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Dr. B.
Dr. B., Board Certified Veterinarian
Category: Vet
Satisfied Customers: 22584
Experience:  General practice veterinary surgeon with extensive experience in a wide range of species.
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My 12 year old cat has ben losing her fur from overgrooming

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My 12 year old cat has ben losing her fur from overgrooming on her stomach, her back legs and under her tail and now her front legs. It may be from stress but I don't know what could be causing it. Is there anything I can do?
Hello & welcome, I am Dr. B, a licensed veterinarian and I would like to help you with your wee one today.
Are you actually seeing Pebble overgroom herself?
Are you seeing any changes to her skin (ie pimples, pustules, scabs, sores, ulcers, redness, dander, or crusting) besides the hair loss? Especially over her neck, back or tail base?
Does she go outside or is she indoor only?
Has she had any diet change in the 4-6 weeks before this started?
Any changes at all at home (ie new pets, changes in your schedule, new furniture, noises outside, etc)?
Any changes in her thirst, weight or appetite?
Customer: replied 2 years ago.
We see Pebble overgrooming on the areas mentioned. There have been no major changes in the house and no change in diet.
Although her fur is disappearing, there are no skin problems. She is stays indoors through most of the day and during the night but will go out in the early evening. She eats well but does not gain weight. She drinks but not excessively.
Hello again,
I do have quite a bit to type about Pebble, so I did just want to let you know that I am doing that now and will post shortly.
Dr. B.
Thank you,
As I am sure you already know too well, the mystery of what makes a cat incessantly itch or chew 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. The most common reasons are either stress based or allergy based. To make it even more difficult for us, allergies can be to literally anything in their kitty world. This includes food, parasites (like fleas), pollens, and anything that they essentially come into contact with. Furthermore, we can see overgrooming as a reaction to internal health issues (an internal stressor) which is always a concern for older cats.
Now if you are seeing Pebble overgrooming frequently, then this is more suggestive of allergic overgrooming then stress based. Stress based overgroom usually isn't done in front of owners and instead we tend to see bald cats without obvious reason for hair loss. So, I suspect the reason you haven't found a stress trigger is because she is actually reacting to a diffuse skin irritation from an allergy.
That said, just to note, we need to tread with care if she eats well but doesn't gain weight. It may just be that she is expending quite a bit of energy with overgrooming but if we have any weight loss or failure to gain as we address her skin, then we'd have to be wary of an internal health issue (ie kidney or liver troubles, thyroid disease, diabetes, cancer, etc) and want to look into that. So, we just want to keep an eye on that at this point.
Otherwise, it is great that she is on the Program treatment but I have to note that it can be a bit disappointing for cats that are flea saliva sensitive. This is because it works to sterilize the flea but only does so after its bitten her. So, its great for indoor cats because it prevents an outbreak in the house but less ideal for cats that do go outside (since sterilizing one flea outside isn't likely to protect you from a future bite from other fleas as there will be many compared to what an indoor cat meets). Especially with our mild winter, since the fleas are not dying off as they usually do.
So, with that in mind, I do think its worth covering your bases and treating with a spot on that kills fleas (ie Advocate, Activyl, etc). Do avoid Frontline since we are seeing resistance to that product these days.
Furthermore, to try to ally allergic skin irritation no matter the cause, we can try her with an antihistamine. Of course, if she is severely itchy, then we'd need her vet to treat with a stronger long acting injectable steroid. Otherwise, for antihistamines, we most commonly we use Piriton/Chlorphenamine (2-4mg every 12 hours). A low dose can just be enough to reduce that allergic irritation. Alternatively, you can also use Cetirizine (just 5mg for a cat) once daily. For either, we like to keep the dose low, since it can cause drowsiness (just like people). And of course, these shouldn't be used if your wee one has any known health issues or is on any other medication without speaking to your vet first.
Overall, we do see overgrooming for a range of reasons. Still, for Pebble this doesn't sound like stress overgrooming. Instead, it sounds like we have a diffuse allergy +/- a possible underlying health issue. Therefore, in this case, we'd want to treat for fleas (since they are one of the most common causes and its an economical thing to rule out), trial an antihistamine, and keep a close eye on her weight. If she doesn't settle or we see any weight loss, then we'd want a check to make sure there is nothing more afoot and to have her treated with a long steroid injection to give her skin some relief.
All the best,
Dr. B.
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