Welcome to PetForums

Join thousands of other pet owners and pet lovers on the UK's most popular and friendly pet community and discussion forum.

Sign Up

Cat pulling out fir, itching and over grooming

Discussion in 'Cat Health and Nutrition' started by hubballi, Dec 11, 2020.


  1. hubballi

    hubballi PetForums Member

    Joined:
    Aug 6, 2009
    Messages:
    100
    Likes Received:
    0
    Well, for the life of me I just don't know what to do about my late mother's 14 year old cats I have inherited. The symptoms are over grooming, small scabs and redness on his back and around neck (quite orange coloured oily fir round neck) he pulls clumps of fir out as well as constantly itching.

    We have tried everything, and I mean everything.

    The vet has tested for fleas, food allergy, skin condition (had test done from sample) , a course of antibiotics, and all to no avail as he couldn't find a single flea. We have also been giving him frontline, treated for possible ear mites and kept on a special (expensive) food diet purchased from Pets At Home for a few weeks to no avail.

    The only thing that seems to work is a steroid injection every time we take him to the vets to monitor his condition, which really picks him up with his fur going back into a healthy condition, as well as wanting to sit on our laps etc but pretty much after 2 weeks the cycle starts again. He starts to become more antisocial, going into another room on his own and looking rather sad with all the other fur pulling and itching symptoms.

    For us this isn't financially sustainable to keep paying for these expensive vet visits with injections every 2 weeks. It is getting us both down as we have even tried the natural herbal sprays (rated highly online) and even treated the whole house for dust mites with this stuff as the vet (pretty much at a loss himself by now) suggested it could be an allergy to them. It can't be stress as when we first moved him in this summer from mum's house (now sold) he settled really well. He doesn't mix with other cats except our other cat mum had that came with him and is perfectly fine. They are both fine together, curling up with each other (in normal health) and both have a healthy appetite.

    What we can't understand is why all the symptoms disappear after a steroid injection, only to return after pretty much exactly 2 weeks. The vet seems to think that every time he has the injection it gets him a bit further forward but he actually goes downhill fast and back to looking bedraggled with patches on his fur.

    It's really depressing :(
     
  2. chillminx

    chillminx PetForums VIP

    Joined:
    Nov 22, 2010
    Messages:
    29,782
    Likes Received:
    26,490
    @hubballi

    I am sorry to hear about your poor cat being so itchy. The steroid suppresses the immune system and thus stops the itchiness for a while. But of course it is not a cure as you know, and as soon as the effect of the steroid wears off the symptoms come back and your cat is itchy and miserable again.

    The main thing is to ascertain what is causing the itching. I am interested that you mentioned his fur looks "orange" around his neck. If he is not a ginger coloured cat, then the orange could suggest he has harvest mites (the larvae are known as 'chiggers'). These are tiny little creatures which can cause intense itching on the cat.

    https://icatcare.org/advice/harvest-mite-infestation-in-cats/

    Harvest mite larvae live on the skin's surface. During feeding, they pierce the skin with their hooked fangs and inject enzymes that digest skin cells which then become liquefied and are consumed by the mite larvae. The enzymes are very irritating to the skin and result in intense itching. Itching causes the cat to scratch itself, causing self-inflicted wounds. The resulting skin lesions vary from crusted spots to areas of hair loss to raw moist bleeding areas.

    Harvest mites may be found around the cat's ears, between their toes, or on the shoulder area, but can be found almost anywhere on the body. Individual cats vary in how sensitive they are to the mites but cats that are frequently bitten can develop allergies to them.

    Some of the spot on flea treatments also treat for mites. Advocate treats for ear mites, but email or phone the company to check it also kills Harvest Mites.

    . https://www.vetuk.co.uk/pet-meds-prescription-only-advocate-for-cats-c-21_702

    Frontline (or any spot-on flea trearment containing the insecticide fipronil) is NOT effective for killing mites. And Frontline is no longer effective as a flea killer either, in many parts of the UK. So I would stop using it.

    If Harvest mites are 100% ruled out as a cause of the itching, then as skin tests have been done and nothing found, the most likely cause of the itching is a food allergy or an environmental allergy, perhaps triggered by stress due to all the changes the cat has been through recently - e.g. losing his home, loss of his former owner [your late mother] and having to adapt to living with new cats. All challenging things for any cat to cope with, but much more so for a senior cat who would be quite set in their ways.

