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C2007-07

Dear Christopher Cat

My 8-year-old cat has been licking, chewing and pulling her hair out for the past seven months. Now she has large bald spots.

The veterinarian gave her three steroid injections to relieve her itchiness, but each shot helped for only a few weeks. I apply Advantage every month, and I’ve never seen fleas. What more can I do?

Christopher Responds

Steroids help relieve itchiness for short periods, but they create problems when given for long durations.

Therefore, it’s time to determine the precise cause of your cat’s itchiness and hair loss so specific treatment can be initiated.

First, ask your veterinarian to test for mites. Skin testing doesn’t always detect mites, but treatment can be started if your veterinarian suspects they are responsible for your cat’s bald spots.

Ringworm, a fungal infection, can cause hair loss, and it’s contagious to humans. So ask your veterinarian to test for it, too.

Finally, your cat may be allergic to one or more ingredients in her food – or to particles she inhales, like dust mites, mold or pollen.

Food allergies are diagnosed through a food elimination trial, while inhalant allergies are identified by skin or blood testing.

Many of us cats need to worry about fleas and lice, but your cat is unlikely to have them because you’ve been applying Advantage.

Once the cause of your cat’s itchiness and hair loss is found, effective treatment can be started.If the cause remains elusive, ask your veterinarian to refer you to veterinary dermatologist for further diagnostic tests.

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