Tagged with " allergy"

Overgrooming – or, My Cat is Licking Itself Bald!

May 9, 2013 by     No Comments    Posted under: Tips & Advice

Almost every day I examine a cat that has areas of hair loss. Sometimes people think that their cat’s hair is falling out. Sometimes people see the cat licking itself or find clumps of hair on the floor. What causes hair loss in cats?

The most common cause is allergies. Cat allergies usually cause itchy skin. Allergic cats can also sneeze or wheeze or have ear infections or diarrhea as well. Cats lick at their itchy skin and because of their raspy tongues are able to break off their fur. This leaves a little stubble on the skin, and often the skin itself is a little pinker than normal. Some cats are “closet lickers” and only overgroom when no one is around.

What can cats be allergic to? The same types of things that bother us – pollens, dust mites, and foods. In particular, cats react to flea bites. When fleas bite, they inject their saliva to keep the blood from clotting. The cat becomes allergic to the saliva and just one bite can make the cat itch to the point of licking or plucking their fur. Many times we can’t even find the fleas because the cat licks so much it swallows the flea (which can transmit tapeworms, another topic).

What do we do to treat allergies in cats? Ideally we allergy test and use desensitizing injections or oral drops. Sometimes we use antihistamines, fatty acid supplements, or hypoallergenic foods. We will almost always use a broad spectrum flea and mite product as well. In severe cases, we will need to use injectable or oral steroids. We now have another medication called cyclosporine, which can also help control itching and overgrooming with fewer potential side effects. There are some anti-anxiety medications that reduce itching as well. In years past we used to think that stress caused overgrooming, but now we know that most of the time the stress is aggravating the allergic disease and making the overgrooming worse.

Other things that can cause hair loss in cats are Demodex mites, fungal infections, and occasionally hormonal problems or cancers. So if your cat’s coat has lost its normal luster or has patches of hair loss it is time for your cat to see your veterinarian!

Dr Tammy Sadek

Dr Tammy Sadek is board certified in Feline Practice by the American Board of Veterinary Practitioners. Dr Sadek graduated at the top of her veterinary class at the University Of Minnesota College Of Veterinary Medicine. She has practiced feline medicine and surgery for over 25 years. Dr Sadek is the owner and founder of two cat hospitals in the Grand Rapids, MI area, the Kentwood Cat Clinic and the Cat Clinic North.

In addition to her cat hospitals, Dr Sadek hosts a website www.litterboxguru.com dedicated to helping cat owners prevent and correct litter box issues along with other behavioral issues with their pets.

Dr Sadek is the author of several chapters in the book Feline Internal Medicine Secrets. Her professional interests include senior cat care, internal medicine, feline behavior, and dermatology.

Dr Sadek is currently owned by 5 cats. In addition to caring for all her feline friends, Dr Sadek enjoys traveling, jewelry making, reading fantasy and science fiction, and gardening. She lives in Grand Rapids with her husband and two soon to fledge children.

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Steroid Use in Cats: Is it Dangerous?

Nov 11, 2012 by     37 Comments    Posted under: Tips & Advice

Ms. Worry set up a consultation with me, Dr. Catz, to discuss the use of Prednisolone in her cat, Hershey Squirts.  My manager, Ms. E. Calm held the phone far away from her ear as Ms. Worry screamed that she thought the prescription from Dr. Catz for steroids would shorten Squirts’ life. Ms. Worry said her mother’s face had become permanently bloated and she had terrible mood swings when she was prescribed steroids for her asthma.

What are steroids?

Steroids are natural substances produced by the adrenal glands.

Corticosteroids are the type used for therapy in cats. Anabolic (performance-enhancing) steroids are not used in feline practice.

There are also synthetic steroids that are used to treat a variety of feline diseases.  The most common steroids used in feline medicine are prednisolone, dexamethasone, triamcinolone and budesonide.  Methylprednisolone is a slow release “repositol” steroid that is largely no longer used in cats since the risk is much greater for potential adverse effects than with thee shorter acting oral steroids.  Once given, a long acting injection can’t be reversed.

Steroids have potent anti-inflammatory and anti-allergic effects.

Some of the allergic conditions treated successfully with steroids in cats:

  • Allergic reactions to environmental stimuli, either by contact or inhalation
  • Flea allergic dermatitis
  • Allergic bronchitis
  • Allergic reactions to bee stings or spider bites

Inflammation causing acute or chronic pain can be treated with steroids:

  • Osteoarthritis
  • Trauma, especially to the head
  • Disc problems
  • Soft tissue injuries like sprains or strains
  • Gingivitis

Prednisolone is often used in combination with other drugs for cancer treatment in cats.

