I'm Sam Litzinger with Dr. Gary Weitzman of the San Diego Humane Society. We are interested in your animal-related questions and stories at 1-877-610-3647 or firstname.lastname@example.org. You can also play our Animal of the Day quiz on "The Animal House" Facebook page, you can visit Facebook.com, search for "The Animal House." You can also follow "The Animal House on Twitter." We're trying to be ubiquitous. I just like to drop that word into conversations...
It's a good one.
...from time to time. Let's a telephone call from...
Gotta get that in there.
Yeah. Every once in a while. Let's take a telephone call from Molly. Molly, glad to have you with us in "The Animal House." Question for Dr. Gary?
Yes, I do. Hi Dr. Gary.
I have two cats, one male, one female. We adopted them at the same shelter, and...
Good for you. Thank you.
...and they get along great, and we've had them for about a year, so they're almost two years old now, and a couple of weeks ago the cats were sitting in front of the door, which they always do because we have a glass door in front of our front door, and they like to look out and watch the birds and squirrels and stuff.
And I was sitting on the couch, and then all of a sudden one of the cats just freaked out, just completely lost her mind and started attacking our other cat...
Ooh, all right.
...and she's the nicest cat on the planet. So I didn't really know what was going on, and I quickly looked over and there was a black cat that was sitting right up in front of the door.
Outside. Of course. Yeah.
Right. And I have never seen cats outside before because our complex doesn't allow it. You're only allowed to have indoor cats.
It was very scary for a couple of weeks because I couldn't put them together because she would just launch at our other cat and just viciously attack him.
So I kept them separate and, according to the Internet, what I was dealing with was redirected aggression, because she couldn't...
So we tried some techniques with lasers and -- because they don't do well with food because our other cat is a bully and eats all of hers, so we use lasers and toys and now they're fine.
To distract them? Okay. All right.
Yeah. So now they're back to normal and they fight a little bit, but nowhere near what it was before, and my question is, how do I keep this from happening again without permanently keeping the door closed and the windows and blinds and everything?
Yeah. Yeah. Well, you know, this is one of those things, you can't really keep them away from the world or the world away from them. I mean, that's what you've found with that cat that came calling. But I don't think that that's gonna be a terrible situation. I think that, you know, you're just gonna have to wait and see what -- see what comes, but most cats do really, really well. It could be combination of that particular cat that your girls saw at the door, and whatever signals he or she was conveying, or it could just be that it's a stranger -- strange cat.
There may be no reaction to a dog coming to the house, or the mailman, or UPS or whatever, but the good news is that generally with the passage of time, that reaction will decrease until, of course, the black cat comes back. But I think you're -- I think you'll be fine. If the cats aren't reacting with each other now, they're not fighting any, you know, more than quote, unquote "normal."
I think you're probably okay to open the door and...
...just hopefully that will be the end of that. But if the cat comes back, you're going to have to reset and go right back to what you did before, that's just keep avoiding the situation, and there's really nothing else you can short of getting her on medication and you don't want to do that, and that's not even gonna probably help a whole lot because this just sets off that on-off switch on your female cat. So I think you did the right thing. I think just close the door, close the blinds until this passes, and hopefully by doing that you will not have that visitor come back because there won't be anything there for him to see.
Right. And then as far as maybe potentially bringing another animal in in the future, would her reaction to this other cat be indicative of you probably shouldn't get a dog, or you probably shouldn't get another cat?
No. Not necessarily. Not necessarily at all, because that's a whole different uncontrolled experience for her.
That's good to know.
So good luck.
Thank you, Molly. Let's take a telephone call from Richard. Richard, glad to have you with us in "The Animal House." Question for Dr. Gary?
Hi, Dr. Gary. It's...
...good to talk to you. Thank you for having me on.
I'm calling with a question about finches.
My daughter gave me these two little blue finches about 10 months ago. They're -- I think they're called Cordon Bleu. They have gray backs and blue breasts. They're small and they're just a lot of fun and very active in the morning, and we have them in our dining room and have just really enjoyed them. About three weeks ago, one of them started to lose plumage on the head and now she's completely bald. It's kind of peculiar because nothing has really changed. I haven't changed their diet and, you know, they've been in the same location.
As far as I know there hasn't really been any significant change in their habitat. They're in a big cage. They seem to get along extremely well, although one of my daughters did tell me the other day that she noticed one of them taking a quick peck at the other.
Hey Gary, you want to phone a friend on this one?
I would love to phone a friend.
Do you have somebody?
Yes, we do. We have a raft of friends for you.