    You mentioned your vet has tested the cat for food allergies, but the fact is there is no reliable blood test for food allergies in cats, and they are a waste of money. Skin prick allergy tests are only slightly less unreliable.

    The only reliable and scientific method to identify food allergies in a cat is with an elimination diet. This is methodical and far more effective than just changing the diet. It involves feeding a novel protein, grain free wet food for 8 to 10 weeks until the itching goes away and then reintroducing the usual meat proteins one by one as a challenge to the cat's immune system.

    Most cat allergies are to one of the meat proteins commonly used in cat food e.g. chicken, beef, fish. But a cat can be allergic to any of the meat proteins they have ever eaten. More rarely some cats are allergic to grains, including rice. And some cats can be allergic to the emulsifiers and stabilisers commonly used in cat foods (e.g. guar gum, cassia gum, canageenan, tapioca)

    To find out more about how to do the elimination diet and where to buy the single protein/novel protein foods required, you may like to read my pinned thread :

    https://www.petforums.co.uk/threads/elimination-diets.509821/

    In terms of environmental allergies, I advise you to use only non-bio unscented laundry liquid for your bedding and the cats' bedding. And not to use any scented diffuser products in the house (airborne droplets could cause a skin allergy in your cat) or any chemical cleaners anywhere the cat walks, sits or lies.

    I'm happy to help with further advice regarding diet etc. :) It is important to get this problem sorted out for her. x
     
    #2 chillminx, Dec 11, 2020
    Last edited: Dec 11, 2020
  3. hubballi

    hubballi PetForums Member

    Joined:
    Aug 6, 2009
    Messages:
    100
    Likes Received:
    0

    Thanks for your reply and suggestions. The food test was done by eliminating normal cat food and going onto special food (expensive) for 6-8 weeks but the vet was pretty sure at the end of the trial it is not an allergy issue. The house move also won't be causing this as he was showing these symptoms for a few months while he was living at my mum's house. I have Googled harvest mites and it isn't that kind orange skin condition, more like an oily orange colour around the neck, (our cat is black and white) nothing like the images I saw. The vet also took samples of the fur and examined him closely without finding a single flea or mite. My wife has been looking into cats that can suffer from lack of vitamin D which can cause the symptoms Shady is showing so are going to try and add that to his diet, an egg yolk a day as he loved the one she gave him earlier. It could be the link that is causing it. But at the moment he stays sat outside and won't come in, even though its cold and wet
     
    #3 hubballi, Dec 11, 2020
    Last edited: Dec 11, 2020
  4. chillminx

    chillminx PetForums VIP

    Joined:
    Nov 22, 2010
    Messages:
    29,782
    Likes Received:
    26,490
    @hubballi - bless him, it won't be doing him any good at all staying outside in the cold and damp at his age. Perhaps the heat indoors makes his itching worse.

    I am sorry I can't visualise what orange tinged oily fur around his neck means or is due to. Could you post a close-up photo of his neck and shoulders?

    Yes cats can suffer from lack of vitamin D but it's fairly unlikely if they are fed a balanced diet of good quality manufactured cat food because manufacturers add enough vitamin D3 to their complete cat foods.

    If he's been eating mostly supplementary cat foods or home cooked meat for quite a long time then he could be short of vitamin D3. The most common food sources of Vitamin D for cats are liver, fish and egg yolks, and it can also be found in beef. Feeding him an egg yok every day should be fine but bear in mind that too much vitamin D is toxic for a cat.

    If the "special food" contained hydrolised protein it is not always effective for every cat who has food allergies. One of my girls who has severe food allergies did not benefit at all from a hydrolised protein diet. Her itching and over grooming remained as bad.

    The special diets contain meats such as chicken (a common food allergen in cats) even though the protein has been processed in a way (hydrolised) to break down the molecules so they cause less problem to the cat's immune system. Some of the special foods are made with hydrolised soya protein, but soya can be a food allergen to cats.
     

    Attached Files:

  5. hubballi

    hubballi PetForums Member

    Joined:
    Aug 6, 2009
    Messages:
    100
    Likes Received:
    0
    It seems there is nothing you can do to get rid of these mites, which we both now think you could well be right in thinking they are the culprit. We have got some flea pro from Pets Purest, which has all natural ingredients. It has excellent reviews and when asked via email (although it doesn't say on the bottle) if it kills harvest mites, they replied that at does kill mites. However, after we treated the cat, he still pulls at his toes, fur and scratches. Its really getting us down as the vet can’t seem to come up with an answer. Again, samples were taken of the fur and loose skin and nothing came back flagging up any parasites. Its just so depressing.
     