Steroids may be used to stop the process of immune-destruction by slightly reducing an overactive immune response.

Some of the diseases in this category are:

  • Stomatitis (inflammation in the mouth)
  • Pemphigus (skin disease affecting ears, nose and anus)
  • Autoimmune hemolytic anemia
  • Certain kidney diseases

Corticosteroids are not “strong” medicines and are commonly used very effectively in treating many disorders in feline medicine, ranging from minor to life-threatening problems.

Most of the time, relatively high doses are used initially to achieve an effect, then tapered to the lowest dose and frequency needed to keep clinical signs at bay. Tapering allows the body to adapt to having the steroids removed from the body. Sometimes steroids can be stopped entirely at the end of the taper and other times are they are required long term. Some are started up as needed on a “pulse” or temporary basis when a disease “flares up”

Fortunately, cats are extremely resistant to the side effects of steroids.

The annoying side effects that dogs may experience rarely if ever occur in cats unless a profound overdose of steroids are prescribed.  The common side effects in dogs are increased hunger, thirst and urination, panting, pot-bellied appearance, lethargy,  and thinning of the skin.

Adverse effects of steroids in cats are relatively uncommon and almost always reversible.

The most common potential adverse effect of steroids in cats is diabetes mellitus.  This usually only occurs in cats that are already predisposed to diabetes, especially in those who are obese and/or on high carbohydrate diets. A feline doctor will require a baseline blood glucose level prior to starting corticosteroids and will monitor blood glucose levels periodically as long as the drug is continued.  The interval between glucose tests is dependent on the risks in a given patient as well as the dose required to control disease in that cat. If diabetes does show up secondary to steroid use, it will almost always go away after the drug is tapered and discontinued.   Some steroids have less systemic (whole body) side effects, notably budesonide when compared to the more commonly used prednisolone, and can still be used safely in some patients who have become diabetic while on prednisolone.  Also, steroid inhalers used for allergic bronchitis (Feline Asthma) have fewer systemic effects than oral steroids.

A less common side effect of corticosteroid use is to uncover hidden congestive heart failure (CHF).   If heart disease is undetected (occult), especially if a heart murmur is not heard, fluid can rapidly fill up the lungs causing labored breathing and distress after a steroid injection is given. If the patient is promptly seen by a vet on an emergency basis and CHF is diagnosed by a chest x-ray, oxygen therapy and diuretic injections generally cause the fluid to be urinated out and an echocardiogram can be performed to further define the heart condition.

One additional potential adverse effect is infection due to immunosuppression if high doses of steroids are needed to control an overactive/destructive immune response (diseases described earlier).  Infections may develop due to less than optimal immunity. Frequently these are upper respiratory infections (cold symptoms).  The combination of tapering and discontinuing use of the steroid and adding in antibiotics generally lead to resolution of the infection without complications.

Ms. Calm directed Ms. Worry to read this blog entry prior to her consult with Dr. Catz.  Ms. Worry reluctantly started prednisolone daily for 14 days and Squirt’s diarrhea resolved.  At his two week recheck, Dr. Catz began to taper the dose and frequency of  Squirt’s medication and explained that half the original dose given every 48 to 72 hours is likely to be well tolerated without serious side effects for the rest of Squirt’s life.

Dr Elyse Kent

Dr. Elyse Kent graduated from Michigan State University College of Veterinary Medicine in 1980 and completed an Internship at West Los Angeles Veterinary Medical Group in 1981.

In her early years in practice, Dr. Kent began to see a need for a separate medical facility just for cats, where fear and stress would be reduced for feline patients. In 1985, in a former home in Santa Monica, Dr. Kent opened the only exclusively feline veterinary clinic in Los Angeles, Westside Hospital for Cats (WHFC). Along with other forward-thinking feline practitioners from across North America, Dr. Kent founded the Academy of Feline Medicine in 1991. Through the efforts of these practitioners, feline medicine and surgery became a certifiable species specialty through the American Board of Veterinary Practitioners (ABVP). Dr. Kent became board certified in Feline Practice in the first group to sit for the Feline exam in 1995. She certified for an additional ten (10) years in 2005. There are now 78 feline specialists in the world. Dr. Kent served as the Feline Regent and Officer on the Council of Regents for 9 years. She is currently the immediate Past President of the ABVP, which certifies all species specialists. She also heads up a task force joining certain efforts of the ABVP with The American Animal Hospital Association (AAHA). She currently serves as a Director on the Executive Board of The American Association of Feline Practitioners.

