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Dr. Deb
Dr. Deb, Cat Veterinarian
Category: Cat Veterinary
Satisfied Customers: 10370
Experience:  I have been a practicing veterinarian for over 30 years.
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2nd try: my British Shorthair has been shedding especially

Customer Question

2nd try: my British Shorthair has been shedding especially heavy this year, excessive heat & humidity I guess. She is a constant groomer any time of the year. When she scratches now, flurries of fur fly off like milkweed fluff. Everywhere she lays down, she leaves tufts. She has a "necklace" of scabs that I can dislodge with some picking. When they come off, a tuft of hair is connected and a bald spot on her skin remains for a while. She doesn't wear a collar. I have a small Maine Coon mix cat and a purebred Shih Tzu dog. The Brit doesn't eat the dog food, but she "pigs out" on the cat food if the longhair walks away from the bowl. I live in a small apartment, feed the cats on any raised surface so the dog doesn't eat their food. Both cats are picky eaters, they either like their food or they try to "bury" it. They get a tablespoon each of wet food 2x/day and a bowl of dry food daily. The dry food is grain-free I think.
Submitted: 2 years ago.
Category: Cat Veterinary
Expert:  Dr. Deb replied 2 years ago.
Hello, I'm Dr. Deb.
Thanks for requesting me although I'm sorry I was off my computer when you did. I'm also sorry if you're having issues with the site.
Many cat owners have been complaining to me about the excessive shedding that their pets are doing this year. Perhaps it is secondary to the heat and humidity which makes sense; however, I wouldn't expect excessive scratching nor scabs to develop in these patients.
Therefore, I'd want to rule out other possible issues.
Unfortuantely, there are going to be several possibilities for the problem that you're seeing with Janie; there wouldn't be just one explanation for it. In no particular order:
1. Fleas even if she's an inside only cat.
You may or may not see fleas since they can hop off and on a cat's body and they can be ingested from all the grooming. Cats can become allergic to the flea saliva and literally one or two fleas can drive them crazy.
There's no question that trying to eliminate fleas from our pets and from our households is more than a nuisance and, hopefully, this isn't Janie's problem but I wanted to include it to be complete.
2. Food allergies which are often secondary to food which a cat has been eating for a while--it's not typically to new food.
Diagnosing this particular problem can be challenging for some patients but I always suspect it if the patient is scratching from the head up. Other parts of the body can be affected as well, though.
Changing to a hypoallergenic diet may be helpful in addition to grain-free such as Z/D (available from your vet) or Natural Ba***** *****mited Ingredients, Nature's Variety Instincts line, Evo Duck or Venison, Nature's Variety Frozen Raw Medallions (I recommend that they be zapped in the microwave for 10-15 seconds on each side).
For most cats, changing the diet doesn't present a problem but in your case, it sounds like it might.
And, sometimes finding the "right" food which a cat will eat can be a challenge as well since it can be a trial and error process.
3. A very commonly seen explanation for excessive scratching and hair loss would be inhalant allergies to such things as dust mites, mold, grasses, trees, etc. These cats can lick or scratch just about anywhere on their bodies with this problem. They may or may not respond to antihistamines (see below) but they almost always respond to steroids which can help with the diagnosis.
4. There are other explanations, too, such as mites or
Cheyletiella, but they aren't as common.
As I mentioned, antihistamines can help in some cases.
Benadryl at a dose of 1/2 of a 25 mg tablet given twice daily or
Chlorpheniramine at a dose of 2-4 mg twice a day or
Claritin (Loratadine) at a dose of 2.5-5 mg or
Zyrtec (cetirizine) 5 mg once or twice a day
It is important to ensure that the formulations used contain ONLY the antihistamine and are not combination products (e.g. Claritin-D contains pseudoephedrine, which could cause very significant adverse effects in a cat).
Sedation is a common side effect with these kinds of drugs.
If this were my case and there's no way that fleas are causing the problem, I'd probably try to see if a change in diet helped but recognize that it can often take several weeks (sometimes up to 2 months, unfortunately) for improvement to be seen.
I might also try a course of antihistamines to see if you can reduce the excessive scratching. The sores around her neck should heal if she doesn't constantly scratch her body to create them.
I hope this helps although I'm sorry for the delayed reply. Deb