3-19-15
NMVMA listserve Tip #4

Jeff Nichol, DVM
Behavior resident in private practice training
Veterinary Emergency and Specialty Centers

Albuquerque and Santa Fe Feline Psychogenic Alopecia – the rest of the story

Most over-grooming cats suffer from dermatologic etiologies but about 24% of them are significantly anxious. Crowded in a multi-cat household or frightened by noises or outdoor creatures they can be highly stressed.

Feline psychogenic alopecia is seen almost exclusively in indoor cats. Unable to find a secure hide-out, climb a tree, or simply leave the area to avoid confrontation affected cats often feel trapped. With no natural coping method available these miserable kitties may engage in self-mutilation as a displacement behavior.

There is a great list of rule-outs in Blackwell’s 5 Minute Consult: Canine and Feline Behavior. This quick reference also contains behavior modification and management recommendations. To set an affected pet up for success ask your client to schedule at least 30 minutes of your time (a couple of hours is ideal). A complete history will allow you to custom-fit your treatment plan. Be sure to charge for your time.

The great majority of freaked out cats lack adequate climbing, perching, hiding, stalking, and hunting opportunities. I have posted a good list of Feline Environmental Enrichments on my website, drjeffnichol.com. I’ll send you the list, which you are free to share with your clients.

Anxiolytic medication makes a difference:

Mild to moderate fears and anxieties:

  • Anxitane or Zylkene
    • Natural supplements
    • Safe and palatable

Severe anxiety:

  • Clomicalm 5 mg. Give 1/4 – 1 tablet/cat/day
    • Start low and, if necessary, increase by ¼ tablet monthly.
    • Possible side effects: lethargy, GI signs, lowered seizure threshold,
  • Fluoxetine 10 mg. Give ¼ – ½ tablet/cat/day
    • Possible side effects: constipation, urine retention (think cystic calculi), hyporexia, lethargy, GI signs, restlessness.
    • Lower doses are safer
  • Amitriptyline 10 mg. Give ¼ – 1 tablet/cat/day
    • Possible side effects: dry mouth, constipation, GI sign, lethargy, lowered seizure threshold
    • Often not the best choice. At doses high enough to achieve adequate therapeutic benefit many cats show lethargy and/or anticholinergic side effects.

Forget transdermal gels. For behavior medications these have been shown to provide inconsistent and inadequate serum levels.

Veterinarians are welcome to contact me for help with cases. Referrals are always appreciated.

All the best,
Jeff Nichol, DVM
505.792.5131