The present day WHFC facility opened in 2000. It was the fulfillment of a vision for a spacious, delightful, state of the art, full service cat medical center that Dr. Kent had dreamed of and planned for over many years.

Westside Hospital for Cats
2317 Cotner Ave.
Los Angeles, CA 90064

Phone: 310-479-2428

Website: http://www.westsidehospitalforcats.com/
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Scratching the Surface of Allergies in Cats

Aug 29, 2012 by     2 Comments    Posted under: Tips & Advice

Humans aren’t alone in suffering from allergies.  Cats get allergies too, and their allergies can cause a variety of symptoms.  In humans, allergies typically cause signs such as coughing, sneezing, and itchy eyes.  Cats usually react to allergies by suffering from excessive itching, leading to scratching, licking, rubbing, or biting themselves, resulting in hair loss, and damaged irritated skin.

Even though skin problems are most commonly seen, the problem is more than skin deep.  Allergies can also cause inflammation and damage to the intestinal tract, causing vomiting and or diarrhea, and can damage the lungs, in some cats, leading to asthma.

Our immune system is constantly being bombarded by, and protects us from, challenges present in our environment. An allergic reaction occurs when a normally harmless substance, called an allergen, causes an abnormal and excessive immune response which leads to inflammation. Allergens can be anything from A to Z in the world including pollens from trees, grass or weeds, molds, dust and dust mites, saliva from flea and other insect bites, foods, wool, etc. Finding out what your cat may be allergic to can be problematic, and often impossible.

For those cats suffering from skin allergy, this inflammatory reaction can cause itching, which then causes scratching which causes more itching, and so on. This itch-scratch cycle can cause incredible discomfort, decreased quality of life for your cat, and keep you up at night with the sounds of scratching, and licking.

If you suspect that your cat has allergies, consult your veterinarian.  Some cats have seasonal allergies, while other exhibits symptoms of their allergy year round.  Other causes of skin problems need to be ruled out, and can be dependent on where you live. These can include ringworm, skin mites, internal diseases, and cancer.

Diagnosis and treatment can be difficult because of the complex interactions of the cat’s immune system with the environment.  Removal of different substances from their surroundings can be tried, or observing the response to prescribed medications can be undertaken.  Some of these medications are safer than others, and will vary from case to case. In some cases, allergy testing can be performed to try to determine what specific allergens are at fault.

Unfortunately, even though there are different treatment options available to make your cat more comfortable, please know that allergic diseases are managed and not cured. When left untreated, allergies can have negative effects on your cat’s comfort and quality of life, and can become more difficult to treat as time passes. The lesson here is simple – treat early and don’t let itching and scratching get under your and your cat’s skin.  >^..^<

Dr Robert Marrazzo

Fellow, American Association of Feline Practitioners Owner and Founder of The Cat Hospital at Palm Harbor Throughout his life Dr. Marrazzo has had, and continues to develop a growing passion and love for cats, as well as an appreciation of their unique nature. He has dedicated his professional career to their care, and to learning more about them. After graduating from Cornell University, he attended the University of Florida College of Veterinary Medicine, where he was mentored by Dr. Michael Schaer. He received his degree as a Doctor of Veterinary Medicine in 1988, and was awarded the Phi Theta Kappa Award for academic excellence in veterinary medicine and surgery.

After graduation, he actively sought out positions and externships that allowed him to work with leaders in the field of veterinary medicine. He has practiced in both internal medicine, and neurology / neurosurgery practices, and also has an extensive background in emergency medicine and surgery, and critical care.

He is an active supporter in local, state and national feline organizations including the American Veterinary Medical Association, The American Animal Hospital Association, Cornell Feline Health Center, The Veterinary Laser Surgical Society, and the American Veterinary Dental Society. He is most proud of his long affiliation with the American Association of Feline Practitioners, and currently serves on the Executive Board of that organization. He is active locally having volunteered at the Humane Society, and is a Past-President of the Pinellas Animal Foundation. He has been a regular contributor to Ask-A-Vet newspaper column, Healthy Cat Journal, and the Eastlake Heron.

