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Cat pulling out hair in excessive amounts

tiptoe
September 11th, 2008, 11:42 AM
My cat is 15 years old and the vet says she has a failing kidneys. She has been pulling out tufts of hair for about a year now and in the beginning we took her to the vet to get a shot, which then worked. We can't get that for her anymore because it didn't really help and also it will apparently speed up the deterioration of the kidneys. Recently she's been pulling out even MORE hair and is completely bald in some areas. I am around all the time, so it's not like she's lonely and she is definitely not stressed. I've been putting oil in her food but that doesn't seem to help either?

Any idea's of what I can do? This is far beyond the normal "My cat is pulling out her hair" problem and I'm really worried! I just want her to be comfortable.

14+kitties
September 11th, 2008, 12:01 PM
Has she been tested for food allergies? What kind of food do you feed her? Corns and grains are not good for cats. They need a good quality canned food for the extra water in it.
We have a couple of fantastic food gurus here. I am sure they will pop in soon. They also have had issues with health. I am confident they will be able to help.
Meanwhile, check out the food forum section and see how many others have had somewhat the same issues as you are having.
Good luck.

krdahmer
September 11th, 2008, 12:12 PM
Things that have worked for me so far.... the shot, changing food to a single source protein with no "filler" like wheat or corn gluten(best if its lamb or duck for sensitivities), coconut oil, feliway diffusers, and we did use kitty prozac for a while which slowed down the chewing but made him very sleepy and disconnected. You can check to see if your vet does allergy testing, then you could eliminate those things in particular.

:goodvibes: for you and kitty... I know how frustrating it can be not knowing what is causing it! :grouphug:

growler~GateKeeper
September 11th, 2008, 11:40 PM
Hi Tiptoe, has your cat had recent bloodwork done? As a senior she should have a geriatric blood panel done every 6 months.

Hair pulling can be a sign of HyperThyroidism which is quite common in older cats. This will show on a geriatric blood panel, but not on a general panel unless a Tetraiodothyronine (T4) check is added. HyperT is managable and treatment is readily available.

Itching with or without hair pulling, can also be a sign of liver problems or as mentioned above food allergies.

Hair loss in a kidney failure cat is usually a sign of ill health if there are no other issues happening at the same time & will generally clear up once the cat is feeling better. However a geriatric panel should be done to rule out HyperT & Liver issues, it will also give you a clearer idea of the stage of kidney failure. At the same time it is a good idea to do a food allergy test to see if that is also a cause. :)

:goodvibes: for finding a solution quickly

tiptoe
September 12th, 2008, 01:50 AM
Thank you for your replies. I have a hard time taking her to the vet to do tests because she's already been there so much and the vet is always reluctant to give her shots.. and he's worried that something will traumatize her or kill her.

I noticed that her appetite had decreased a while back and I recently switched her from hard food to soft food to help the problem and it seemed to help (I just feed her the normal brand names, chicken flavor stuff). I'll keep in mind with the whole food allergies thing when I buy more food for her -- but doesn't it seem weird that it's something that would suddenly come up at the age of 15? I guess allergies can start at any time.

Ugh. It just sucks to see her like this! I'm only 23 so this cat has been in my life for more than half of it and it just makes me feel so sad and sick that she could be suffering. The nice thing is that she still purrs and drools like crazy when she sees me so I know she's not in any intense pain and is still somewhat happy. Anyways, I really am thankful for all your replies... it gives me more ideas to research so I can ease my mind a bit. :)

Love4himies
September 12th, 2008, 10:31 AM
I understand about the stress kitties go through when they go to the vet, but is really important to get the bloodwork done, your kitty's life may depend on it. It is always better to catch a health issue early ;).

I would also look for a high quality canned food for your cat, one without any byproducts or grains, can make a world of difference in your cat's health.

sugarcatmom
September 12th, 2008, 04:27 PM
My cat is 15 years old and the vet says she has a failing kidneys.

