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Dr. B.
Dr. B., Cat Veterinarian
Category: Cat
Satisfied Customers: 16231
Experience:  I am a small animal veterinarian with a special interest in cats and am happy to discuss any questions you have.
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Are my cats symptoms related? My cat is biting her fur around

Customer Question

Are my cats symptoms related? My cat is biting her fur around her ankles, inner thighs and more recently around her nipples. The skin does not seem inflamed or sore. The rest of her fur is very glossy. we first noticed it in the summer and tried her on a restricted diet - this did nothing. Her fur grew back over Christmas but is now disappearing worse that ever.

The vet gave her anti inflammatory injections and this has not worked in the fur growing back. She is now being given a course of anti depressant type medication (4 days) to see if the issue is stress related but it is too early to tell if this is working. Likewise, she doesn't seem to have mites.

Today I have noticed that down her spine she has lots of white flakes in her fur and although I can't seem to find any fleas on her (plus she has a flea contraceptive injection every 6 months) I wondered if this could be dandruff or whether these two things could be related? Any ideas on how I can help her fur grow back?
Submitted: 3 years ago.
Category: Cat
Expert:  Dr. B. replied 3 years ago.

Thank you for your question.

 

It is quite likely that all these signs are interrelated.

 

Her choice of overgrooming site is one that can be seen with a range of issues. It tends to be that 'easy to reach' place (ie inner thighs, belly, tail, etc) that cats will target when the have issues with allergies (ie food, environmental, pollen, etc) or stress. This is what makes it hard to tease out the trigger for her signs on history alone. (As opposed to flea allergy dermatitis causing very characteristic signs at the neck, tail base, and back).

 

Now in regards XXXXX XXXXX dander, it is quite possible that it is a sign of poor skin/coat health

Often we will see coat health compromised by a deficiency in essential fatty acids (EFAs). EFA's are the fats that are part of skin cells composition and play a role in their health and coat health. They are volatile fatty acids and can therefore may be low in commercial cat foods (especially when cats are fed dry that has been open for a bit).

 

To supplement them and cover bases, a general recommendation for dietary supplementation with essential fatty acids is based on supplying 1.5-2.5 ml fish oil for a 4kg cat. Alternatively, you can offer a small volume of fresh salmon weekly. If she isn't keen on fish, then you can speak to your vet about alternative EFA therapies (ie Viacutin, Yumega, or even Allerderm spot on EFA treatment). It can take a few weeks to see results from these (since it takes time for the EFAs to get into the skin cells and affect the coat) but this can aid skin health and address the dander present.

 

In regards XXXXX XXXXX initial skin issue, it does sound like you have been ruling out differentials appropriately. As long as you are sure that the diet trial was exclusive (no treats with allergens to counteract your hard work), was performed for at least 4-6 weeks (the time it takes for allergens to leave the cells they are tormenting), and didn't happen to contain one of her trigger allergens, then food allergy may be less likely in her case.

 

As well, you noted that it started in the summer, settled with the winter and is now back to being an issue. Depending on your location in the UK, it could be a hint of a pollen or outside allergen being to blame. Therefore, it is worth discussing what allergens tend to be an issue in your area with your vet .As well you do want to double check to make sure her signs are not linked to a carpet powder/laundry detergent/etc that might be in the house and possibly triggering her signs.

 

Otherwise, it sounds like you are not ruling out stress differentials at the moment. If it does settle with this treatment (+/- a pheremone treatment like Feliway ), then this would confirm that this is an issue here. As well, it might be worth studying her environment now as well to see if you can identify a trigger for stress overgrooming (ie any neighbor cats bothering her or sitting in her yard. Perhaps gone for the snow but back now with the warming of weather?) If you do find that stress is to blame, then often removing the trigger (if possible) or maintaince on these medications can stop the overgrooming.

 

Finally, in regards XXXXX XXXXX hair regrowth, there is no secret to addressing this. The reason for the hair loss is her overgrooming not a problem with the skin or hair. Therefore, its her grooming behavior that you need to address. As long as you don't feel that she is not itchy/irritated with it (which we'd have expected to slow if not stop with her anti-inflammatory injection) then you need to break the habit she has formed. To do this, the most straightforward way is a buster collar from the vets or pet store. (If the area had been higher up then baby t-shirts are sometimes an option). It would prevent the licking, let the skin settle, and allow hair regrowth.

