How JustAnswer Works:
  • Ask an Expert
    Experts are full of valuable knowledge and are ready to help with any question. Credentials confirmed by a Fortune 500 verification firm.
  • Get a Professional Answer
    Via email, text message, or notification as you wait on our site.
    Ask follow up questions if you need to.
  • 100% Satisfaction Guarantee
    Rate the answer you receive.
Ask Dr. Michael Salkin Your Own Question
Dr. Michael Salkin
Dr. Michael Salkin, Veterinarian
Category: Cat Veterinary
Satisfied Customers: 23743
Experience:  University of California at Davis graduate veterinarian with 44 years of experience.
Type Your Cat Veterinary Question Here...
Dr. Michael Salkin is online now
A new question is answered every 9 seconds

My cat is nipping and licking away her fur around her

Customer Question

hi there, my cat is nipping and licking away her fur around her stomach and legs
JA: I'm sorry to hear that. Did your cat have a fall?
Customer: nope
JA: The Veterinarian will ask you more detailed questions to find out what is causing this. It might be a fracture. The Veterinarian will know what to do. What is the cat's name and age?
Customer: cat is called Max .shes a small black short hair and is 4 years old
JA: Is there anything else the Veterinarian should be aware of about Max?
Customer: not that i know of. but she is sick quite a lot with wet food.
Submitted: 1 month ago.
Category: Cat Veterinary
Expert:  Dr. Michael Salkin replied 1 month ago.

I"m sorry to hear of this with Max. My initial thought was feline psychogenic alopecia which certainly can exist but her being "sick quite a lot..." suggests an underlying food intolerance as well.

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.

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 Max'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 her 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 respond with further questions or concerns if you wish. I would consider a hypoallergenic food trial before medicating her. What do you think?