Spitters, Scratchers & Snappers

Question: I have an 8-year-old, longhaired, neutered cat named India, who has always groomed himself with care. Why would he stop cleaning himself around his behind and back legs?

Answer: There are several possible reasons: Cats with bad teeth or gums can have oral pain; if he is overweight, he might lose his ability to reach around sufficiently; also there could be spinal problems such as nerve inflammation, a bad intervertebral disc or arthritis. A veterinary exam and possibly X-rays would be the first step in diagnosing his problem.

Question: For the past several weeks, our 2-year-old Yorkie has been chasing his tail and scooting on the carpet. We have checked him for fleas and have seen none. He will sometimes chew on his tail or back, although we can’t find any reason. There are no sores there, but he has pulled out some of his hair.

Answer: Young, active puppies and dogs might chase their tails for fun or as a form of play, but if your dog is chewing out his hair or dragging his rectum on the carpet, there may be a more serious problem. Have your dog’s anal sacs checked for impaction. It might be that these anal sacs are becoming infected. You should also have his rectal area checked for tapeworm segments that may have dried on the coat.

Other possibilities are dried feces that have clung to the coat, topical parasites, such as fleas or mites, or a skin infection caused by a wound or trauma. Dogs with flea-bite allergy dermatitis will chew on their lower backs and tail base, even though the flea might bite elsewhere on the body.

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