Three weeks ago, the owners had
some kitchen vent-hood problems. An opening was created, allowing the
cat access (via a series of jumps) to the attic crawlspace. The space
is unfinished, with exposed joists and fiberglass bat insulation
between the ceiling joists.
When recovered from the attic, she
became intensely itchy, excoriating herself and losing hair. Over a
couple of weeks, she recovered about 90% and was doing much better. Five days ago she gained
access to the attic again. The itching exploded. She has some mild spots of hair loss and scabbing (from self-trauma) on top of her neck and rump, also the lower hind legs. Those areas are
similar to the facial area in the picture.
I believe that fiberglass is the likely
culprit. I know that I get really itchy if I just handle the stuff a little bit. In searching Veterinary Information Network, I could only find a few cases mentioned. They suggested that you might be able to find the glass fibers by doing a skin scraping (like you would for mange mites) or by using clear tape to lift little thingies from the skin. I tried a skin scraping and found nothing. A scotch-tape
preparation yielded some debris that might be fiberglass and might be
I went up to the clinic attic and gathered the
little glob of fiberglass in the picture. My fingers itched for an hour afterward. I cut off a little to look at under the microscope. My eyepiece cam is
low resolution, so this won't show up well. The heavy dark line at lower left is one of my own human hairs.
The salient information is
that the fibers were of dramatically different shapes and sizes. Some
looked straight and stiff, others coiled up. Some were three times as
thick as others. Some had little globules, like nits, along their
length, others did not.
In short, you could take virtually any linear
debris from the cat's skin and find a fiberglass fiber that resembled
it. So did I get fiberglass from the cat? Is fiberglass the problem?
One of the dermatologists I consulted with says that her own cat gets in the attic and plays with the insulation and has no problems at all. On the other hand, there were other case reports of fiberglass-associated dermatitis available… and my own hand itching for an hour after barely touching the stuff.
Treatment-wise, the only suggestions I found in my research were topical cortisone and tincture of time (three weeks to grow a new layer
of skin?). I gave her a little dexamethasone injection and sent home DermaCool
HC for topical use several times daily. She is to come in for a recheck after two days. I may have to bandage
the tail, get an e-collar and add antibiotics. I've sure got to do something. She looks tough.