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Common Feline Skin Conditions: Protect Your Feline

Cats can suffer from a variety of different skin disorders, including feline acne, 
allergic dermatitis, mites and ringworm. If your cat is frequently itching, 
scratching, licking his skin beyond normal grooming, or suffering unexplained 
hair loss, a skin condition may be the cause.

The first step to treating a skin condition is diagnosis of the specific problem. 
Many skin conditions share similar symptoms, such as hair loss, scabs, or flaky 
skin. Depending on your cat’s symptoms, a veterinarian may begin by ruling 
out the most common skin problems.

Allergic Dermatitis

Allergies are very common in cats. While people show their allergies by 
sneezing, nasal congestion, and red eyes; cats show their allergies in their 
skin.  There are four types of skin problems cats can have as a result of 
allergies: hair loss without much skin changes; miliary dermatitis - which 
causes small pinpoint scabs, especially on the neck and over the hips and 
tail base;  eosinophilic granulomas - which are raised, red, hairless lesions,
commonly on the lips, but can be lower on the jaw or neck, or even on the 
rear legs; severe itchiness at the face or neck. The most common allergies 
are to fleas, pollen, food ingredients, molds, and house dust mites. 
Unfortunately, any of the allergens can cause any of the patterns.


Even if your cat is an indoor pet, another pet in the household may have 
exposed your cat to fleas, or you may have brought them home!  If your 
cat is allergic to fleas, a single flea bite can trigger a reaction that lasts for 
days to weeks. Good flea control is essential to preventing allergic dermatitis.

Feline Acne

Feline acne is one of the most common feline skin conditions. That’s right; 
even cats can suffer from a bad case of pimples! But cats show their acne 
only on the chin. You may see just blackheads, or the cat may have red, 
raised bumps on their chin.  For most cats, feline acne will simply clear up 
by itself. However, if your cat’s acne persists, a medicated shampoo, oral 
antibiotics or a prescription ointment will help.


There are many kinds of skin mites that can cause skin problems that may 
look just like allergies.  Mites such as Demodex, Cheyletiella, and Notoedres 
can usually be diagnosed by a skin scraping, and inspection under a 
microscope.  This possibility certainly needs to be investigated before 
treatment of allergy is started. 

Not all skin problems are confined to a cat’s fur. Ear mites (Otodectes) 
infect the ear, but  can extend out into the skin.  Symptoms of ear mites 
include constant itching, scratching at the ear, and shaking the head.  
Without proper treatment, the constant scratching and itching may lead 
to a secondary skin infection. With prompt treatment, the proper medicine 
can clear up the primary problem before secondary infections occur.

Your cat's regular doctor can help with most skin problems.  But if there 
are difficult or persistent problems, a veterinary dermatologist is trained to 
diagnose and treat all skin disorders.  Your veterinarian can help you with a 
referral. Prompt treatment will help prevent secondary infections or 
complications and keep your feline healthy.

American College of Veterinary Dermatology (ACVD)
Bernstein, Joseph A. DVM. "Manifestations of Feline Allergy." Annual 
Dermatology Continuing Education Conference.

Protect Your Cat

If you suspect that your cat is suffering from a skin problem, talk to your
veterinarian. Describe the specific symptoms and provide relevant
information: when did you first notice your cat’s condition? Is your cat 
itchy or grooming more than usual? Do any other pets have lesions?  Or you? 
Have you used any medicine or flea meds?

Unexplained bumps, nodules, open sores, hair loss and rashes require 
prompt veterinary care. They may be symptoms of a more serious health 
condition. Your veterinarian can best determine the course of care.

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