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Dr. B.
Dr. B., Board Certified Veterinarian
Category: Vet
Satisfied Customers: 22467
Experience:  General practice veterinary surgeon with extensive experience in a wide range of species.
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good morning we need some help with our cat

Customer Question

good morning we need some help with our cat
Submitted: 3 years ago.
Category: Vet
Expert:  Dr. B. replied 3 years ago.

Hello & welcome, I am Dr. B, a licensed veterinarian and I would like to help you with your wee one today.

What signs has Sid been showing (ie overgrooming his back, chewing his legs, etc)?

How long has he been showing signs?

How long has he been on the steroids?

Does his skin show any signs of redness, scaling, pimples, pustules, or changes?
Customer: replied 3 years ago.
He has been doing this since he was spade and this was 3 months ago now. He has been on the medication for 2 weeks now. He is only pulling at his tail. He isn't scatching or biting just pulling his tail fur out
Expert:  Dr. B. replied 3 years ago.
Thank you,

Now it isn't common to see this behavior after castration, but can you tell me if the skin looks irritated at all (since his vet sounds to be treating for allergies/skin irritation)?

When he does pull at his tail, does he do it all the time?
Or just seem to turn and attack the area at random times?

How is he otherwise?
Customer: replied 3 years ago.

there isn't any problem with his skin, isn't red or any sores on it, he does it every now and again, there isn't any attack. hes very very happy in his self thou

Expert:  Dr. B. replied 3 years ago.

Thank you Adam,

Now as I noted, we'd not expect this to be related to his castration three months ago. Still with this behavior arising after the surgery and the lack of signs of skin based irritation, one does have to consider whether this is a reaction to an allergy/inflammatory issue (as it is most commonly) or if there is something more amiss. Now the lack of response to the steroids does suggest that we do have to consider those less common issues and those that that could be playing a role here is stress/anxiety, nerve based pain, or as a habit type behavior.

In regards ***** ***** this situation, if he has been kept on monthly flea treatment (to rule it out as playing a role) and has not responded to the steroids (which should have helped even if the allergen trigger was still present), then we need to think about ruling out those other concerns via treatment trials. The first step would be to speak to his vet about a trial on nerve based pain relief (ie Gabapentin). If it is just an intermittent discomfort, this could reduce it enough to break the hair pulling cycle.

Otherwise, in regards ***** ***** other behavior based issues, these can be harder to diagnose since we cannot talk to our cats about what is motivating them. Still we can try de-stressing treatments (ie Feliway, Kalmaid, Zylkene, cat specific anti-anxiety medications, etc) combined with preventing access to the tail (ie buster collar) to break any habit. With addressing the behavior side, we do often rule out the other issues first, since this tends to be the differential that take the most time, treatment modification, and patience to uncover the root of the cause and address it for Sid. And often we would benefit from a behaviorist being involved if we did need to go down this avenue of treatment. So, hopefully we'd see a response to ruling out nerve discomfort, but if not then this would be our next point of call.

Overall, there are a range of reasons for a behavior of this nature. Still with his lack of response to treatment so far, lack of skin changes, and lack of other allergen exposures (ie diet change, powders/chemicals in the house, etc) to fit these signs, we would need to start to consider these less common issues for his signs and take the above approach to Sid's situation to see if we can stop this tail overgrooming for him.

I hope this information is helpful.

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

All the best,

Dr. B.

Customer: replied 3 years ago.

so what would the next step be to try, started since we had him castration, i read it could be to do with the lack of Testosterone and therefore might need medication to resolve this, how common is this please, would it be worth putting him on a cereal free diet

Expert:  Dr. B. replied 3 years ago.
Hi again,

Lack of testosterone rarely causes anxiety/stress in cats to such a level to cause such a vice. So, this would be less likely here for Sid. Furthermore, if his diet in the past 5 months has changed, then you may want to try going back to what he was on before or try this cereal free diet if you wished. Otherwise, I would suggest treating for possible pain/nerve issues next (since seeing a response would answer our concerns and a lack would rule it out). Depending on his response to that, we'd then want to start the de-stressing agents to rule out possible anxiety overgrooming issues.

All the best,
Dr .B.
Customer: replied 3 years ago.

can we buy anything to put over his head to prevent him from stripping his tail, can't seam to understand as to why he is just picking one area of his body, how long would you try him for this, so concerned about him

Expert:  Dr. B. replied 3 years ago.
Hi again,

I share your concern about Sid. Still it is not uncommon to see cats target tails like this due to nerve pain and due to stress/anxiety. So, this is why these are our major concerns here. In regards ***** ***** the behavior, the only OTC thing you can purchase to ensure he doesn't strip his tail is going to be a buster collar. Any creams you would be tempted to use would just be licked off and therefore unlikely to help. Otherwise, you could consider trialling Feliway or Kalmaid at this stage as they are available over the counter and would let you start ruling out and address stress based differentials for the overgrooming.

Take care,
Dr. B.