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Ask Dr. Michael Salkin Your Own Question
Dr. Michael Salkin
Dr. Michael Salkin, Veterinarian
Category: Cat Veterinary
Satisfied Customers: 24452
Experience:  University of California at Davis graduate veterinarian with 44 years of experience.
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Our cat keeps licking and tearing the hair off his legs now-

Customer Question

Our cat keeps licking and tearing the hair off his legs now- it was his tummy, I took him to vac for a check up they said he has no fleas or other disease- what can we do besides putting a collar around his head to keep him from eating his hair off; They said he was compulsive and a little neurotic
Submitted: 3 months ago.
Category: Cat Veterinary
Expert:  Dr. Michael Salkin replied 3 months ago.

I'm sorry to hear of this with Houdini. Feline psychogenic alopecia is overdiagnosed but does exist. Excessive and out-of-context grooming is thought to be an obsessive-compulsive behavior that's triggered by environmental stresses and anxiety. The condition is uncommon in cats, with purebred cats that have high-strung nervous temperaments being possibly predisposed. Flea hypersensitivity, food allergy, atopy, and other ectoparasites are more common causes of feline alopecia.

The alopecia of feline psychogenic alopecia may occur anywhere on the body where the cat can lick but it most commonly involves the medial forelegs, inner thighs, perineum, and ventral abdomen. Hair loss is often bilaterally symmetrical but remaining hairs don't epilate easily.

The underlying cause of the psychological stress (e.g., separation from owner, moved to a new house, animal companion died, new pet in household, formerly outdoor cat denied access to outdoors) must be identified and appropriate environmental modifications made, if possible. A good flea control program should be instituted to prevent fleas from aggravating the symptoms. Use of a mechanical barrier (e.g. Elizabethan collar, T-shirt) for 1-2 months to prevent grooming may help break the habit. Behavior-modifying drugs may help stop the abnormal grooming behavior. In some cases, treatment may be discontinued after 30-60 days of therapy; in others, lifelong therapy is required for control. Drugs that may be effective include the following: amitriptyline, clomipramine, buspirone, phenobarbital, diazepam, and naloxone.

Please respond with further questions or concerns if you wish.

Customer: replied 3 months ago.
what I understand you are saying (the vac vet I took Houdini to checked for fleas), Is either drug him or collar him - how do I find out if Houdini has food allergies- I suspect that- We did move 1 1/2 years ago I know that is stressful for Houdini, but he seems to have settled in nicely now. during the move it is possible he became unnerved and started the eating the hair. I want to know if there is anything I can put on his skin to make him want to stop? He has a diet of normal dry food, with food treats of tuna, salmon, cod he does not like anything but fish we have tried otherfoods but he does not eat them. are those foods bad for cats?
Expert:  Dr. Michael Salkin replied 3 months ago.

I avoid treating topically if only because cats end up ingesting topical products to their detriment. There's nothing wrong with those foods unless he were intolerant to them. The most common offending food allergens in cats are beef, chicken, corn, wheat, eggs, rice and soy.

Food intolerance/allergy is addressed with prescription hypoallergenic diets. These special foods contain just one novel (rabbit, duck, e.g.) animal protein or proteins that have been chemically altered (hydrolyzed) to the point that Houdini's immune system doesn't "see" anything to be allergic to. The over the counter hypoallergenic foods too often contain proteins not listed on the label - soy is a common one - and these proteins would confound our evaluation of the efficacy of the hypoallergenic diet. The prescription foods are available from his vet. There are many novel protein foods and a prototypical hydrolyzed protein food is Hill’s Prescription Diet z/d ultra (a hydrolyzed protein diet is my preference because it avoids the possibility of my patient being intolerant to even a novel protein). A positive response is usually seen within a few weeks if we’ve eliminated the offending food allergen. Food intolerance can arise at any age and even after our patient has been eating the same food for quite some time.

Please continue our conversation if you wish.

Customer: replied 3 months ago.
It gives me something's to try thanks
Expert:  Dr. Michael Salkin replied 3 months ago.

You're welcome. I can't set a follow-up in this venue so please return to our conversation - even after rating - with an update at your convenience. You can bookmark this page for ease of return.