Is she on any kind of treatment for the kidneys (meds? supplements?). How was the kidney issue diagnosed and can you get a copy of the lab results?

She has been pulling out tufts of hair for about a year now

Do you remember if there was anything going on around the time that she started this? Even something as simple as getting a new couch, or changing your laundry detergent? Maybe new neighbors with a barking dog?

The thing is, over-grooming in cats can be an extremely complex issue. It might begin as a result of some singular stressful incident and then become habit long after the original stressor is gone. It could build up from constant low-level anxiety or boredom. It can be triggered by itchiness or pain. Usually the course of action is to rule out any medical causes (such as ringworm, or pain from arthritis, etc), and if none are found, focus on environmental sensitivities to things like dust, fleas, cleaning products, pollen, or food. After those are dealt with (and it's not always easy to narrow it down), the likelihood increases that it's a psychological problem. What's tricky is that things that started out say, as environmental, can then become psychological (obsessive compulsive). I think it's important to treat the whole cat and look at all the issues.

and in the beginning we took her to the vet to get a shot, which then worked.

Do you know what the shot was? My guess would be a corticosteroid (Depo-Medrol), which is commonly given to suppress the immune system in allergy situations. Your vet is right that she shouldn't get too many of these. For one, they don't address the source of the problem, but they can also have some pretty serious side effects. The fact that it did work for a while indicates her problem may indeed be allergy related (although even that isn't a given, since steroids can be mood-altering as well, which would then affect behaviour).

Recently she's been pulling out even MORE hair and is completely bald in some areas.

What areas (belly, back, tail, etc)? Does the skin look irritated, or does she just pull out the hair?

I am around all the time, so it's not like she's lonely and she is definitely not stressed.

Stress for cats can be very different from what we might consider stressful. Or what we would even notice. A new cat patrolling the neighborhood, moving furniture around, changing litter or working different hours, are all examples of things that can set some cats off. Treatment can vary, from play therapy, to simple pheromone diffusers like Feliway, to anti-depressants.

I've been putting oil in her food but that doesn't seem to help either?

What kind of oil? If it isn't something high in Omega 3, like a good salmon or krill oil, you might want to try that instead. Omega 3s are anti-inflammatory. If you're using a grain oil like corn or sunflower, they tend to be high in Omega 9s, which are pro-inflammatory. Not all cats like the taste of fishy oils though, so start with a very small amount (couple drops).

I have a hard time taking her to the vet to do tests because she's already been there so much and the vet is always reluctant to give her shots.. and he's worried that something will traumatize her or kill her.

Are veterinary house calls an option for you? Perhaps your vet can recommend someone.

I noticed that her appetite had decreased a while back and I recently switched her from hard food to soft food to help the problem and it seemed to help

How are her teeth? Has the vet given her a thorough dental exam recently? Older cats often suffer with dental problems, and because they're so good at hiding pain, we often can't tell until it becomes quite severe (like they stop eating properly or start drooling).

(I just feed her the normal brand names, chicken flavor stuff).

A lot of the bigger pet food companies like Purina, Iams, Science Diet, etc don't actually make a very good quality product. They tend to be loaded with by-products, grains, food colour and chemical preservatives. I'd suggest going to one of the independant stores (not a big-box store) and buying something like Wellness, Innova EVO 95% meat, Nature's Variety Instinct, By Nature Organics, Merrick, Natural Balance, Eagle Pack etc. Stay away from fish flavours (common allergen), and you may even consider eliminating chicken for a while (really read ingredients - chicken is used extensively in even non-chicken flavours: for instance, most of the Wellness varieties contain chicken, albeit a better quality chicken).

Good luck with this! I know how frustrating it can be. My cat is an obsessive groomer (bald patch on his belly) stemming from the death of his brother 4 years ago.

Here's a short blurb on Psychogenic Alopecia that you might find helpful:
http://www.cathealth.com/psychalopecia.htm