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Dr.Fiona, Cat Veterinarian
Category: Cat Veterinary
Satisfied Customers: 6273
Experience:  Small animal medicine and surgery - 16 years experience in BC, California and Ontario
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Cat Licking Its Spine And Tail, Is It Psoriasis?

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My cat has been continuously licking its spine and tail. I pet him but as soon as I touch his spine he will attack.

Can this be psoriasis?

Hi there,

I would like to try to help you and your cat with this problem. I need a bit more information in order to better be able to understand what may be going on with him.

For how long has he had this problem?

Has he licked the hair away in these areas?

Do you use flea control on him - and if yes, what is the product?

In the areas that are affected, is the skin smooth and soft or bumpy, and scaly?

Customer: replied 9 years ago.

He has had this problem for about a month. He has never liked "over-attention", but he will sit on my lap outside and as never liked over-petting. He was so wet on his one side that I thought he was wounded somehow. The skin does not appear red, if anything it is grey. He has not licked away the areas, but instead has matted them. I have not had flea issues before, so there was no reason for flea control. The affected areas appear to be white-ish/grey color and they do not appear smooth, soft, bumpy or scaly.

Hi Clint,

Where do you live - state/province and country?

And could you tell me exactly where on his body he is licking? You mentioned his side. Is that on his chest area, on his back leg or over his belly?

If you scratch with your nails in the fur on his back near his tail (without getting bitten as I know you said he doesn't over petting), can you feel any little scabs?

Customer: replied 9 years ago.

I live in Riverside - Southern California. He is licking on the top of his spine by his tail. Yesterday he was licking by his left hind quarter side. There are no scabs or redness. He's dark-haired, and skin looks white-ish grey, but nothing bad that is obvious to me.

Hi Again Clint,

In answer to the original question, cats don't get psoriasis, per se. They do, however get a number of itchy skin problems that are similar to psoriasis in that there is an immune-mediated or allergic component to them.

Now, with your cat, I am trying to determine if that is what is going on with him or if it is something else. He's a bit of a puzzle since he is licking enough to wet the fur but not actually pulling it out...

Do you ever notice the skin "ripple" or twitch? Do you ever see your cat doing something like what these cats are doing? (check the fur over the hindquarters).

And can you tell me if there has been anything unusually stressful in your cat's world in the last two months or so?

Customer: replied 9 years ago.

That first video looks like our cat - if he was younger and weighed less (grin).

Incessant, but not frenzied, licking of that area!

Now, then, is there a cat food additive I can get to help him? He would really fight a trip to the vet (although we do have excellent facilities nearby).



A-HA! Well, this is all starting to make sense then!

The incessant licking of that area is very suggestive of something called feline hyperesthesia syndrome (FHS).

With FHS any breed can be affected but Siamese, Burmese, Himalayans and Abyssinians are the most common. It often starts when the cat is between one and four years of age.

Before your cat can be definitely diagnosed, your veterinarian would need to rule out a few other possible causes for this behavior. These would be fleas, seizures, allergies and bladder inflammation (some cats behave like this when the bladder area is uncomfortable).

There is no specific test for FHS. Instead, it is a "diagnosis of exclusion" which means that we have to rule out other problems first. It is sometimes triggered by a stressful event (a move, a new pet, a new roommate). If you look back to when this FIRST started, was there a stressful event? A visit to the vet for some illness, a move? And more recently I would wonder if your cat may have experienced unusual stress? A move? Renovations?

Treatment can be difficult and varies from behavioral management (tapping him on the hind end when an episode starts to distract him) to medications. Some people have had success with acupuncture.

Treatment also involves trying to minimize the stress in your cat's life. One of the things that I would strongly recommend is a Feliway Diffuser system. This is a plug-in device that sprays a cat pheromone into the air, helping to calm the cat without drugs. Here's a link to more information:

I find the plug-in diffuser to be the most helpful since it works even when you are not there, which is when your cat is most likely to feel stressed.

If this does not work, your veterinarian could prescribe a number of different like drugs for cats. As with humans, sometimes it takes a while to find the best medication for relieving your cat's stress and you might have to try 2 or 3 different drugs before finding what works for your cat. Usually, medications are only used when the problem is severe.

For more information, here are links:

So, in terms of what you can do for your boy, one very easy thing would be to treat him with Advantage in case he has a couple of fleas driving him crazy. I admit that is not likely since you haven't seen any evidence but it is so easy to treat him for that it's worth doing so we can at least cross that off the list of possible problems.

Also, try distracting him when an episode starts by tapping him on the back end, or squirting him with a spray bottle. This may stop him in his tracks!

Also, you could take a video of him having an episode. As you can see from the links I gave you, videos are worth even more than one thousand words! They really are helpful to diagnose FHS.

Lastly, a source of Omega 3 and 6 fatty acids can help to decrease inflammation and dermatitis. I would suggest that you consider a dietary source of essential fatty acids (Omega 3 and Omega 6 fatty acids) daily added to the food.

Your vet would be able to provide these for you - some brands are DermCaps and EFA-Z.

Here is more about them:

Good luck with your boy!

I will still be here to provide more information if you need it!

Dr.Fiona and other Cat Veterinary Specialists are ready to help you
Customer: replied 9 years ago.

That's a lot of time and effort and reference material for us - many thanks!