How JustAnswer Works:
  • Ask an Expert
    Experts are full of valuable knowledge and are ready to help with any question. Credentials confirmed by a Fortune 500 verification firm.
  • Get a Professional Answer
    Via email, text message, or notification as you wait on our site.
    Ask follow up questions if you need to.
  • 100% Satisfaction Guarantee
    Rate the answer you receive.
Ask Dr. Michael Salkin Your Own Question
Dr. Michael Salkin
Dr. Michael Salkin, Veterinarian
Category: Cat
Satisfied Customers: 28457
Experience:  University of California at Davis graduate veterinarian with 45 years of experience.
55012488
Type Your Cat Question Here...
Dr. Michael Salkin is online now

My cat is licking herself bald. She is 11 yrs , and this happened

Customer Question

My cat is licking herself bald. She is 11 yrs , and this happened before when she was around 1 yr, and fed on whishas sachets. I was told to change diet as this was meat substitute. Since then she has been on Gourmet sachets for a number of years, but has only recently had skin problems. She does not have fleas. I have bought hibi-scrub to bathe her in, but am not sure how to do this, and does it have to be washed out?
Submitted: 2 years ago.
Category: Cat
Expert:  Dr. Michael Salkin replied 2 years ago.
Aloha! You're speaking with Dr. Michael Salkin

If honey responded to a diet change when she was young, a food intolerance should be considered once again. Food intolerance/allergy is addressed with prescription hypoallergenic diets. These special foods contain just one novel (rabbit, duck, e.g.) animal protein or proteins that have been chemically altered (hydrolyzed) to the point that Honey's immune system doesn't "see" anything to be allergic to. The over the counter hypoallergenic foods too often contain proteins not listed on the label - soy is a common one - and these proteins would confound our evaluation of the efficacy of the hypoallergenic diet. The prescription foods are available from her vet. There are many novel protein foods and a prototypical hydrolyzed protein food is Hill’s Prescription Diet z/d ultra (my preference). A positive response is usually seen within a few weeks if we’ve eliminated the offending food allergen. Food intolerance can arise at any age and even after our patient has been eating the same food for quite some time.

We need to consider a behavioral problem as well. Feline psychogenic alopecia is overdiagnosed but does exist. Excessive and out-of-context grooming is thought to be an obsessive-compulsive behavior that's triggered by environmental stresses and anxiety. The condition is uncommon in cats, with purebred cats that have high-strung nervous temperaments being possibly predisposed. Flea hypersensitivity, food allergy/intolerance, atopy (allergies to environmental allergens such as pollens, molds, dust, and dust mites, etc.), dermatophytosis (fungal infection), and other ectoparasites are more common causes of feline alopecia.

Alopecia may occur anywhere on the body where the cat can lick but it most commonly involves the medial forelegs, inner thighs, perineum, and ventral abdomen. Hair loss is often bilaterally symmetrical but remaining hairs don't epilate easily.

The underlying cause of the psychological stress (e.g., separation from owner, moved to a new house, animal companion died, new pet in household, formerly outdoor cat denied access to outdoors) must be identified and appropriate environmental modifications made, if possible. A good flea control program should be instituted to prevent fleas from aggravating the symptoms. Use of a mechanical barrier (e.g. Elizabethan collar, T-shirt) for 1-2 months to prevent grooming may help break the habit. Behavior-modifying drugs may help stop the abnormal grooming behavior. In some cases, treatment may be discontinued after 30-60 days of therapy; in others, lifelong therapy is required for control. Drugs that may be effective include the following: amitriptyline, clomipramine, buspirone, phenobarbital, diazepam, and naloxone.

While bathing Honey in chlorhexidine (Hibi-Scrub) won't be harmful, it's unlikely to be of value because Honey's skin isn't likely to be infected. Her vet would need to determine if that were the case, however, by checking a small sample of Honey's skin surface microscopically for abnormal numbers of bacteria or yeast. A fungal culture might be performed if the appearance of her skin warranted such testing. If you choose to bathe her, yes, it should be washed out thoroughly after allowing it to sit on her skin for 15 minutes.

Please respond with further questions or concerns if you wish.
Dr. Michael Salkin and 3 other Cat Specialists are ready to help you
Expert:  Dr. Michael Salkin replied 2 years ago.
Thank you for your kind accept. I appreciate it.

I'm going to check back with you in a few weeks for an update. Feel free to return to our conversation - even after rating - prior to my contacting you if you wish.

Please disregard the info request.