A new approach to treating Raven’s hair loss

Raven enjoying the late afternoon sunlightRaven went to the vet again to try to get better control of her itching & hair loss. She got a steroid injection last month, and it worked well for about two weeks. As the drug wore off, she started licking & biting again and gave herself a few more bald patches. She’s also trying to barf up a hairball, but her 5 a.m attempt at that was unsuccessful.

You can see in this photo that the underside of her tail is missing a lot of fur. Her lower belly and back legs are also missing quite a lot of fur. Luckily, she does not have any rashes or sores on her skin.

Even with some missing fur, she’s still a beautiful kitty and she looked gorgeous in the late afternoon sunlight.

The vet and I had a lengthy discussion about options for treating Raven.

  1. Do nothing and let her be itchy, eat her fur, and be “naked”. This eliminates any risks from medications, but leaves her uncomfortable and at risk of getting a hairball that could cause a blockage in her digestive system. We ruled out this option because none of that is acceptable.
  2. Treat with steroids as we did before. Steroids are effective, but they come with side effects and long-term risks. We could use either a long-acting injection or daily pills. Both carry the same long-term risks and the injection has additional short-term risks (you can’t reverse it if something else goes wrong).  We ruled out this option because I’m not comfortable with the long-term risks of steroids, particularly inducing diabetes. I have had a diabetic cat and it’s not something I want to risk with Raven.
  3. Treat with cyclosporine (drug name Atopica) that suppresses the immune system. It has been in use for many years in cats and can be very successful. But suppressing the immune system leaves the animal susceptible to other infections. It can also cause vomiting, and apparently tastes horrific and can become difficult to give. We ruled out this option because I felt the potential risks outweigh the benefits for Raven. To me, this was using a very powerful drug to deal with a non-critical problem. If Raven also had skin sores, I would give this option more consideration.
  4. Use a newer medication called Apoquel. It is a small pill given daily to suppress a specific part of the inflammation response. Unlike cyclosporine, it does not suppress the immune system, and it does not have the risks that steroids have. Apoquel is approved for use in dogs and is working quite well with minimal side effects. Apoquel is not approved for use in cats.

We decided to go with Option 4 – Apoquel. Since it is not approved for cats, we are using it “off label”, but that’s not uncommon in veterinary medicine. It’s also the first time my vet has used it in a cat, but he feels it is working very well in dogs and thinks it will be tolerated just as well in cats.

Neither my vet nor I are entirely comfortable being on the “cutting edge” of new drug therapies. We prefer to use drugs that have been used for a couple years so that the long term side effects and risks are better known. But we agreed to take a leap of faith give Apoquel a try. We’re hoping it will give Raven relief from her itchiness and fur ingestion, and she’ll tolerate it well. Paws crossed that the next few weeks brings less biting and some fur growing back. 

Posted in Health, Random musings | 28 Comments

Me and My Shadow

Raven and her shadow

I hope you all enjoy a relaxing Sunday, and hopefully have a sunpuddle and shadow to keep you company.

Posted in Cat antics | 19 Comments

More furniture was moved

Yesterday afternoon when Mom came into the front room to watch t.v., she realized she forgot to put my scratcher back on the floor after she finished vacuuming. I thought it was perfectly comfortable up on the coffee table.

Raven on scratcher on table

Mom customizes my scratchers by taking two SmartyKat CatChaise Corrugated Cat Scratchers and gluing the sides together to make a double-wide scratcher.

Smarty Cat Chaise scratcher

It can be used right-side-up for a nice snuggly cradle, or upside-down and there’s a thin “tunnel” that wand toys can be slid under and pawed at.

I appreciate my mom’s creativity and skill with glue. Do any of you have home-made toys or furniture that you really like?

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Raven and her box

Mom had out the sucky monster and asked dad to pick up my box so she could vacuum under it, so he put it on top of the scanner on his desk. I’ve had this box since December 2008 when I came to live here. It’s special because Dad wrote my name on it. I haven’t been in my box in months, but since it moved, I had to check it out.

Raven in her box on the scannerIt was a little wobbly up there so I decided it might be more comfy to relax in my perch.

Raven going to perch

Mom told Dad he better hold on to my box so I didn’t fall.

Thanks Dad!

Posted in Cat antics | 22 Comments

My non-furry dilema

Last September I posted about being a “naked” kitty because I had been chewing the fur off my belly, legs, and tail. I went to the vet and he was pretty sure it’s an allergy of some sort. He gave me a shot of a steroid and we hoped that whatever I was allergic to would go away when winter came.

Winter came and went and I’m still trying to make the back half of my body into a short-haired kitty. Basically, any fur from my belly-button down my back legs, to the tip of my tail is a target of chewing & licking. Mom took me to the vet on Friday and asked if my fur removal could be a response to abdominal pain. Our former kitty Felix had small cell lymphoma and the first sign he was sick is that he developed a bowel obstruction due to severe constipation. I need a laxative twice a day to help prevent constipation, and Mom wondered if I could have early bowel disease, which could cause discomfort and be the real cause of my fur removal.  The vet said it’s possible I have some degree of bowel disease because it’s very common in adult cats but he doesn’t think pain is involved in whatever is going on.

There’s no easy way to figure out why I’m biting my fur off. The vet suggested we move from our current home in the valley to our mountain or coastal  home so that I could be in a different environment and get away from environmental allergens. That was kind-of a joke….we don’t have another home!

Since we can’t move to our nonexistant other home, he also suggested we could try different foods like venison, rabbit, or duck for a month at a time to see if that helps. I’ve already had all fish eliminated from my diet. I’m not the most adventurous eater, so changing my food is not going to be easy. And since we don’t know what I might be allergic to, it’s just a guess as to which food might be better for me.

After a long discussion, we decided another steroid injection was the best way to go for now. It should give me relief from both allergies and any bowel inflammation. Being on steroids comes with risks, so it’s not the ideal long-term solution. But I also don’t want to be miserable and keep chewing all my fur off.

Here I am sniffing my first new food, rabbit (sorry to all you pet bunnies out there). It smells funny and I gave it a little taste but spit it out. Beef & buffalo smelled awful and I wouldn’t even taste it. Maybe the lamb will tempt me, but I doubt it. I love my chicken food!

Raven sniffing a new food

While at the store buying me some new types of food, Dad knew I wouldn’t be happy having my mealtime routine changed, so he bought me a new “hat”. Dad and I have a game where he puts things on my head and calls it a hat. I’ll let it sit there until I turn over or get up. It’s one of the silly games we play.

Raven with yellow toy on her head


Posted in Health, Random musings | 29 Comments