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Dear Dr. Fox: I have a 5-year-old domestic shorthair spayed female cat who started to compulsively lick her stomach and the backs of her legs. It got to the point where she had licked off most of her hair.
The vet said there was no way to figure out why she was doing this and wanted to put her on a behavioral medication. Before going this route, I tried changing her food from one with chicken as the main ingredient to one with no chicken at all. Within a week of the diet change, my cat had stopped the obsessive licking.
It has been about six months since the diet change. I have been observing her closely and have not seen any obsessive licking, but her fur is still very thin. It grew back a little, but not much.
Do you have any suggestions for anything I might add to her diet to help with fur growth, or is this how she is going to look from now on?
— J.K., Mount Rainier, Md.
Dear J.K: I applaud your initiative and regret the limited scope of possible causes and treatments your veterinarian offered.
Hypersensitivity or allergic reaction to certain ingredients in the cat’s diet and hyperthyroidism are two considerations to be ruled out before making a behavioral, anxiety or obsessive-compulsive disorder treatment decision.
It is quite possible that there is some ingredient other than chicken underlying your cat’s malady. It could also be compounded by the beginnings of thyroid disease — hyperthyroidism is very prevalent in cats who groom themselves excessively.
Fish oil, wild salmon and mackerel, or sardines rich in omega-3 fatty acids can do wonders for cats’ dermal health, helping make for thick, lustrous coats. Always introduce any new supplement or food ingredient gradually, beginning with a minute amount mixed in with regular food. Also note that some cats are allergic to fish, so organic, free-range, grass-fed beef and butter can be good omega-3 sources.
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