Kitty questions, kitty answers

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A cat with cat insurance looks at the camera.

By: Dr. Jane Matheys
Associate Veterinarian
The Cat Doctor Veterinary Hospital
For Pets Best Insurance

Q: My cat was diagnosed as being hyperthyroid not long ago. We decided to have radioactive iodine treatment for her which we did approximately 1 month ago. She has recently been having bad diarrhea and I wondered if that is normal after the iodine treatment?

A: When it is available, radioactive iodine therapy is quickly becoming the treatment of choice for most cats with hyperthyroidism(overactive thyroid gland). This is one of the many reasons it’s a good idea to have a pet health insurance policy in place. As During treatment, radioactive iodine is administered as an injection and is quickly absorbed into the bloodstream.

The iodine is taken up by the thyroid gland, but not by other body tissues. The quantity of radiation destroys the abnormal thyroid tissue but does not damage the surrounding tissues or the nearby parathyroid glands. The therapy is curative in greater than 95% of cats with hyperthyroidism.(1) The procedure has no serious side effects, so your cat’s diarrhea is likely due to some other problem. Your veterinarian can help determine what is causing the diarrhea and prescribe any necessary treatment.

Q: In your opinion, what is the safest, most effective flea control product for cats?

A: This is a difficult question as it often depends on individual circumstances. Flea prevention is always the best strategy. In general, I recommend the monthly flea control products. Specifically, I use Frontline, Advantage and Revolution. These are very safe products when used according to label directions. I caution my clients about using some of the other over-the-counter products as there have been reports of toxicities and side effects. The verdict is still out on some of the “generic” monthly flea products available on the market. Time will tell if they are as effective as the brand name product. There is also the possibility that some populations of fleas may be developing a resistance to some of the most commonly used flea control products. Certain geographic locations may be more affected by this problem than others. Cleaning and treating the environment is also imperative. Your veterinarian can make specific recommendations for your particular situation.

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Q: Why would a cat randomly pull his fur out?

A: There is actually nothing random about it! A cat pulls his fur out or overgrooms his fur for a variety of very specific reasons. Your veterinarian just has to figure out which reason it is, and that’s not always an easy task.

Some cats will overgroom due to stress or anxiety. In my experience, these cats are often “secret groomers”. The owners do not witness the overgrooming. The cats are chewing their fur when the owner is gone during the day or at night while the owner is asleep. These cats also tend to lick their fur off right down to the skin, but rarely cause self-trauma to the skin. The hair loss is commonly seen on the belly.

Occasionally cats will overgroom an area due to underlying pain. I once had a feline patient that licked all his fur off over his knee area. I diagnosed arthritis in his knee, and after his pain was treated, he stopped overgrooming and all his fur grew back.

The most common reason for a cat to overgroom is that the skin itches. Some cats can be so itchy that they will lick and chew their fur and skin so much that they cause raw or scabby areas along with the hair loss. Flea allergies are very common in cats, and typically they’re one of the first things I look for. Food allergies can also cause itching and scratching, especially around the head, face and neck. Inhalant allergies are another big cause of overgrooming and fur pulling in cats. Cats can react to inhaling indoor or outdoor allergens just like people do. Rather than the sneezing and runny eyes like seen in people with allergies, though, cats primarily get itchy skin. Having a cat insurance plan in place may help with costs associated with overgrooming when there is an underlying pet health issue.

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Less common causes of itchy skin in cats include mites, fungus or bacterial skin infections.

(1) from the website of Advanced Veterinary Medical Imaging, Tustin, CA

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