Your cat’s coat can paint an overall picture of his health. Cats are fastidious by nature and any cat owner will have observed their cat devoting hours a day to grooming. So if and when you notice the condition of your cat’s coat deteriorating, it can be a warning that something is wrong.
What causes poor coat condition in cats?
There are a number of causes of a poor coat in cats, some of which include:
- Dietary – Poor diet, malnutrition, vitamin A toxicosis, 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, dry air.
- Inability to groom – This is most often seen in older cats who have less mobility, usually due to arthritis. Obese cats may also have difficulty grooming harder to reach spots due to their size.
Cats with long hair need to be regularly groomed 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. This 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 you may have noticed and ask about your cat’s diet.
Symptoms of a poor coat may include:
- Flaky skin/dandruff
- Dull appearance
- Patches of missing hair
- Thinning hair
- Lumps and bumps
- Other symptoms related to a 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 including reluctance to put weight on a leg (in the case of arthritis)
|Note the poor coat on this cat who has hyperthyroidism.|
Your veterinarian may wish to perform some medical tests to get to a cause, this may include complete blood count, urinalysis, and biochemical profile to 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.
How is a poor coat treated?
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.
- Surgery or radioactive iodine to treat hyperthyroidism.
- Hormone replacements to treat hypothyroidism.
- Insulin, diet and where necessary certain medications to control diabetes.
- Diet and where necessary, medications to manage kidney disease.
- Most viral infections can’t be cured with medications but they can be managed. FIV and FeLV can be helped with drugs.
- Supportive care may sometimes be necessary, replacing lost fluids and ensuring the cat still eats for example.
- Antibiotics are sometimes prescribed to treat secondary infections.
- Anti-parasitic drugs, pastes, and topical applications can be used to control fleas and worms.
- As a rule, most cats don’t need to be bathed. People with allergies are told to bathe their cats frequently. If this is the case, speak to your veterinarian about a gentle shampoo to use on your cat.
- Over-grooming may need to be treated with anti-anxiety drugs along with reducing stress in your cat.
If your cat is old and/or arthritic, you can help by grooming him regularly. Most cats will appreciate being groomed, 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.
Photo courtesy of Nottingham Vet School