DEAR DR. FOX: I recently inherited a 15-year-old active and healthy Himalayan cat. She has always had a thin area of fur on the base of her tail, under her belly and between her legs.
After we got her, it got worse. She is never allowed outside and neither she nor my other cat have fleas. I took her to an allergy vet, who suggested I put her on Atopica. I don't know if I could administer the kind made for cats without her choking, so she gets a very small amount of the kind for dogs, since she's only 7 1/2 pounds.
Without expensive testing, we have concluded it is environmental. My husband is in the nursery business, and our yard is full of blooming trees and plants, which he brings into the house on his person. Atopica has worked well except for about a month in the summer when she gets a little breakout on the base of her tail.
Do you have any suggestions as an alternative? I am concerned about long-term side effects. I've been told if I take her off of Atopica, her condition could become much worse than it was before. I'd hate to have a Himalayan cat with no fur. -- D.E., Lake Worth, Florida
DEAR D.E.: The active ingredient in Atopica is an immune system-modulating drug, cyclosporine, which has proven beneficial for cats and dogs suffering from dermatitis or skin problems that are termed "atopic" because the exact cause has not been identified and corrected -- such as a flea-bite hypersensitivity or food allergy.
I believe that many cases of atopic dermatitis have a food ingredient genesis, and as I have posted in my columns and on my website, many pet food manufacturers continue to be negligent in providing accurate ingredient labeling. Pork or chicken, for example, could be in a cat food that indicates on the label that rabbit is the sole animal protein ingredient. Other ingredients such as rice (especially from brewer's grains), soy and corn, all of which have no place in cat foods, could be the dermatitis or inflammatory bowel disease trigger.
Many veterinarians are finding that animals with skin problems get rapid relief and recovery when provided omega-3 fatty acid supplements, such as in canned sardines in water, wild salmon and fish oil for cats. Add the supplement to the cat's food, beginning with just a drop. For cats allergic to fish (which can also cause dermatitis), there is a source of omega-3 fatty acids in capsule form from algae.
Try out this kind of supplement and also my home-prepared cat food recipe (DrFoxVet.com). After four to six weeks, see how your old cat responds when the dose of Atopica is reduced, ideally under the eye of your cat's veterinarian.
MORE PET FOOD AND TREAT RECALLS
-- BRAVO RAW FOOD RECALLS: On Sept. 26, 2014, Bravo of Manchester, Connecticut, announced that it is recalling select lots of Bravo Turkey and Chicken pet foods for dogs and cats because they have the potential to be contaminated with salmonella.
The recalled product was distributed nationwide beginning on Nov. 14, 2013. More information on the Bravo recall can be found at bravopetfoods.com or by calling 866-922-9222.
-- JAKKS PACIFIC KONG AUSSIE STICKS RECALL: On Sept. 25, 2014, JAKKS Pacific of Walnut, California, announced a recall of its Kong Aussie Sticks dog treats due to possible contamination with mold.
The recalled product was sold only at PetSmart. You may contact JAKKS Pacific at 877-875-2557. Kong can be reached at 303-216-2626.
(Send all mail to email@example.com or to Dr. Michael Fox in care of Universal Uclick, 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.
Visit Dr. Fox's website at DrFoxVet.com.)