If the occasional scratch and regular grooming turns into a cat who appears uncomfortable, skin problems may be present and you should schedule an examination with one of the veterinarians here at our hospitals. We are a Cat Friendly Certified Practice and your cat will be treated to low stress handling, Feliway Pheromone Diffusers and minimal restraint. We have medication available, upon request, for especially anxious cat patients.
As a practice in the allergy rich area of South Texas, we are very familiar with itchy pets. Excessive scratching, hair loss, and a mildly frantic cat are indications that cat skin problems may be present and your cat needs medical attention. While cat skin problems are rarely an emergency, an uncomfortable cat will have trouble enjoying daily life until those symptoms are under control.
Compared to dogs, cats typically require less care for their coats and skin since they tend to clean themselves. By performing a weekly brushing, you will be familiar with your cat’s coat and skin and will be more likely to notice any potential skin problems early on and bring them to the attention of your veterinarian for diagnosis and treatment.
Recognizing Cat Skin Conditions
Key signs to look for:
- Hair loss - A common sign of cat skin problems. Look for bald patches or shedding more than normal
- Excessive grooming - If the cat's grooming appears more frenetic and less relaxed than normal, it may be because the cat is itchy and uncomfortable.
- Red, scaly, patchy or scabby areas - If you notice any of these, schedule an appointment to have these examined.
- Fleas and ticks - Common parasites that may be found on the skin and cause extensive itching and irritation.
- Shaking his/her head excessively - Could indicate a skin problem or an issue with the ears.
Types of Cat Skin Conditions
The following are some types of common cat skin problems to be aware of:
- External parasites - such as fleas can cause itchy skin and skin reactions. The cat might scratch, chew and potentially cause secondary infections.
- Ticks - Attach to a cat’s skin causing a raised bump or cause localized swelling. The bump is the cat’s response to fight off the tick.
- Mites - Cause itchy ears more commonly seen in kittens. The cat may hold the head sideways indicating discomfort and exhibit excessive itchiness. Cats can also have ear infections that need to be treated promptly.
- Polyps - These can develop in a cat's ears. An examination includes an otoscopic exam of the cat's ear canals.
- Food allergies - Cats can be prone to food allergies, developing an “itchy face,” or itchiness all over. An examination will help determine if you need to change your cat’s diet. This will generally include a food trial and may require several attempts to rule out food allergy. Grain free diets are not recommended because of their link to cardiac enlargement.
- Contact and inhalant allergies - This is very similar to how people develop allergies to common substances in their environment.
- Cat skin cancer - As in humans, cat cancer is a potentially life-threatening condition. The appearance of new or changing skin spots indicates the need to make a veterinary appointment ASAP.
- Cat acne - Cats can be prone to cat acne, especially from contact with plastic bowls. While this may appear similar to a rash, the treatment of cat acne may involve prescription medication.
- Cat dermatitis - Typically cat dermatitis is due to an allergic reaction to grooming products, food or environmental irritants.
- Ringworm - This fungal infection is a common cat skin condition that can be transmitted to children or adults. Ringworm is curable but needs to be diagnosed and treated immediately.
Schedule an appointment with us for an examination as soon as you see any of these symptoms. Sometimes it takes a while to diagnose the problem as the symptoms may mimic one another, so the sooner, the better.
Testing and Diagnosing Cat Skin Problems
We have many types of veterinary diagnostic tests available for cat dermatology issues:
- Ear cytology - One common test is to collect some of the material in the ear and look at it under a microscope. This material may also need to be cultured.
- Scraping hair follices and skin debris - We will look at it under a microscope. We will be looking for mites, yeast or bacteria or certain types of cells to determine the cause of the discomfort and how to best treat it.
There are many things taken into account including history, indoor/outdoor status, flea control, diet and testing to determine what is the most appropriate treatment for an itchy cat's condition.
Treatments for Cat Skin Conditions
Obtaining a diagnosis from your veterinarian is the first step. Treatment depends upon what we are dealing with and it may take time to rule out certain things to finalize the correct diagnosis and treatment.
Make sure to reach out to the hospital as soon as you notice any changes in your cat’s grooming behavior, excessive itchiness, or if you notice red, scaly patches on your cat’s skin. Cat skin conditions can quickly worsen, becoming more difficult and costly to treat. Early detection and treatment are key in the fight against cat skin problems.