Dr. Marrazzo enjoys continuing education and regularly attends seminars and conferences across the country each year focusing on the latest advancements in feline medicine and surgery. He also enjoys being an educator, not only for his client’s, but he also is currently an Adjunct Professor of Veterinary Medical Technology at St. Petersburg College, where he has discovered a new passion – teaching veterinary emergency and critical care to veterinary technician students.

He is very proud and excited that his two children, Christopher and Kimberly, are pursuing careers in veterinary medicine! He is allowed to share his home with four cats, Al, Gus, Bean, and Lefty, who lost his left ear in a car engine as a stray.

Dr. Marrazzo loves the outdoors and nature. He is an avid bicycle rider, enjoys kayaking, boating, reading mystery novels, and has special interests in history and archeology.

The Cat Hospital at Palm Harbor
2501 Alternate 19 North
Palm Harbor, FL 34683

Phone: (727) 785-2287
Fax: (727)785-2887
Email: staff@wespeakmeow.com

Website: http://www.bobcatdvm.com/
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Itchy Cats: Where is the Hair?

Jun 2, 2011 by     No Comments    Posted under: Tips & Advice

One of the most appealing features of our favorite species is their sleek and soft fur (apologies to the hairless cat breeds out there!).  But what happens when your cat is itchy?  Most cats do what cats do best—they groom themselves—only their grooming goes into hyper-drive, and all that beautiful fur can vanish in an instant!

The most common reason for a cat to be itchy is allergies.  Cats have allergies just like humans do, and they react to allergic triggers by becoming itchy.  When this happens, cats scratch and lick to try to relieve that itchy sensation.  It is amazing how quickly the hair can come off!  Cats’s tongues have small barbs on the surface, and they are just as efficient at shaving as an electric razor.  Sometimes sores can develop from too much licking or scratching.

What can complicate things is that most allergic cats, just like people with allergies, are rarely reacting to only one thing.  So, your itchy cat may be affected by seasonal pollens, mold spores, insect bites and even from the food he eats.  What veterinarians try to do to minimize the level of itchiness that your cat is experiencing is to eliminate any possible allergic triggers that we are able to control.  Because we know that most cats with allergies are fiercely reactive to insect bites, we always recommend that all cats be treated with monthly topical flea control products—even in situations where it is not certain that fleas might be a factor.  It also is helpful to change your cat’s food to a special diet that eliminates any possible reactive proteins or other ingredients that might be creating problems for your cat.  Interestingly, if your cat does suffer from food allergies, it is almost always a reaction to a food that he has been eating for a long time, and not to something new.

Obviously, pollens and molds are much more difficult to eliminate.  Cats who stay indoors are just as affected by these airborne triggers as those who spend time outdoors.  We may be able to keep your allergic cat more comfortable just by following those diet and topical treatment steps because that might help minimize what he is reacting to and decrease his overall level of itchiness.  However, if your cat is still itchy and miserable after you’ve instituted those steps, and moving to an “allergy-free” state like Arizona is not an option, then medications might be beneficial.  Antihistamines and cortisol products can help control itchiness associated with allergies, and depending on how severe your cat’s allergies are, doses can be kept low.  Some cats need longer-term treatments than others do, and it is not unusual for very allergic cats to actually receive special and individualized injections of compounds that are designed to decrease that cat’s specific areas of reactivity.

Itchiness in cats is not always associated with allergies, though.  Older cats who suddenly develop unusual itchiness might be suffering from internal problems such as an overactive thyroid condition.  Cats will also sometimes lick at areas that are uncomfortable, such as stiff or aching joints or irritated urinary bladders.

Your veterinarian can help with diagnosing the problem, and with recommendations for treatment.  No cat needs to be bald if they weren’t born that way!

Dr Cathy Lund

Cathy Lund, DVM, owns and operates City Kitty Veterinary Care for Cats, a cat practice located in Providence, RI. She is also the board president and founder of the Companion Animal Foundation, a statewide, veterinary-based nonprofit organization that helps low-income pet owners afford essential veterinary care. She lives in Providence, and serves on several architectural and preservation commissions in the city, and is on the board of directors of WRNI, RI’s own NPR station. But her favorite activity is to promote the countless virtues of the “purr-fect” pet, the cat!

City Kitty
18 Imperial Pl # 1B
Providence, RI 02903-4642

Phone: (401) 831-6369
Email: email@city-kitty.com

Website: http://www.city-kitty.com/
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