Most cats will scratch on occasion, but if you notice your cat's occasional scratching and regular grooming has become more frequent and he or she appears uncomfortable, cat skin problems may be present, and you should schedule an appointment with one of the veterinarians here at Countryside Veterinary Clinic.
Excessive scratching, hair loss, and a mildly frantic cat are signs that your cat may have a skin problem and 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.
In comparison to dogs, cats typically require less care for their coats and skin. Dermatologic treatments in cats are much less common than in dogs. By performing a weekly brushing, you will be familiar with your cat’s coat and skin and will be more likely to catch any potential cat skin problems early on and bring them to the attention of your veterinarian.
Recognizing Cat Skin Conditions
So how do you recognize cat skin conditions? Here are some key signs to look for:
- Hair loss is a common sign of cat skin problems. Have you noticed any bald patches? Is your cat shedding more than normal?
- Excessive grooming can also indicate cat skin conditions are present. If the grooming appears more frenetic and less relaxed than normal, it may be because your cat is pruritic (itchy) and uncomfortable.
- While brushing your cat, if you notice any red, scaly, patchy, or scabby areas, schedule an appointment with your veterinarian.
- Fleas and ticks are common parasites that may be found on the skin.
- If your cat shakes his or her head excessively, this could indicate a skin problem or ear issue.
Types of Cat Skin Conditions
The following are some types of common cat skin problems you should be aware of:
- External parasites such as fleas can cause itchy skin and cat skin allergies. The cat will then scratch and bite and potentially cause secondary infections.
- Ticks can attach to your cat’s skin, causing a raised bump or localized swelling. The bump is the cat’s response to fight off the tick.
- Mites, or ear mites, can produce itchy ears. This is more commonly seen in kittens. The cat will hold his or her head sideways indicating discomfort. Cats can also have ear infections, which need to be treated promptly by your veterinarian.
- Cats can also develop polyps in their ears. A thorough exam includes an otoscopic exam of the cat’s ear canals.
- Cats are prone to food allergies. Your cat can develop an “itchy face,” or itchiness all over. Your veterinarian will 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.
- Contact allergies can also be present in cats. 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. If you notice new or changing skin spots, make a veterinary appointment.
- Cat acne. Some cats are prone to cat acne. 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 food or environmental irritants.
Schedule an appointment with your veterinarian as soon as you see any of these symptoms. Sometimes it takes a while to diagnose the problem, so the sooner, the better.
Testing and Diagnosing Cat Skin Problems
Your veterinarian has many types of tests available for cat dermatology issues:
- One common test is to collect some of the material in the ear and look at it under a microscope.
- Your vet can also take a small scraping of the hair follicles or the debris on the skin and look at it under a microscope. The doctor will be looking for mites, yeast, or bacteria or certain types of cells to determine the cause of the discomfort.
- Ringworm is a common cat skin condition that can be transmitted to children or adults, so this is something that needs to be diagnosed and treated immediately.
Treatments for Cat Skin Conditions
Getting a diagnosis from your veterinarian is the first step.
- If fleas are diagnosed, your veterinarian will prescribe a safe and effective flea and tick treatment and preventative medication.
- If food allergies are suspected, your veterinarian may transition your cat's food to a hypoallergenic food with a new protein source.
- Your vet may prescribe medications to suppress the allergic response in your cat.
- Your veterinarian may prescribe medications to decrease itching and scratching to make your cat feel more comfortable.
- If ringworm is present, antifungal medication will be prescribed.
- Some medications must be injected by a veterinarian while other medication can be administered by you at home.
It is important that you work with your veterinarian to accurately describe the symptoms of cat skin conditions. Then, your vet will perform a thorough exam and recommend the appropriate diagnostic testing and treatment.
Schedule an appointment with your veterinarian 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 or hair loss. Early detection and treatment are key. Schedule an exam with a veterinarian from Countryside Veterinary Clinic by calling (410) 657-8024.