  6. chillminx

    chillminx PetForums VIP

    Joined:
    Nov 22, 2010
    Messages:
    29,782
    Likes Received:
    26,490
    @hubballi -

    I am not sure he does have Harvest Mites because in your previous reply you mentioned the vet has done skin scrapings and could not see any mites. Harvest Mites are tiny but they can be seen with the naked eye. I can't imagine the vet could have missed them if your cat has them.

    However I am puzzled by him having oily "orange coloured" fur around his neck. I don't know what the orange colour is due to, but the oily fur could be due to Seborrhea. It is a
    chronic skin condition that some cats suffer from and it's often hereditary.

    There are two types of seborrhea in cats, dry seborrhea and oily seborrhea. In oily seborrhea, the skin, and fur appear may be greasy in some areas.. It is very common for this type of seborrhea to make the cat feel very itchy. Can you ask the vet if 'oily seborrhea' has been ruled out?

    To be frank if the vet is stumped as to the cause of the skin condition I would recommend asking for a referral to a skin specialist. If you have no pet insurance it will be quite expensive, but on the other hand the specialist vets are so skilled and experienced in their chosen field of expertise that you are highly likely to get a diagnosis.

    The poor boy must be miserable and uncomfortable as he is.

    The only other thing I can suggest is going down the route of a possible food allergy. The special cat food you mentioned doesn't always stop allergies. One of my own cats with severe food allergies can't eat any cat food at all without itching badly and pulling out her fur. She is on a home cooked diet with added vitamin supplements. Would you consider this for your cat? I cook the meats in a slow cooker and it is very little trouble.
     
    Lurcherlad likes this.
  7. hubballi

    hubballi PetForums Member

    Joined:
    Aug 6, 2009
    Messages:
    100
    Likes Received:
    0
    Looking up about mites it seems that they can be easily missed by the vet. Pet insurance isn’t cheap, especially for an old cat. I have never known anything like this in all the years we have had cats its just exasperating and getting us both down. The vet will just give another £30 steroid injection which will put him right for 2 weeks, only to go downhill again. I suppose if it were mites, why would a steroid injection stop the itching ? The cat would still feel them. It doesn’t make sense.
     
  8. hubballi

    hubballi PetForums Member

    Joined:
    Aug 6, 2009
    Messages:
    100
    Likes Received:
    0
    Here are some images of fur combings we just did on him.
     

    Attached Files:

  9. chillminx

    chillminx PetForums VIP

    Joined:
    Nov 22, 2010
    Messages:
    29,782
    Likes Received:
    26,490


    Thank you for the images. If the colours are pretty much true to life, then it does not appear to me there are signs of Harvest Mites. The mites really are quite a bright orange colour and tend to congregate in clusters. It was really the mention of the 'orange colour' around his neck/shoulder area that caused me to think of Harvest Mites.

    The black bits on the blanket look like dried blood, and as the cat does not have fleas they are not flea droppings, and therefore would seem typical of an itchy cat who is scratching a lot, and has damaged their skin. Can you say what parts of the body you took these combings from?

    The steroids work by dampening the cat's immune response and reducing inflammation. So while on steroids the body stops reacting to whatever is causing the itching. So under the effect of the steroids your cat's immune system would not respond to the cause of the itching whether it is caused by a food allergy, an environmental allergy, or a parasite such as mites or fleas,

    The steroids may eliminate the itching for the duration the drug is given.. But the steroids give only a temporary respite and are not a cure, so the itching may return pretty soon after the effect of the steroids wears off.

    It would be very unwise to continue letting a 14 yr old cat have repeated doses of steroids because of the potential unpleasant and harmful side effects. Steroids make the cat vulnerable to infections, and also cause insulin resistance making your cat highly vulnerable to developing Diabetes Mellitus.

    I adopted a senior rescue cat aged 14, over 10yrs ago. While with her previous owner she had been given repeated courses of steroids to treat food allergies. As a direct result she had developed Diabetes Mellitus. The Diabetes was irreversible so not only did that have to be managed with twice daily insulin injections, but also she could not have any more steroids ever to treat her allergies. Luckily I did manage over months to find a diet that suited her.

