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Ask Dr Scott Nimmo Your Own Question
Dr Scott Nimmo
Dr Scott Nimmo, Small Animal Veterinarian.
Category: Cat
Satisfied Customers: 20275
Experience:  BVMS, MRCVS. { Glasgow UK }
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Our cat, scratching until the area is raw and she pulls out ...

Customer Question

Our cat, scratching until the area is raw and she pulls out clumps of her fur?
Submitted: 9 years ago.
Category: Cat
Expert:  Dr Scott Nimmo replied 9 years ago.
Thanks for the question.

I have seen this type of thing on a number of occasions in my consulting room, we generally call this fur plucking syndrome. I will give you some idea of the possible causes :

1. Could be some form of skin infection / dermatitis. Even a slight infection will cause irritation and itching, the cat will then lick the area and so irritate it more so a cycle of events sets in, the itch scratch cycle. The more it itches the more the cat bites and licks the area which makes it itch more and then .... well I am sure you can see where I am coming from.

2. It can often be an allergic dermatitis, skin allergies in the cat are quite common. they can be allergic to flea bites, specifically a small protein which the flea injects into your cat's blood stream while it is feeding. Inhalational allergies to house dust and pollen have been described and so have food allergies. But whatever the cause the itch scratch cycle soon plays a part.

3. Compulsive disorders have been described in the cat such as feline psychogenic alopecia. This is where the cat pulls at its fur for no particular reason like a nervous teenager biting their nails. And of course once it is established the itch scratch cycle takes effect.

4. External parasites such as fleas. This is the most common form of feline skin disease but many other more minor causes are listed as well including hormonal problems

I am sure the above information is quite accurate, thats all fine and good but what can we do about it.

I am so sorry there is no home remedy I can recommend other than keeping your cat free of fleas at all times as well as the cats environment which will be your house. To really help your cat you then have to visit your vet where the treatment options would be:

1. Try and break the itch scratch cycle. This is one of the few occasions where I use long acting corticosteroid injections. These are anti-inflammatory drugs which will dramatically reduce itching and so the cat will leave itself alone for a while. This can sometimes cure the situation where the itch scratch cycle has been a large component of the disease.

2. Your vet will examine the skin in detail and try and find an underlying cause, this could include skin scrapes, sample to the laboratory, allergy testing, even biopsies. antibiotics are often used at this stage to control secondary infections.

3. Where a feline compulsive disorder is suspected your vet may prescribe very small doses of tranquilisers.

I will be about online for an hour or so , feel free to ask me further questions.

Scott Nimmo BVMS
Dr Scott Nimmo and 2 other Cat Specialists are ready to help you
Customer: replied 9 years ago.
Will Betadine solution Swabs help the healing process.

Which of the monthly products for ticks and fleas would you recommend.

I have been using olive oil to help with fur balls, is that OK?

Our other cat has no problems!:)

Expert:  Dr Scott Nimmo replied 9 years ago.
Hello again Phil,

1.Betadine swabs can be used on the cat we use it as a skin prep prior to surgery it is a potent antiseptic so it might help, will not do any harm anyway. What would be good would be a skin cream containing 0.5 or 1% hydrocortisone which can often be bought over the counter thse days.

2. Frontline is as good as anything as far as tick and flea control goes, very effective and I have seen very few side effects over the years.

3. Olive oil is fine for fur balls but there are some other options :

A. Other home remedies would include putting a small amount of butter or margerine in your cat's food two or three times a week, about half a teaspoonful would be good. Giving him canned sardines which are in an oily sauce twice a week would also be good, make sure he gets lots of the oil as the hairballs are helped to pass on and not form by the lubrication effect.

B. There are furball remedies you can buy over the counter, these are also lubricant based and contain products like liquid paraffin. They are very safe to use.

C. There are some foods from the major cat food manufacturers which are furball formula. If he is going to get furballs a lot changing him to one of these might be an idea. They contain added oil.

D. And of course if your cat is groomed frequently and the loose hairs are removed there will be less chance of a hairball forming.

Thanks Phil,

Customer: replied 9 years ago.
Thank You , Thank You
Expert:  Dr Scott Nimmo replied 9 years ago.
No problem,