 

So, there is a lot to consider for Coco. And often it is a challenge that requires us to channel our inner Sherlock Holmes (since learning to speak cat isn't possible). But it does sound like you are on the right track and being very thorough. Therefore, I'd continue as you are but consider the EFAs for her dander issue and taking steps to prevent her grooming the area to allow the hair to regrow withour her harrassment.

 

 

I hope this information is helpful.

If you need any additional information, do not hesitate to ask!

Dr. B.

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Customer: replied 3 years ago.
Her coat is incredibly soft and glossy so I don't think these issues are a result of poor coat health. Plus on top of that she has good quality pet food and always has plenty of water which she drinks.

The stress issue is the biggest problem because if it is that, its difficult to determine what it is and therefore how to eliminate it. Are there any treatments available that I can put on the affected areas to stop her over grooming?
Expert:  Dr. B. replied 3 years ago.

Hi again,

 

Her coat may be glossy but if there is dander then it does raise questions about underlying skin health. And if we were to put skin health and EFA content to the side, the other causes for dander are lack of grooming to that area (though we'd expect coat matting then) or there is a mite that we can see this with called cheyletiella (example) which hopefully isn't present on top of everything else.

 

You are right that stress induced overgrooming can be a challenge. It isn't a case of eliminating the behavior itself (unless you can pinpoint the cause and it is something that can be removed from her life) since it is a side effect but helping her to cope so that she doesn't feel compelled to continue this vice (its like trying to get someone to stop chewing their nails when they are upset).

 

Therefore, in that case, your anti-stress treatments are appropriate and a buster collar can help break the habit and spare the areas she is overgrooming. Otherwise, if you do want to try something on the skin to deter her then you can try a chew detteran spray like Bitter Apple (example). That said, do know that cats are not keen to have anything foreign on their coats or skin. And that may mean that if she is really driven and fastidious, she will groom it anyway just to get the spray off her skin. So it is worth a try but most often a buster collar is required to halt a cat from overgrooming an area.

 

Dr. B.

 

 

 

 

Please remember to rate my answer when you are satisfied. IF you have any lingering questions or concerns, please stop and reply to me via the REPLY or CONTINUE CONVERSATION button with the issue you have. I will be happy to continue further and do everything I can to provide you with the service you seek. If you are satisfied, please click the 4-5 stars or associated happy face so that I may receive credit for my assistance.

Customer: replied 3 years ago.
Her fur does look a bit like the picture you have shown but not as bad. She looks like she has dandruff. How do you tell the difference between dander and cheyletiella? The bitter apple spray sounds great so I'll try that. Surely the vet would know if its a mite though instead of sending me away with zylkene?
Expert:  Dr. B. replied 3 years ago.

Hi again,

 

I do think the Bitter Apple is worth a try for her and hopefully she isn't too stubborn a lass about having it on.

 

Otherwise, in regards XXXXX XXXXX vs. dander, it can actually be difficult to tell the two appart without a microscope. This is because the dander from the mite is acutally secondary to the mite mucking about with the skin. If they are suspected, then the vet just needs to pop a sample (which can be obtained by skin scrape, tape or combing out a dander sample from the skin) under the microscope and look for the mite (example of the tiny mite under the microscope).

 

I'd assume that the vet doesn't think the mite is present but I cannot say whether the overgrooming of the belly/legs is actually related to the dander on the back or not. (since there are no rules with cats to say that they can only have one issue at a time). And because of that, while skin issues are often related, it is quite possible that the belly/legs issues are secondary to stress but the spinal dander could be something else entirely.

 

 

Dr. B.

Dr. B., Cat Veterinarian
Category: Cat
Satisfied Customers: 16231
Experience: I am a small animal veterinarian with a special interest in cats and am happy to discuss any questions you have.
Dr. B. and other Cat Specialists are ready to help you
Customer: replied 3 years ago.
That's really helpful thank you. She's back at the vets in a couple of weeks and at least this helps me now know the right questions to ask in case it isn't better by then.
Expert:  Dr. B. replied 3 years ago.

You are very welcome.

 

Best to you both,

Dr. B.

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