Ask the Cat Doc: Tail Chasing, Runny Eyes, FelV/FIV Positive Cat, and More


Welcome to our regular “Ask the Cat Doc With Dr. Lynn Bahr” segment! Once a month, Dr. Bahr answers as many of your questions as she can, and you can leave new questions for her in a comment.

Dr. Bahr graduated from the University of Georgia College of Veterinary Medicine in 1991. Unlike most veterinarians, she did not grow up knowing that she would become a veterinarian. “It was a cat who got me interested in the practice and I am forever grateful to him,” said Dr. Bahr. Over the course of her veterinary career, Dr. Bahr found that the lifestyle of cats has changed dramatically. As the lifestyle of cats has changed, so did Dr. Bahr’s client education. In addition to finding medical solutions, she also encourages owners to enrich their home environments so that their cats can live long, happy, and healthy lives.

This new understanding led Dr. Bahr to combine her passion for strengthening the human-animal bond with her veterinary background and knowledge of what animals need and want to start her own solution-based cat product company, Dezi & Roo, inspired by two cats of the same names.

For more information about Dezi & Roo and their unique and innovative cat toys, please visit their website.

How to support the health of an FeLV/FIV positive cat

We recently adopted a cat who tested positive for FIV and feline leukemia. He is 3 1/2 years old and according to recent labs and his vet, he is in good health. Please advise what type of food is best for his condition: grain free, wet, a mix of wet and dry? Is there a brand that you recommend? Any other recommendations to support his health would be appreciated, as well. (Diane)

Hi Diane,

Congratulations on your new bundle of joy. I am sure he is going to bring a lot of love into your home. Have you pursued further testing to make sure he is, in fact, positive for both FeLV and FIV? If not, you may want to consider doing so.

In answer to your question, I am a fan of rotating foods and never stick with just one brand or flavor. Wet food is better for your baby and if he will accept raw, that is a great option I recommend. In order to support his health, keeping him both mentally and physically stimulated with an enriched environment will not only make him happy but healthy too.

Pay close attention to his normal habits so that you are alerted the minute there is a change. It is important to seek medical care early with immunocompromised patients, and you have every right to be a nervous Nelly if you think he is becoming ill. As a veterinarian, I am always pro-active when treating cats that have FeLV or FIV and tend to treat them a little more aggressively than I would other patients who have good immune systems.

Thank you for adopting him and giving him a great home. He is a very lucky kitty to have you.

Cat aggressively chases his tail

My cat has begun to chase his tail, but really aggressively. In fact he has made it bleed on a couple of occasions. I am unable to stop this. Any clues? (Elaine Hughes)

Hi Elaine,

It sounds like your kitty needs to be seen by a veterinarian. It could be as simple as fleas, or it could be a more complicated neurological problem. A good physical exam is the first place to start, along with a complete medical and behavioral history. Your veterinarian will likely need some bloodwork and possibly x-rays to help narrow down a diagnosis. If it becomes more complicated than that, you may be referred to a neurologist. Rest assured, help is available and both you and your cat will feel much better once you have some answers and solutions. Good luck and please let me know the outcome.

Cat has developed dry skin this winter

My cat has developed dry skin this winter. It is the first time in the six years that I have had her. What do you recommend as the best treatment? (Terry)

Hi Terry,

Dry skin in the wintertime can certainly be a nuisance. To begin with, I would recommend your cat be seen by a veterinarian to make sure that there is not an underlying medical issue. There are many conditions that contribute to dry skin and you want to make sure that a medical problem is not being overlooked before looking for other solutions.

By any chance is your cat overweight? Often, obesity prevents cats from grooming properly and many cannot reach certain areas of their bodies adequately. Weight loss would help solve that problem. Is your cat on a dry food only diet? Lack of moisture or a low quality diet will also affect the health of a cat’s fur. Giving your kitty a diet rich in fatty acids will help keep the fur silkier. If the air in your home is too dry, a humidifier may work well for that situation. Unfortunately, without knowing the true cause of your cat’s dry skin I can only offer you these simple solutions. I hope they were of some help to you.

Cat with runny eye

My cat is a full grown cat and his left eye is very watery and looks like he is crying a lot, but his right eye looks just fine. What should I do? (Tara Shigihara)

Hi Tara,

The medical term for a runny eye is epiphora, and it is not always an easy condition to resolve. There are two main reasons for excessive tearing and fortunately, most don’t cause serious problems other than being a nuisance for the cat and a concern for their owners. However, if epiphora is accompanied by squinting or pawing of the eye, or if the excessive tearing should occur suddenly, this could be an obvious sign of eye pain, and veterinary attention should be sought at once. Of course, any accompanying loss of vision is also an emergency.

One cause of epiphora is irritation to the eye. The body’s response to irritation is to produce more tears to flush irritants away and help lubricate the eye. Viral conjunctivitis (probably the most common reason for excessive tearing in cats), glaucoma (painful increase in eye pressure in the eye), reactions to eye medications, or more commonly, eyelash or eyelid abnormalities can all be underlying causes that result in excessive tearing. In addition, allergy, irritating dust or smog in the air, trauma, or infection can also cause a cat to have runny eyes.

The second reason for epiphora relates to improper drainage. Conditions like blocked tear ducts, conformational abnormalities, or eyelids that are rolled inward can all cause problems that result in excessive tears. Fortunately, many of these can be treated medically or surgically if necessary and are not as common in cats as they are in dogs.

It would be helpful to have a veterinarian give your kitty a clean bill of health before considering your cat’s runny eye to be a benign problem. While most are, I know you would want to make sure there is nothing more serious to worry about.

Do you have a question for Dr. Bahr?
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