Common Health Problems affecting Dogs and Cats

Veterinary advice from John Burns BVMS MRCVS

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Over-grooming in Cats

Luescher et al (1991) found that the commonest stereotypy in cats is self-mutilation. It is thought that stress is a contributory factor in self-mutilation such as over-grooming. One of the other most obvious signs of stress is inappropriate urination.

To treat the problem the cause of the stress must be identified. The cat may become stressed for a variety of reasons, which include; a new pet, person in the house, a new dog/cat in the neighbourhood, a new piece of furniture or carpet, a new visitor and confinement e.g. perhaps when travelling.

This type of problem can usually be treated by a desensitization regime. Your vet should be able to refer you to a qualified behaviourist for this. However, using Feliway (available from your vets) may help. The Feliway diffuser releases pheromones, which may pacify the cat.

* If the cat is consistently biting around its tail and anus then the problem may be due to blocked anal glands. The anal glands can be found either side of the anus and discharge a substance when the cat urinates and defecates; this scent is used to mark territory.
* The anal glands may also act as dustbins, by collecting any waste matter in the system. This waste matter can be a result of an unsuitable diet. Many people believe that a high fibre diet can help, however changing the cat to a highly digestible diet that produces very little waste should help.Unsuitable diet may also lead to over grooming.
* Excess moulting, balding, excessive grooming and eczema all have a common cause, namely the accumulation of toxic waste in the system, which usually results from unsuitable diet. Shedding of hair and skin eruptions show that the body is attempting to expel this burden of toxic matter.

These toxins may result from diets that contain ingredients which are hard to digest e.g. wheat, Soya or dairy products. The toxins may come from chemical colourings or preservatives or even diets which are too high in fat or protein.

Grooming between cats

Allogrooming is the act of grooming another individual. It is commonly seen in primates, however it also occurs between cats, especially those in the same house.

Reluctance to groom

There are a few reasons why a cat may not groom itself, including;

• pain when stretching to groom (this may be caused by arthritis or other conditions)
• depression (as seen during some illnesses such as cat flu)
• ulcers/lesions on the tongue (this would also make eating painful, so beware of this sign)
• a greasy oily coat (caused by an unsuitable diet)

The condition known as ‘Stud-tail’ may also stop grooming. Although this condition is usually only seen in intact males, it can be seen in females and neutered animals. The problem is characterised by the over-production of a greasy discharge at the base of the tail. This makes the fur greasy with an unpleasant odour.

However, if the cat is fed on a good quality natural diet then these discharges should not occur.


Common pet health problems
John Burns Pet Health Management Programme







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