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Cat who is losing part of her Coat

Q: Cat who is losing part of her Coat PetPlanet Talk Adminstrator PPAdmin pettalk@petplanet.co.uk My cat Lucy is suffering with fur loss. She is 13 and a house cat. She has had this problem for a few years but it has recently got worse - fur loss all over her tummy, up her legs and a couple of small patches on her side. The vet has ruled out parasites and we have tried fish oil supplements, the vet says it is an allergy of some kind. I have tried various types of food, she was on Iams Senior for about a year and I have recently changed to James Wellbeloved Turkey & Rice. As she is a house cat could she be allergic to house dust mites? I have another house cat who is fine. Any advice you can offer would be very much appreciated as I am really worried about her.

A:Cat who is losing part of her Coat PetPlanet Talk Adminstrator PPAdmin pettalk@petplanet.co.uk At one time, alopecia of the body in cats was usually called a hormone deficiency and treated with a hormone supplement, causing obesity, diabetes and liver problems as side effects. It is now known the this is in fact the most unlikely diagnosis of all and allergy is the most likely cause. Much of the hairloss is in fact self-inflicted by the cat chewing at itchy areas or trying to reach itchy areas. This is often not witnessed, but the hairs being broken gives the clue. The symmetrical pattern produced caused the previous misdiagnosis. Fleas are top of the list and are usually eliminated from the animal and surroundings first. Next to be tried is food allergy, by feeding a limited diet, avoiding a previously eaten protein if possible, for 4 to 8 weeks. Commercial cat foods contain so many different proteins, that this is not easy and often the most likely culprits only can be avoided. If the protein chosen is the allergen then obviously the food trial won't help. Next is Atopy, the allergic response to inhaled allergens such as house dust
mite, pollen or fungal spores. Skin patch testing is possible, with desensitising injections, but very expensive. A seasonal pattern would give some clues, otherwise, if house dust mite is suspected, products designed to reduce their numbers could help. I'll get my plug in here by saying that a veterinary homoeopath may be able to help. Psychogenic hair chewing occurs, where the cat pulls fur out, almost like a human nailbiter. Stress may be involved, or it may be just a learned habit. Anal sac impaction can cause itching around the anus which the cat tries to relieve by self chewing. Mites and fungal infections are other possibilities, but less likely. Skin scrapings will help with a diagnosis if this is suspected. Hormone problems do occur, but there are usually other symptoms as well. The condition is not life-threatening, so you will need to consider just how far you need to take the tests and procedures. Fish/vegetable oils containing Essential Fatty Acids need to be taken at a reasonably high dose for at least 6 weeks. Vitamin C at a dose of 500mg daily and Vitamin E at 50 IU daily can also help. June Third-Carter B.V.M.S., M.R.C.V.S., Vet.M.F.Hom. for PetPlanet.co.uk

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