My apologies that I didn't catch your message before I had to be away to see my own patients. Still I do thank you for your response because it does let us start to narrow down the causes for her signs. Now if you do have photos of your cat's hair loss, then I am happy to have a look (since it will let me see what you are seeing). The website prevents direct email exchanges but you can post your photos either by using the wee paper clip on the tool bar (More Info). Or you can post them on a 3rd party site (ie Flickr, Photobucket, etc) and paste the web address here. Or you can contact customer service (HERE) and ask them to send the photos to me.
That aside, as I am sure you know, the mystery of what makes a cat incessantly itch, chew, or pull out hair can be a real challenge to get to the bottom of. This is because feline itchiness and hair loss can be caused by a number of things. Generally speaking, we tend to divide these causes into 2 categories: stress induced overgrooming and irritiative skin diseases (which contains our infectious agents as well as our allergies).
Now with your history, just seeing her scratch incessantly makes stress based overgrooming less likely (those cats tend be closest groomers, not actively itchy). Furthermore, if we have hair loss everywhere, this again makes stress a bit less likely (since the tend to stick to easy reach areas, as there is no motivation to target everywhere. Furthermore, if you aren't seeing the aforementioned skin changes, our mites, bacteria and fungal causes wouldn't top our list either. Instead, we'd be quite suspicious of allergic causes.
So, already we can narrow out suspects, though the allergy differential contains a large number of potential allergens because allergies can be to literally anything in their kitty world. This includes parasites (like fleas saliva, not the actual flea), pollens, dietary proteins, environmental agents we use in the house, and anything that they essentially come into contact with. That said, even with this category, if she has had no change in diet that is one big group of allergens off our list right off the bat.
Now since kitty skin disease here is such a big issue, I will divide each consideration to make it a bit more readable for you (and not overwhelm you). Just so we can consider the causes systematically:
Fleas: As I am sure already know, this is one of the most common types of allergies of the cat. The problem with wee kitties with sensitivities to fleas that they aren't allergic to the fleas themselves. They are allergic to its saliva. So, all it takes is one flea having a nibble to start things off. The body releases histamines and the allergic response takes over. This is itchy and sore, so our cats may itch, scratch and some will even start pulling out tufts of hair. They scratch which can irritate the skin even more, and its a vicious cycle (they itch b/c its itchy, but its itchier because they itched, if you know what I mean). As well, as they are causing damage to the skin from scratching, they will open the door for bacterial infection (which makes it even itchier). The fact that this over grooming is going on long enough to cause hair loss everywhere is quite suspicious of a chronic allergy that is just not settling because she keeps itching it. And if it is flea saliva induced, the flea that may have bitten her is probably long since dead (so we may see no sign of it when examining the coat). Cats caught in this kind of allergic response often respond well to religious flea treatment but sometimes need additional short term medications to soothe the inflamed immune response and help break the itchiness cycle.
And I have to warn you that grocery store flea products tend to be rubbish and this has been a really awful summer for fleas and flea allergy dermatitis for cats. So, this is a major concern here (especially if she hasn't been flea'd recently, the product used wasn't great, and she now has a new little friend who could have brought things home). So, definitely a base to cover with your lass.
Environment: As I mentioned before, kitties can also have allergies to the world around them. I have had patients that have been allergic to grass (which I think is such a cruel joke of the universe). Sometimes these animals will only show signs during particular seasons, so if you have noticed it being worse at different times of the year then this could be a hint that an environmental allergy is a distinct possibility. Other animals will have non-seasonal allergies and this can be caused by anything in the house (ie. laundry powder, carpet cleaner, etc.)
With environmental allergies, they will have target itch areas will be those 'easy to reach places (the back of the hind legs, inside of the thighs, and tail being the popular regions to groom) ,' though in some of the non-seasonal allergies, we do see a contact allergy pattern, where only the bits of the animal that come into contact (laying, walking, etc) are affected.
Anti-histamines: If she is itching all the time, then an anti-histamine like Piriton (chlorphenamine) would be an option to try, if you haven’t tried these already These can help settle allergic skin reactions and decrease general itchiness and may just be enough to help give her some relief. A low dose (ie. 1-2 mg twice daily which is a 1/2 to a 1/4 tablet of the 4mg tablets) can just be enough to break that itchiness cycle, and give her skin the chance in needs to settle. We like to keep the dose low in kitties, as they can have drowsiness with this medication (just like people). And of course, this medication shouldn't be used if your kitty has any pre-existing conditions or are on any other medication without speaking to your vet. Often if their itching is mild, this can be enough to soothe them, but if she is severely irritated then I would just note that they often benefit from having a long acting steroid injection from their vet to stop the allergy response and get them settled first.
Just to note, if you see any open lesions from her self-trauma, you can wash them with a mild antiseptic (ie 1 tsp of salt in a pint of warm water will give you a mild preparation that isn't going to cause her discomfort) and she should also be prevented from licking via a buster collar or a baby t-shirt (ideally with an elasticated waist). If she doesn't have open lesions and will let you bathe her (easier said then done for some cats), you can soothe her skin topically with emollient shampoos (ie Episoothe
, or oatmeal based ones) or speak to her vet about using a medicated one (ie Malaseb).
Finally, while irritated skin and hair loss are all part of constant itching; you do want to keep an eye out for any pustules, pimples or scaling crusts. If you see any of these, it can be a sign that the poor irritated skin is now prey to an an opportunistic bacterial infection (which would make her even more itchy). And if you see this, then antibiotics from her vet would be indicated to address and clear the infection. If you need to go down this route and her skin signs are severe, then her vet can also dispense a wee course of steroids for her too.
Overall, the key thing to tackling kitty skin disease of this nature is to figure out what is setting off her irritation, so that we can alter her life in a way to avoid this entity. Do try to address the points above, one at a time to help you get to the bottom of what is setting off her over grooming. Monitor her interactions with the world, and hopefully the culprit will become clear. Do keep up on the flea medications, since its an economical way to rule this differential out a reaction to their saliva. And you may also consider an anti-histamine trial to block the 'allergic response' while you try and determine if this is allergy based. And if there is any sign of bacterial infection then consider having her vet dispense antibiotics for her to address it.
Overall, skin disease in the cat requires us to be bit like Sherlock Holmes, but with good detective work, hopefully the villain will be discovered, and you will then be able to help adapt her environment to stop this overgrooming and continual trauma to her skin.
I hope this information is helpful.
If you need any additional information, do not hesitate to ask!
All the best,
If you have any other questions, please ask me – I’ll be happy to respond. Please remember to rate my service once you have all the information you need. Thank you and hope to see you again soon! : )