Top 3 Cat Skin Disorders
There are many different skin disorders that can affect cats and the reasons for them are numerous. This article hopes to briefly outline the top 3 skin disorders that affect cats and these conditions are;
Feline Alopecia: “Alopecia” is simply the technical name for bald spots. A cat suffering form this is itchy, may bite at its hair, and often has behavioural changes too. The cause of alopecia can be anything from a hypersensitivity reaction (such as an ‘allergy’ to fleas, for example), parasites (such as lice or mites), ringworm (which is a fungus) or even psychogenic, where they have a behavioural/psychological disorder and are ripping out their own hair.
Depending on what the cause is, the affected cat will show different symptoms, and thus need different treatments. Mites as mentioned can often be the culprit here and they can cause different symptoms. One called Demodex cati for example does not cause itchy skin, and is not contagious. It actually is a sneaky thing that lives inside the hair follicle itself. Another mite, called Demodex gatoi, actually does cause intense itchiness and is contagious, so it can be spread from cat to cat. This is due to the fact that it lives superficially between the hairs. It makes sense therefore that if your cat suddenly starts scratching in ways it normally doesn’t, especially if it is an intense scratching, to make an appointment with your vet asap. One great way of finding out what is going on is by doing a skin scraping. To do this, a vet will use a blunt blade that is gently scraped against the skin, while the cat is under sedation.
Eosinophilic Granuloma: An “eosinophil” is a type of cell in the body that is part of the immune system, and helps kill bacteria. By doing so however, it also promotes inflammation. A granuloma is a swelling that forms when many eosinophils gather in one area, to try and kill an infection, but do not fully succeed. In cats with this disorder, there are lesions on the skin and gums, such as raised plaques or soft to firm swellings. They may also show redness, erosions or ulcers on their skin as well. However, these lesions are not itchy, or even painful. These often happen in young cats, 6 to 12 months old, and they sometimes resolve on their own completely. To diagnose this condition, a blood test will be done, along with a skin scraping to look for high numbers of eosinophils. There is always an underlying cause for the eosinophils to be overreactive; thus, if this underlying cause (such as fleas, diet changes, etc.) is identified and resolved, the prognosis for the cat is excellent. However, to help it along, steroids may be needed for a short course, or even systemic antibiotics depending on what the cause of the inflammation truly is.
Miliary dermatitis: ‘Miliary’ is named after ‘millet’ seeds, which are small, round seeds that many pet birds eat. It is a good name for them, because the lesions in this disease are indeed tiny, round bumps. “Dermatitis” simply refers to inflammation of the skin. Thus cats with this condition get small red, raised lesions, often crusting, mostly on their backs. There can be many causes of this condition, from parasites like lice and mites, environmental sensitivity, food reaction or even an immune-mediated component where the body recognizes some of its own cells to be ‘foreign’ and thus attacks them. Reactions to certain drugs can also cause a miliary dermatitis. To diagnose this condition, a skin scrape must be done, as well as fungal culture, diet changes and perhaps an allergy test if an allergy is suspected to be the underlying cause. Treatments vary depending on the cause of the condition, from immunotherapy for allergies, to adding supplements such as essential fatty acids to the diet, to giving antihistamines or steroids to help to reduce the inflammation and redness.
As you can see, there are a variety of common and important feline skin diseases. Some of them can be frustrating to treat, and may take years to fully resolve, while others may resolve on their own. As usual, it is important to check your cat regularly; grooming is a wonderful way of doing this. Just a cursory check and feel may be enough to let you feel any lumps or bumps before they got too big; making it easier to treat and less uncomfortable for your feline friend!
By Amtita Bannerjee