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My cat is biting his tail making himself bleed

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My cat is biting his tail making himself bleed
Submitted: 8 months ago.Category: Cat Veterinary
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9/18/2017
Cat Veterinarian: Dr. Kara, Veterinarian replied 8 months ago
Dr. Kara
Dr. Kara, Veterinarian
Category: Cat Veterinary
Satisfied Customers: 18,384
Experience: Over 20 years of experience as a veterinarian.
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Hello, I'm Dr. Kara. I have over 20 years of experience as a veterinarian and I'd like to help. Please give me a moment to review your concerns.

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Cat Veterinarian: Dr. Kara, Veterinarian replied 8 months ago

I understand that you requested a phone call, and have been waiting for a bit for one. Unfortunately many state licensing boards require a previous Doctor/client/patient relationship to discuss things via a phone call. That means we must physically examine a patient before discussing health issues on the phone. Without one many state boards could rescind our license for making/taking phone calls. I will try to help here via the written venue, but I wanted to explain why you haven't gotten a response before now.

I am very sorry to hear about Paxxie's discomfort which is causing him to bite his tail to the point of bleeding.

Has he always done this and now it is worsening or is this new?
Allergies are the most common cause of itchy, uncomfortable skin. And flea allergy is the most common allergen that leads to aggressive grooming/biting, especially when the base of the tail/tail are involved.
I'd use flea protection every 28 days. Both Advantage II and Frontline Plus work quite well at killing fleas and are less likely to create a skin reaction.

Other allergens are inhaled (like mold spores or pollens) or food allergies.

To treat his allergic reaction to the flea bites (or any allergy) I recommend antihistamines and omega-3 fatty acids. Some antihistamines to try are:

1) Benadryl at 1mg per pound or 1/2 of a 25mg tablet per 10 to 12 pound cat 2 to 3 times daily. You can crush the pill up and hide it in something tasty like her canned cat food or you can give it directly. Make sure whatever you use is Benadryl only as the combination products with decongestants and acetaminophen are toxic to cats. Benadryl is very bitter and some cats will drool excessively or may even vomit because of that. That doesn't mean it is making him ill, he just hates the taste. If that's the case with him try a different antihistamine.

OR

2) Chlorpheniramine 4mg per cat once or 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.)

Omega-3 fatty acids will work synergistically with the antihistamine to soothe his itch and as a bonus will improve heis hair coat and skin condition in general. I like the products by Derm Caps or 3V. These come in pump form to put on the food or you can puncture the capsules and dribble it on his food.
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 him 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. These should help reduce the itch. Be aware that antihistamines can cause drowsiness or hyperactivity which should resolve with continued use.

Another possibility for his discomfort is a condition called hyperesthesia. Hyperesthesia is a poorly understood syndrome which is difficult to diagnose. These cats have pain and hypersensitivity to touch on their back and tails. They sometimes will bite at themselves because they are so uncomfortable. It is a poorly understood disease process with no definitive test for diagnosis and so other problems (such as spinal arthritis or infections or allergic reactions) should be ruled out first. We do know that stress does seem to make this disease process worse or flare more frequently. Sometimes mood altering drugs and steroids can be helpful.

Here are a couple links discussing hyperesthesia syndrome if you are interested: http://www.veterinarypartner.com/Content.plx?P=A&A=1998&S=4&SourceID=62
http://www.cathealth.com/hyperesthesia.htmI

Another condition which initially causes pain, but can later lead to urine and stool incontinence is lumbosacral stenosis. This is a narrowing of the bony canal that the spinal cord travels through, either due to weak ligaments holding the vertebrae in place or arthritis changes in the vertebrae. It is more common in dogs than cats but it can occur in cats, especially those with short or no tails (for example Manx cats)
Has he has ever had radiographs of his spine?

Finally it is possible that he has a slipped intervertebral disc (the soft cushions between the vertebrae which allow spinal flexibility). When this happens pressure is placed on the spinal cord which is quite painful.

If he goes outdoors he may have had some sort of trauma where his tail got caught and the nerves were stretched. As the nerves regenerate there is a tingling, sometimes painful sensation which can lead to the cat chewing or biting at the area.

LS stenosis and a slipped disc can be diagnosed with regular radiographs sometimes but many times an MRI or myelogram (dye study of the spinal cord space) is needed.

Anyway in your cat's case I would start with trying to control allergies and if that doesn't work then he needs a thorough examination, as well as bloodwork to make sure internal organ function is normal, and a urinalysis with culture to look for a urinary tract infection, as well as radiographs of her pelvis/spine. If that all looks normal referral to a neurologist for an MRI may give you the answers that you need.

I would place an elizabethan (lampshade) collar on him so he cannot further traumatize his tail while we figure out the primary problem and treat it.
Let me know if you have any further questions.

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