Excellent. All right.
This is Dr. Laurie Hess of avianexoticsvet.com. Hi Laurie. Can you help Richard at all and his two blue finches? Do we have any idea what's going on here?
Yes. I sure hope I can. Yeah. They are beautiful little finches, and you're right, they are Cordon Bleus and they're very popular. Unfortunately, we do see feather loss on the heads of many finches. It's a common problem, and there is more than one cause. You did mention one very, very probable cause, and that is picking on each other. That's a very, very common thing that we see in finches.
Why do they do that?
Well, the most common reason would be overcrowding. I mean, I don't know exactly how big your cage is, and it sounds like there's only a couple there, so that may not be the answer here. But sometimes even in a fairly large cage, they can just pick on each other. Sometimes the male is interested in the female, and the female doesn't return his requests, so that's certainly something to consider. There are some genetic changes that sometimes we see, genetic abnormalities where they do lose feathers around their head.
Is there a vet visit in Richard's immediate future here?
Could this be something physiological?
Yes, it absolutely could be. And what I would recommend is that he bring the finches, and it would probably be good to bring them both, and it it's possible, to even bring them in the cage that they're housed in if it's not too large, to show the vet what's going on. I mean, there are certainly other reasons. There can be true skin infections. Finches get fungal skin infections, you know, grow on their skin that can cause them to lose feathers. They can get bacterial skin infections. This is something that would be taken by -- a sample would be taken from the skin either just with a Q-Tip at first, or if more serious, we would do a little skin biopsy to analyze the skin under the microscope.
Sometimes they can have nutritional problems that can cause feather loss, so there are quite a few different kinds of problems that can lead to feather loss in different areas of the body, and the best thing to do would be to bring those finches in to someone who's comfortable with seeing birds, and have that vet take a look.
Very good. Laurie Hess of avianexoticsvet.com. Thank you very much for your expert advice on this.
No problem. Good luck.
All right. I hope that helps, Richard, and we'll see if that indeed gets you going on something like that.
That helped me anyway.
Good. Yeah. Finches.
Do you run into a lot of finches at the San Diego Humane Society?
We do. We've got quite a few birds right now. We had a pet store seizure a few months ago, so we've got finches and parakeets and doves, and, you know, the biggest thing is stress, keeping them in captivity. So I think that Dr. Hess gives some very good advice.
Similar to cats in that regard. They don't like stress.
Let's take a telephone call from Amy here. Our telephone number by the way is 877-610-3647. Our email address is email@example.com. Hi Amy, glad to have you with us in "The Animal House." Question for Dr. Gary?
Yes. Thank you for taking my call.
It's about my cat named Ella. He's 13 years old.
Wait a minute, you said his name was….
...Ella, but it's a he?
(laugh) He was the very first of a litter of five that were born on my lap, and he was the -- I cut the umbilical cords, and he was the first of three black females, and he was the most gorgeous long-haired, 1930s Marcel Wave all over his body, so of course I had to name him after Ella Fitzgerald.
Oh, no. Okay.
My Beagle used to be named after Ella Fitzgerald too. They're kindred spirits, Amy.
So what's the problem?
Well, he's 13 now and he's always been an indoor cat, and he started getting a foot infection in his back foot. And it led to his other back foot, and we got it biopsied. Six vets had -- they sent tests to Texas and everything, and it started an infection that seeped on each side of his toenails on his back feet and never spread to his front paws.
Oh, really. Okay.
And no one had ever seen anything like it.
So where are we in the process here? Do we know what's going on?
No. The only thing that I got was that they all suggested that he goes on Doxycycline. So he's on his second month...
...of Doxycycline, which has been really fun every single day to syringe that into his mouth.
Oh, my. Yeah, okay.
But what he's done now, and one of the reasons why I'm calling is first is if you've ever seen an infection like that, because it's only on the top of his feet and it didn't spread to his front paws. But now what he's doing -- and he's got this gorgeous lush long black coat. He is chewing all the hair off his front arms and so he has bald elbows all the way down to his wrists, but they're not red, they're not agitated, it's not infected or anything like that. They're just bald.
Okay. Poor Ella. Well, let me ask you first, Amy, have you brought him to a specialist? Has he been to a dermatologist?
Yes. And actually...
...I've had three dermatologists look at him, and they just...
…have never seen anything like it.
Yeah. You know, we don't see what we call pododermatisis or a foot infection or inflammation of the feet too often in cats. It's usually an issue with dogs, Labs, German Shepherds, bigger dogs, but not related to either species necessarily. But I don't think I've seen it too often in cats either. Now, what you're describing is hair loss in the front legs, but the infection is in the back legs, is that right?
