Your cat’s coat can paint an overall picture of his health. Cats are fastidious groomers, so if and when you notice the condition of your cat’s coat deteriorating, it can be a warning that something is wrong.
There are several causes of a poor coat in cats, some of which include:
- Dietary – Poor diet, malnutrition, vitamin A toxicosis and food allergies.
- Systemic diseases – Hyperthyroidism (overactive thyroid gland), cancer, hypothyroidism (underactive thyroid gland), diabetes, kidney disease.
- Infection – FIV, Feline Leukemia, Feline Panleukopenia, pneumonia.
- Parasites – Worms, fleas, ringworm.
- Environmental – Over shampooing, over-grooming and dry air, which is common in the winter months.
- Inability to groom – This is common in senior cats who have less mobility, often due to arthritis. Obese cats may also have difficulty grooming harder to reach spots due to their size.
Groom cats with long hair weekly to keep their coat mat free. Many veterinarians and shelters can attest to the fact that a cat with long hair can quickly become matted which is extremely uncomfortable for your cat and requires the help of a veterinarian or a professional groomer to sort out.
If and when you notice your cat’s coat is losing condition the first step to take is to see your veterinarian. He will examine the cat and obtain a medical history from you including any accompanying symptoms, medical conditions and your cat’s diet.
- Flaky skin/dandruff
- Dull appearance
- Patches of missing hair
- Thinning hair
- Lumps and bumps
- Other symptoms related to systemic disease such as increased/decreased thirst and appetite, lethargy, weight loss.
- Other symptoms related to infection such as weight loss, loss of appetite, nasal/eye discharge, vomiting, diarrhea etc.
- Pain and discomfort which include a reluctance to put weight on a leg (in the case of arthritis)
Your veterinarian may wish to perform some medical tests to get to a cause; this may include biochemical profile, complete blood count, and urinalysis all of which can paint a picture of your cat’s overall health and evaluate the organ functions.
He may take blood samples to test for FIV, FeLV or other possible infections. If he suspects arthritis, he may wish to take x-rays to evaluate the joints. Stool samples may also be taken to check for parasites such as worms.
Treatment is aimed at addressing the underlying cause and may include:
- Feeding a high-quality diet.
- Supplementing with omega-3 fatty acids if he thinks it is necessary.
- Switching your cat to a low allergenic diet.
- Dietary therapy (low iodine diet), surgery to remove the thyroid gland or radioactive iodine to kill the tumour for cats with hyperthyroidism.
- Hormone replacements to treat hypothyroidism.
- Insulin, diet and where necessary, medications to control diabetes.
- Diet and where necessary, medications to manage kidney disease.
- It is not possible to clear most viral infections. FIV and FeLV can be helped with antivirals; in most cases, supportive care will be provided while the cat’s immune system fights the infection.
- Antibiotics are sometimes prescribed to treat secondary infections.
- Supportive care which includes replacing lost fluids and providing nutritional support.
- Anti-parasitic drugs, pastes, and topical applications to control fleas and worms.
- Anti-anxiety drugs to treat overgrooming and stress.
If your cat is old and arthritic, you can help by grooming him regularly. Most cats will appreciate this as it is a nice way to spend time with him. While you are grooming him, take some time to check him for lumps and bumps as well.