September 29, 2008

Hairy Reactions to Allergies Causing Trouble

By ANDERSON, Malcolm

Tony brought young Cosmo in to see us this week with one of his regular cat bite abscesses.

But it was his owner I felt sorry for, because every time I see Tony he has red eyes and is rubbing his face furiously. Not because he has been crying, but because he is allergic to Cosmo's hair as well as all the other animal hair wafting around the hospital.

Summer is the busiest time for us with all the itchy cats and dogs.

But with all the fine days lately, the plants are frantically trying to reproduce and are producing pollen.

Raticus is normally a smooth coated 3-year-old cat with an awesome charcoal coat with underlying silver colour. But when she emerged from her cardboard box it was obvious what her owner Charlotte had been concerned about.

Almost all the hair along the top of Raticus's back was missing, and what remained was thin brittle hair with a multitude of pinpoint rough- feeling scabs all along her back.

Even the underside of Raticus was looking bald.

A full examination revealed nothing abnormal and Charlotte had been using a good flea treatment on a monthly basis.

The scabby area along the back is called miliary dermatitis which just means "nodular skin inflammation".

The main causes, in order of importance, are:

* Flea bite allergy

* Inhalant allergy (like, pollen)

* Food allergy

There are varying degrees of this disease with some cats having hair thinning or brittle hair on their back and hair loss on their belly, to the more advanced form of this disease called eosinophilic complex (eosinophils are a type of white blood cell involved in allergic responses).

The hair-thinning is caused by the cats over-grooming themselves due to the itchiness.

In the advanced form there can be one or a combination of the following as well as hair loss:

* Raised red angry areas of skin on the inner legs

* Ulcers or erosions of the upper lips

* Swelling of the point of the chin

The usual presentation is the cat with hair thinning on the back. Treatment of a disease depends on the cause but with allergies it can be impossible to find the cause and little you can do about it.

The first thing is to eliminate fleas as a cause.

Choose an effective product and treat all the pets. If this has been done then inhaled allergy is the next likely cause. And this was definitely the case for Raticus.

We immediately started him on treatment to control the allergy. This can involve oral anti- inflammatories but long-term tablets can be difficult (and dangerous) in some cats.

So Raticus was given an injection of a long-acting anti- inflammatory which will last several weeks. After three days Charlotte reported a vast improvement in Raticus's behaviour and the scabs were disappearing.

Dogs haven't been exempt from the effects of the warmer weather. We have seen a large number of "hot spots" in our canine friends which need to be treated aggressively including having the area clipped free of hair along with antibiotics and anti- inflammatories.

So if you have a balding pet give us a call and we can get your friend back on track.

* Remember we are here till 7pm Monday to Friday and open Saturday and Sunday. Call 357-9993 or 356-9993 for Hokowhitu.

(c) 2008 Evening Standard; Palmerston North, New Zealand. Provided by ProQuest LLC. All rights Reserved.