    The risks of Diabetes are higher with the long acting steroids given by injection. If you need to continue with the steroids it is better to use the tablets and give the lowest possible daily dose to bring relief. But this should be a temporary measure while the cause of the itching is being identified.

    Have you tried anti-histamines for him? None of them are licensed for use in cats but vets do use them regularly. Some antihistamines are better than others with reducing itching, but you need to give them under the guidance of a vet.

    Did you mention the cat has already had a course of Apoquel and that it was no help?
     
    Lurcherlad likes this.
  10. hubballi

    hubballi PetForums Member

    Joined:
    Aug 6, 2009
    Messages:
    100
    Likes Received:
    0
    Sorry, my wife just informed me these are not combings, they are just her trying to get an individual from where he was sitting! Yesterday she combed around his neck and there were a lot of orangey clusters, she didn’t photograph them. He is affected around his neck and ears and he goes between his toes too. His nipples are red, this was a quick observation when trying to get the medication on his tummy. The flea/tick spray is from Pets purest, I emailed them to ask would it be effective on Harvest ticks, their reply was ‘yes it works on ticks’, so I have ‘done’ him twice now.

    He struggles like mad and I have scratches up my arm from yesterday so she didn’t do him today, instead went around the house spraying, washing throws and hoovering. She used rosemary and cedar oil too as she read they don’t like them! I am desperate to free him, he’s been like this since September. In fact if I can get rid of them for him I will do a cartwheel! Poor lad must be worn out with it all, I know I am! I've sat and just cried with him...it's so frustrating and upsetting.





    [​IMG]
    ReplyForward
     
  11. chillminx

    chillminx PetForums VIP

    Joined:
    Nov 22, 2010
    Messages:
    29,782
    Likes Received:
    26,490
    @hubballi - OK, well if your wife found orange clusters around his neck then that certainly does indeed sound like Harvest Mites..

    Please be careful what you put on his skin to treat the mites, many essential oils are toxic to cats. It is better to avoid them all to be on the safe side.

    I have had a look at the Pets Purest Flea and Tick spray and see it contains Neem oil which I would nor use on a ca for fear of them ingesting it by licking their fur. It also contains several essential oils that I would not want to use on a cat. The stuff won't kill Harvest Mites anyway.

    There is a spot-on called Advocate which kills mites (as well as fleas and ticks) . It can be bought from the vet. Please ask the vet for some. It may need applying for several months, once a month.

    The house will need treating too with a good household insecticide such as Indorex, or Acclaim. (buy from Amazon UK)

    I know of people who have got rid of Harvest Mites with suitable treatment, so it can be done. :)
     
    Lurcherlad likes this.
  12. hubballi

    hubballi PetForums Member

    Joined:
    Aug 6, 2009
    Messages:
    100
    Likes Received:
    0
    I had a feeling you might say that but I am sure Pets Purest wouldn't sell the product if it was harmful to cats otherwise they wouldn't be allowed legally. All natural ingredients anyway which I am a big believer in, rather than chemicals which would do us harm around the house if treated. I have just looked the two products up you suggested (of which I am grateful) but they seem to be for flea treatment.

    All in all the expense rises and the problem persists but we will be taking samples to the vet to look at with a microscope.
     
    #12 hubballi, Dec 15, 2020
    Last edited: Dec 15, 2020
  13. ed8

    ed8 PetForums Newbie

    Joined:
    Dec 15, 2020
    Messages:
    1
    Likes Received:
    0
    My cat has similiar problems, I didnt notice any fleas or ticks
    What is this?
     

    Attached Files:

  14. chillminx

    chillminx PetForums VIP

    Joined:
    Nov 22, 2010
    Messages:
    29,782
    Likes Received:
    26,490

    Veterinary products known as so-called "natural products" have not been subject to the rigorous testing and trials that orthodox veterinary medicines go through before being authorised by the Veterinary Medicine Directorate for use on domestic animals. So product safety is the biggest reason why I am not keen on using "natural" medicines for cats. Even herbal medicine can in some cases be harmful to cats.

    https://www.gov.uk/government/collections/veterinary-medicines-guidance-notes-vmgns

    I have to say I regard most "natural products" for cats as being little better than "snake oil" but some products can be potentially harmful . Cats are particularly sensitive to essential oils and some e.g. Teatree oil, are highly toxic (there is no teatree oil in the product you used, thank goodness)

