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Dr. Kara
Dr. Kara, Board Certified Veterinarian
Category: Veterinary
Satisfied Customers: 14870
Experience:  Over 20 years of experience as a veterinarian.
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My cat is about 8 years old, she is spaded, she goes outdoors

Customer Question

My cat is about 8 years old, she is spaded, she goes outdoors during the day from about 6:00 am to 3-4 pm. She often checks in and eats a bite of food. She has started to bite, scratch and chew at her feet, back and legs. I can not see any flea dirt. I think she has allergies. How do to treat this condition. She is a very clean short haired cat.
Submitted: 1 year ago via Vet.com.
Category: Veterinary
Expert:  Camille-Mod replied 1 year ago.
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Expert:  Dr. Kara replied 1 year ago.
Hello, my name is***** and I have over 20 years of experience as a veterinarian. I'm really sorry to hear about Miss Kitty's hairloss and excessive grooming of her feet, legs, backside, and under her legs.
The most common reason for these symptoms is flea allergy dermatitis. Flea allergy dermatitis is horrible. In allergic cats it only takes one bite a month for them to itch like crazy. If you don't see any fleas you might not have a huge population. If you have other cats who aren't itchy they may not be allergic. Ideally you need to use an excellent flea product, either a veterinary topical every 3 weeks or the new flea collar Seresto. Poor quality products simply don't work. Many over the counter products have a problem with fleas being resistant and some can be down right dangerous. I never recommend any products that Hartz or Sargent's make. I recommend Advantage II or Frontline Plus topicals or if the kitty seems sensitive to them the Seresto flea collar. All pets in your home should be treated as if you don't the nonallergic ones serve as a flea reservoir for the allergic one and you'll never solve your problem completely.
Inhaled allergies (to pollens, dust mites or mold spores) are another possibility.
To control allergic symptoms you can try:
1) Benadryl (diphenhydramine only, the combination products with decongestants and acetaminophen are toxic to cats) at 1mg to 2mg per pound of body weight every 8 hours. That's a half of 25mg tablet every 8 hours for a cat that is 8 to 15 pounds.
OR
2) Chlorpheniramine at 4mg twice daily.
OR
3) Zyrtec (Cetirizine hydrochloride) at a dose of 5 mg per cat given orally every 24 hours. Make sure it is NOT the formulation with a decongestant (such as Zyrtec-D) because cats cannot tolerate decongestants.
Combined with high doses of omega-3 fatty acids antihistamines work to relieve her itchiness. I like 3V caps or Derm Caps. I recommend a dose based upon the EPA portion (eicosapentanoic acid) of the supplement as if we do that the rest of the supplement will be properly balanced. Give her 20mg of EPA per pound of body weight per day. For example an 8 pound cat could take 160mg of EPA per day.
Antihistamines and omega-3 fatty acids work synergistically, better together than either one alone. These should help reduce the itch. Be aware that antihistamines can cause drowsiness or hyperactivity which should resolve with continued use.
Food allergy is another reason for excess grooming. You might wish to try a hypoallergenic food for 8 weeks or so. My suggestions are Hills Z/D or Royal Canin Duck and Green peas. She will need to eat only that food, no other treats or foods during her food trial. I understand that she may be a hunter if she goes outdoors so this may be difficult to do unless you can confine her indoors while you try the hypoallergenic diet.
You can also use cortisone cream or spray on especially itchy areas, if they aren't raw.
If there are other cats that she doesn't get along with or that upset her perhaps this is stress related. If so a product called feliway, which is a synthetic version of a calming feline pheromone, may help. You can purchase this from petstores or online.
Since she goes outside other parasites like Cheyletiella or sarcoptic mange are possible causes as well.
For now I would start with excellent flea control, an antihistamine and omega 3 fatty acids. If she's not significantly better in 2 weeks then it's time for a veterinary examination to look further for problems and/or a hypoallergenic food trial.
Please let me know if you have further questions by replying to this post.
Expert:  Dr. Kara replied 1 year ago.
Hello, I'm just checking to make sure that you don't have any further questions for me, and see how your kitty is progressing. Please let me know if you have any further questions.