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Dr. Kara
Dr. Kara, Veterinarian
Category: Cat
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Experience:  Over 20 years of experience as a veterinarian.
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Our 8 year old cat is pulling out her fur in two places which

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Our 8 year old cat is pulling out her fur in two places which are now quite bald. Is there anything we can do to stop it, the places seem to itch as well but when we bathe the places with cold water she settles down for a while.
Hello, my name is***** and I have over 20 years of experience as a veterinarian. I'm sorry to hear that Tassy is so itchy and uncomfortable that she is literally pulling her hair out in a couple spots.

The most common reason for these symptoms is flea allergy dermatitis. Flea allergy dermatitis is horrible. In allergic cats it only takes one bite a month for them to itch like crazy. If you don't see any fleas you might not have a huge population and if she is very allergic she may be removing any the evidence with her excess grooming. If you have other pets who aren't itchy they may not be allergic. Ideally you need to apply topical flea control every 3 weeks during the spring/summer/fall months in an allergic cat. Many over the counter products have a problem with fleas being resistant and some can be down right dangerous. I never recommend any products that Hartz or Sargent's make. I recommend Advantage II or Frontline Plus every 3 weeks for at least 4 months for indoor cats and all year round for cats that go outside. All pets in the house must be treated as if you don't the nonallergic ones serve as a flea reservoir for the allergic one and you'll never solve your problem.

Another possibility for her extreme itchiness is another insect bite or sting.

Inhaled allergies (to pollens, dust mites or mold spores) are another possibility.

To control allergic symptoms (from fleas or inhaled allergens) you can try:
1) Benadryl (diphenhydramine only, the combination products with decongestants and acetaminophen are toxic to cats) at 2mg to 4mg per kilogram of body weight every 8 hours. That's a half of 25mg tablet every 8 hours for a cat that is 4 to 8 kilograms.
2) Chlorpheniramine at 2mg to 4mg once or twice daily.
Combined with high doses of omega-3 fatty acids antihistamines can work to relieve her itchiness. As far as brand name omega 3 fatty acid products I like 3V caps or Derm Caps. I recommend an omega 3 fatty acid dose based upon the EPA portion (eicosapentanoic acid) of the supplement as if we do that the rest of the supplement will be properly balanced. Give her 20mg to 40mg of EPA per kilogram of body weight per day. For example a 4 kilogram cat could take 80mg to 160mg of EPA per day. Together antihistamines and omega-3 fatty acids work synergistically, better than either alone. These should help reduce the itch. Be aware that antihistamines can cause drowsiness or hyperactivity which should resolve with continued use.

Cool water baths with an oatmeal based shampoo can help as well, both to soothe the skin and rinse off allergens. Though the effects are temporary they can be part of the plan to help her. Make sure to wait 3 days after or give a bath 3 days before applying any topical flea products as they will be less effective if given too close to a bath.

Food allergy is another reason for excess scratching, especially of the ears, face and neck. You might wish to try a hypoallergenic food for 8 weeks or so. Full improvement may take 12 to 16 weeks but she should be better in 8 weeks. My suggestions are Hills Z/D or Royal Canin Duck and Green peas. She will need to eat only that food, no other treats or foods during her food trial.

You can also use cortisone cream or spray on especially itchy areas.

If there are other cats in the home that she doesn't get along with or outdoors that upset her perhaps some of this is stress related. If so a product called Feliway, which is a synthetic version of a calming feline pheromone, may help. You can purchase this from petstores or online.

If she goes outside other contagious parasites like Cheyletiella, Demodex gatoi or Sarcoptic mange as well as ringworm, which is a fungal infection, are possible causes as well.

For now I would start with continued flea control, an antihistamine and an omega 3 fatty acid supplement. If she's not significantly better in 2 weeks then it's time for a veterinary examination to look further for problems and/or a hypoallergenic food trial.

Please let me know if you have further questions by replying to this post.
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