    "Neem oil can be used topically to repel and kill common biting insects, including mosquitoes, midges, and fleas, [...] It’s questionable whether neem oil is effective at repelling and killing ticks"

    "Vets advise against using neem oil—or any other herbal remedy - as a sole repellant, and say it should be used in conjunction with traditional preventives. Mosquitoes, fleas, and ticks carry life-threatening diseases such as heartworm, Babesia, Bartonella, Lyme disease, tapeworm, and many more. ”

    "Neem oil should only be used topically and ingestion (by the cat) should be avoided. These products are not generally regulated and the purity of the ingredients may be questionable"

    [above quotes from article from the reputable Pet MD website]

    https://www.petmd.com/dog/wellness/neem-oil-pets-it-safe

    Unlike many of the spot-on treatments (Frontline for example which does nothing at all to kill ticks or mites) Advocate treats for fleas, ticks and mites. Bravecto is another make that does the same.
     
  15. hubballi

    hubballi PetForums Member

    Joined:
    Aug 6, 2009
    Messages:
    100
    Likes Received:
    0
    Well, they get great reviews so natural products must be doing some good. I would prefer the cat to have natural products rather than chemicals. After treatment with the Pet’s Purest control (which states it tackles mites) he has showed some improvement and not itching and fur pulling as much. I am also massaging coconut oil into these areas as this is also good for killing fleas etc and conditioning the skin. We will see how this goes.
     
  16. hubballi

    hubballi PetForums Member

    Joined:
    Aug 6, 2009
    Messages:
    100
    Likes Received:
    0
    We almost turned a corner as gentle application of coconut oil, which has skin healing properties, stopped his itching and cleared up the scabs. However he is again back to itching with new scabs. its just so exasperating as many trips to the vet, and various topical treatments have not worked. I just think we will never see an end to it. We can't keep throwing money at something we don't even know what is causing it. Surely if these were mites, the oil that smothered them would have broken the cycle.
     
  17. OrientalSlave

    OrientalSlave Shunra Oriental Cats

    Joined:
    Jan 26, 2012
    Messages:
    13,718
    Likes Received:
    9,249
  18. chillminx

    chillminx PetForums VIP

    Joined:
    Nov 22, 2010
    Messages:
    29,782
    Likes Received:
    26,490
    If the mites have definitely gone, (no more orange dots on his skin) then something else may be going on causing the itching.

    Is he still on the hydrolised protein diet?

    I would ask your vet to refer him to a specialist in feline skin problems. A consultation will be more expensive than with a general practice vet , but would be worth it if it gives you answers. And it might save you money in the long term in vet fees.
     
  19. hubballi

    hubballi PetForums Member

    Joined:
    Aug 6, 2009
    Messages:
    100
    Likes Received:
    0
    Well some of the fur is looking slightly orange again (he also does a lot of biting at his toes) but now the ginger tom has started to pull lumps of his fur out (he used to do this from time to time) so for the life of me I really don't know what to do as I can't afford to keep throwing money at this blindly. The diet is nothing to do with it (as confirmed by the vet) and they have both had another treatment of Frontline so it isn't fleas (the vet didn't find any fleas at all on him when he first went in) Just keep on with the coconut oil which keeps the itching down at least, as well as hopefuly smothering them. My wife has also vacuumed the house from top to bottom within an inch of it's life.
     
  20. chillminx

    chillminx PetForums VIP

    Joined:
    Nov 22, 2010
    Messages:
    29,782
    Likes Received:
    26,490
    As I have mentioned, my advice is to ask for a referral to a vet specialist. It will be more expensive than a general practice vet but at least you will get value for money. And going to a vet who is a expert in skin problems (a dermatologist) would certainly not be 'throwing money at this blindly' as you feel you are doing with the vet.

    There is no point in keep loading the cats up with chemicals if it is doing nothing. Frontline should be avoided anyway as it is no longer effective at killing fleas in many parts of the UK. My own vet has not stocked it for 5 yrs for this reason. But as they do not have fleas then it doesn't matter.

    As both cats are now affected with this problem. it seems pretty urgent to get specialist help for the cats for their sake, and also for peace of mind for you and your wife. .
     
  1. This site uses cookies to help personalise content, tailor your experience and to keep you logged in if you register.
    By continuing to use this site, you are consenting to our use of cookies.
    Dismiss Notice