The Animal Doctor by Dr. Michael W. Fox

Cat With Troubling Allergies

DEAR DR. FOX: I read your article about DERMagic and wonder if you have any suggestions to help my cat, Moxie.

He is a 4-year-old neutered, flea-free indoor cat, and at age 6 months, he began to chew and scratch and lose hair. After the usual diet change, which made no difference, a blood sample was tested and found him allergic to wool, cotton, grass and people!

For over a year, I gave him shots for the allergies, and he also received steroid shots as necessary during that time. The allergy shots made no difference, and were difficult to give -- Moxie is a rescue kitty with strong self-protection skills and, at times, a vengeful attitude!

We then tried Apoquel, which gave him no relief. For the past year, he has needed a steroid shot every four to five weeks.

Can you suggest a product and/or course of action that might help Moxie and wean him off the need for steroids? -- M.S., Jacksonville, Florida

DEAR M.S.: You have a challenging situation with your poor cat.

The allergy testing (even finding an allergy to humans!) is but one indicator of some disruption of how your cat’s body responds to foreign proteins/allergens. Suppressing that response with steroids or drugs like Apoquel can help in some instances, potentially harmful side effects from long-term treatment notwithstanding.

Emotions and stress can influence how the immune system functions, as can underlying infections such as feline immunodeficiency, leukemia or herpes virus, and in older cats, thyroid disease. General discomfort, fear and anxiety can lead to excessive grooming and fur-pulling in cats. That was the case with our new cat, Fanny, who stopped self-mutilating once she adapted to enjoying life indoors after over a year fending for herself outside.

I understand that Moxie can be difficult to medicate orally, and could be allergic to other proteins in whatever you feed him. I would try to transition him to my home-prepared cat food with known ingredients. A few drops of fish oil and local bee pollen given with the food, beginning with a minute amount since cats are so finicky, may help. Also, many cats like catnip, which can have a calming effect; I would start the day with some good-quality dried herb or a little tincture in the food. It is the equivalent of Valium for cats (though not all cats accept it). In addition, 3 mg of melatonin, crushed into the last meal at night, may help. Ideally, cats should have six to eight small meals a day, each about 1 teaspoon of moist food -- think mouse-sized.

DEAR DR. FOX: Recently, my 2-year-old border collie has been having repeated fevers starting about six months ago.

Sometimes it happens every two to three weeks, and sometimes she can stay healthy for over a month. Usually the fever starts after going to a place that is not very clean, e.g., dog pools, or after accidentally ingesting water left out in the park.

After a lot of recent blood work and testing by various vets, it was discovered that she has a high level of ANA (antinuclear antibodies) in her blood. One of the vets suspects that she has systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE, where the immune system mistakenly attacks healthy tissue).

I’ve been trying to get to the bottom of this in hopes that she does not have this fatal disease. We have not heard about any other dogs from the same breeder or litter having this issue.

At a very young age, she started taking Nexgard Spectra (afoxolaner) for flea/tick and heartworm control. I came across your article, from a few years back, about the potential hazards of these drugs, and was wondering whether Nexgard may be the root cause of these fevers.

Have you ever heard of afoxolaner or other similar drugs being linked to autoimmune diseases? -- M.L., Taipei, Taiwan

DEAR M.L.: I am sorry to hear about your dog’s distressing condition.

It could be SLE, but please note that high-ANA titers alone are not diagnostics for SLE. High titers, if accompanied by appropriate clinical and laboratory findings, are more likely indicative of SLE. High titers can also be seen in some animals with infectious or inflammatory disorders (e.g., Ehrlichiosis, Bartonellosis) so these possibilities should be checked out.

Giving probiotics and 500 mg turmeric with each meal may help your dog significantly.

I doubt that the afoxolaner was the primary cause of your dog’s apparent autoimmune disease, but I am in principle opposed to the long-term use of insecticides in companion animals.


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(Send all mail to or to Dr. Michael Fox in care of Andrews McMeel Syndication, 1130 Walnut St., Kansas City, MO 64106. The volume of mail received prohibits personal replies, but questions and comments of general interest will be discussed in future columns.

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