1. Assess alopecia in each primate at a minimum of every 6 months during semi-annual exam and TB testing using the "Alopecia Assessment Form” (see Appendix A, adapted from Bellanca et al, 2014). More frequent monitoring may be indicated as part of a clinical or behavioral treatment or monitoring plan.

    2. Using the Alopecia Form

    1. The body is divided into 11 body parts and the tail.
    2. Indicate if alopecia is present within each body part on the NHP body map. An abbreviated table is located on the Alopecia Assessment Form and a full table is below is to assist in evaluating potential percentage affected and how that relates to a total alopecia score.
    3. After evaluating each body part, shade in the corresponding ALOPECIC area on the body map. This will aid in the monitoring of specific alopecic areas.
    Number of body parts (bp) affected % body affected Alopecia Score
    0 bp 0 0
    Tail 1 1
    1 bp 9 1
    1 bp+Tail 10 1
     2 bp 18 1
    2 bp+Tail 19 1
    3 bp 27 2
    3 bp+Tail 28 2
    4 bp 36 2
    4 bp+Tail 37 2
    5 bp 45 2
    5 bp+Tail 46 2
    6 bp 54 2
    6 bp+Tail 55 2
    7 bp 63 2
    7 bp+Tail 64 2
    8 bp 72 3
    8 bp+Tail 73 3
    9 bp 81 3
    9 bp+Tail 82 3
    10 bp 90 3
    10 bp+Tail 91 3
    11 bp 99 3
    11 bp+Tail (aka 12 bp) 100 3



    3. Treatment

    1. If the alopecia score is a 2 or higher (see table above), use Appendix B as a reference for further diagnosis and treatment in consultation with the faculty veterinarian.
    2. If alopecia is determined to be caused by psychological factors, develop a plan for each individual case in accordance with the Primate Environmental Enrichment Program (PEEP).
    3. Notify the lab manager and husbandry responsible for the care of the animals of this plan.

    4. Documentation

    1. Write the medical assessment and plan associated with the alopecia examination findings on the treatment and observation sheet in the NHP's medical record.
    2. Place the "Alopecia Form" on the right side of the patient's medical record.
  • Appendix A: ULAM Alopecia Assessment Form

  • Appendix B: Identifying Possible Causes of Alopecia in Nonhuman Primates

  • References

    1. Abee CR, Mansfield K, Tardif S, Morris T. Non-human Primates in Biomedical Research: Diseases. Volume 2: Disease p. 563-587.
    2. Bellanca, R.U., Lee, G.H., Vogel, K., Ahrens, J., Kroeker, R., Thom, J.P., and Worlein, J.M. 2014. A simple alopecia scoring system for use in colony management of laboratory-housed primates. Journal of Medical Primatology. 43: 153–161
    3. Honess P, Gimpel J, Wolfensohn S, Mason G. Alopecia scoring: the quantitative assessment of hair loss in captive macaques. Altern Lab Anim 2005; 33(3):193- 206.
    4. Luchins KR, Baker KC,, Application of the diagnostic evaluation for alopecia in traditional veterinary species to laboratory rhesus macaques (Macaca mulatta). JAALAS 2011; 50(6):926-38.
Species: Primates

If you have questions or comments about this document, contact ULAM Veterinary Staff ( or 734-936-1696).