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Psychogenic Diseases

  • C. SiracusaEmail author
  • Gary Landsberg
Chapter
  • 49 Downloads

Abstract

Grooming behavior is essential to keep the skin and coat of cats in good health, and cats spend a significant portion of their day grooming. Normal grooming behavior is a sign of good physical and mental health in cats. Changes in grooming behavior may be caused by medical problems, either dermatological or systemic. “Sickness behavior” that includes decreased grooming may be an early sign of underlying medical problems, but increased grooming can also be related to medical causes (Fatjo and Bowen, Medical and metabolic influences on behavioural disorders. In: Horwitz DF, Mills DS, editors. BSAVA manual of canine and feline behavioural medicine. 2nd ed. Gloucester: BSAVA; p. 1–9, 2009; Rochlitz, Basic requirements for good behavioural health and welfare in cats. In: Horwitz DF, Mills DS, editors. BSAVA manual of canine and feline behavioural medicine. 2nd ed. Gloucester: BSAVA; p. 35–48, 2009). Grooming behavior can also be significantly altered in times of stress or conflict. In response to stress, some cats overgroom, lick, bite, chew, suckle, or barber their coats leading to alopecia (psychogenic alopecia), while others stop taking adequate care of their coat. In particular, overgrooming may be a displacement behavior arising from conflict or stress or a compulsive disorder (much like compulsive washing or trichotillomania in humans) (Landsberg et al., Behavior problems of the dog and cat. 3rd ed. Philadelphia: Elsevier Saunders, 2013).

Many behavior changes are due to a combined effect of stress and health problems. For example, pain may be the initial trigger of overgrooming a particular joint. Once the behavior arises, it might worsen due to medical consequences of excoriation, infection, or pruritus, as well as the increased anxiety and stress arising from both internal factors and the owner’s response. Therefore, an effective treatment of psychogenic dermatologic disease has to address both the underlying psychological disturbance and the possible medical component (Fatjo and Bowen, Medical and metabolic influences on behavioural disorders. In: Horwitz DF, Mills DS, editors. BSAVA manual of canine and feline behavioural medicine. 2nd ed. Gloucester: BSAVA; p. 1–9, 2009; Rochlitz, Basic requirements for good behavioural health and welfare in cats. In: Horwitz DF, Mills DS, editors. BSAVA manual of canine and feline behavioural medicine. 2nd ed. Gloucester: BSAVA; p. 35–48, 2009; Landsberg et al., Behavior problems of the dog and cat. 3rd ed. Philadelphia: Elsevier Saunders, 2013).

The psychogenic dermatological diseases discussed in this chapter include psychogenic alopecia, overgrooming and biting of the tail, hyperesthesia, and excessive scratching.

Keywords

Compulsive behavior Overgrooming Self-mutilation Stress 

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Copyright information

© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2020

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Clinical Sciences and Advanced Medicine, School of Veterinary Medicine, University of PennsylvaniaPhiladelphiaUSA
  2. 2.CanCog TechnologiesFergusCanada

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