Yeah. The two back feet were completely infected where they actually got stuck together.
Okay. We generally worry about hair loss or over grooming and try to rule out an anatomical or physiological reason like ringworm or skin allergies, or fleas. Most of the time though, once those are ruled out, and you've already been to three dermatologists, so I'm sure those aren't factors, and the front legs from the elbows down the wrists, or carpus, are really not areas that we worry too much about allergies or mange or fleas anyway.
It's usually due to stress, and what I think you'll need to do is talk to your vet about getting Ella on something as well as the doxy. Isn't the best news you ever heard...
...because you're already having a good time with Doxycycline.
But really, it's something to stop -- whatever has caused this is probably due to stress. Now, I don't know for sure, but I'm comforted to know that you've got a lot of specialists that are actually looking at Ella so they can confirm this, but I would have the conversation with them about something to stop his overgrooming. We call that feline psychogenic alopecia, and it's really due to stress or anxiety causing them to continually groom and lick hair off. It's unusual to see it more in the front legs than on the flanks or the under carriage, so to speak, the belly.
But, you know, he's definitely -- it sounds like he's definitely doing it, but I assume that your veterinarian has already taken a look at this?
Yeah. And they seemed more concerned obviously about the back feet, and to see if that...
...infection has healed. So it has healed, but...
...they all just said, you know...
...keep him on another month of Doxy.
Well, it could even be a reaction to the Doxy I suppose. That's a possibility. I'd have another conversation with your vet about that.
Because if there some tingling or some inflammation going on -- I assume the skin is all looking normal and quiet and not all red?
No red at all.
So it's just normal skin. All right. Well, then maybe the addition of some Clomicalm or Prozac. There's something that your vet can give him to maybe decrease the anxiety a little bit, and again, sorry about having to overdo the, you know, keep adding to the medication list, but something to stop him from being as stressed and overgrooming. I thing that would be a big help.
And I'm sure you've done blood work and all of that, you know, so hyperthyroidism is ruled out and all those metabolic diseases.
So I would just talk to your vet about something to stop him from mangling his forelegs. They're the ones that didn't have the problem in the first place.
Quick question from me, Gary. Is there any -- because I'm assuming that Ella would stay on the Doxy. Is there anything that she absolutely should not get in terms of a drug that might interact with the Doxy?
Well, there are a few. I mean, Doxycycline has a different metabolic path then a lot of other medications and other antibiotics in particular. So there are some that -- your vet will help you with that, but there should be no problem with using one of these anxiety -- anti-anxiety rather, medications. There should be no problem with doing that.
But I would definitely talk to vet about something for the overgrooming.
Okay. Well, I hope it comes in beef flavor or something. (laugh)
I know. Beef or chicken or tuna.
Something delicious. Amy, report back to us in a few weeks, would you? Keep us posted.
Yeah, absolutely. Poor Ella.
Poor Ella. Ella's doing his best -- I can't get used to saying, Ella is doing as best as Ella can. Thank you very much, Amy, and thank you, Dr. Gary.
You're welcome. This is Dr. Gary Weitzman with an "Animal House" pet care tip. In many places such as the Midwest or the west coast, the fields and canyons are full of brown, dry grasses, and in those grasses are little villains called foxtails. These are annoying bristly weeds that can go right up the nose or in between the pads of curious or just sniffing dogs. From there, they can either irritate the skin or burrow into noses, wreaking havoc like you've never seen.
If we're lucky, we can extract them from dog's foot with a tweezers, but if we're not, it's a major surgery to go up the nose and find these little landmines. Horrible. So the take-home lesson is, avoid those fields in the summer that you can see foxtails or dry weeds, and definitely do a once over on your dog if you can't. And if your dog likes to put his snout down to the ground where there are grasses, get in your car and go somewhere else. For "The Animal House," I'm Dr. Gary Weitzman.
This edition of "The Animal House" is almost finished. First, here's the answer to our Animal of the Day quiz. Earlier we asked if you could identify the species of octopus with venom that's deadly to humans. The answer? The Blue-Ringed Octopus which lives in the Pacific and Indian Oceans. Thanks to our guests, Jeff Bennett, Jeff Corwin, and Rafe Sagarin for their contributions today. We also thank Bob James, George Benson, and Acoustic Alchemy for their music today. Special thanks to Dr. Gary Weitzman for his work, and thanks to you for joining us in "The Animal House." I'm Sam Litzinger.
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