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Dr. Scarlett
Dr. Scarlett, Cat Veterinarian
Category: Cat Veterinary
Satisfied Customers: 4110
Experience:  I am a practicing small animal veterinarian with 18 years experience.
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My cats tail is losing hair at the base, and the spot seems

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My cat's tail is losing hair at the base, and the spot seems to be getting longer. There is no indication of a cat fight or damage to the skin, ie no irritation. this has been going on for about a month or so. What could it be?
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Dr. Scarlett :

Hi, Are you using any flea preventative on your cat? Is the skin in the area of fur loss smooth and normal-looking, scabby, or red? Do you see your cat licking excessively in that area? Are there any areas of fur loss on his stomach or inside of his rear legs or anywhere else?

Dr. Scarlett :

Does your cat go outside?

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Customer: replied 6 years ago.
We do not have fleas at this elevation-4500 ft., so no, we have never used a flea product on the cat. He is definitely an outdoor cat. And quite a mouser - he eats maybe 1-3 a day. Since the area does not seem to bother him, he does not excessively lick there. At the beginning (a couple of months ago), he had a couple of scabs. but it is mostly without red or scabs. It is pretty normal looking, which is why I am flummoxed. He also has no hair loss anywhere else on his body. But this one area does seem to be getting larger - just losing hair moving down the tail. It looks like one or two hairs here and there are growing in but not very many.
Hi,
So if no fleas, that leaves another type of allergy, an endocrine, or a behavioral problem. Since he is outside and there were some scabs initially, he could have an allergy to something in the air--pollen, weeds, trees, molds, etc, or a food allergy. An endocrine problem can cause hairloss with no underlying skin irritation. This can be due to hyperthyroidism (unlikely at his age, however), diabetes, or more rare endocrine problems such as Cushing's disease. I assume he is neutered, but if not, intact males can have skin problems, too. Ringworm (a fungus) is another possibility, although usually the underlying skin is somewhat crusty.

What I generally do when I see these cats is to try a steroid injection first. If it is an allergy, the injection should help and some fur should start to regrow. The injection (Depo-Medrol) will last about 2 weeks and sometimes I will give a second injection if things seem to be improving. If it is an inhalant allergy (ie. not food), often 1-2 injections is all that is needed, the weather changes, and the cat doesn't have any more problems (until next year). Steroids don't usually help with food allergies, however. So if the injection didn't help, I would probably try the cat on a "novel protein" diet--one with a protein source to which he's never been exposed. I usually use venison & green pea. A true food trial with an outside cat is probably impossible, but is worth a try.

I would also do a skin scrape to look for any mites (Demodex cat infect cats, but is very hard to find. Lym Sulfur dips weekly or every other week could be tried, just in case). Bloodwork would be the next step to look for an underlying disease.

Behavior is all that is left if everything else comes back negative or doesn't help.

Since the area is getting bigger, I recommend you have your regular vet take a look and start some diagnostic tests or try the steroid injection.

Hope that helps!
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