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cat skin problems

Janet Wilkinson
September 10th, 2001, 11:23 AM
I have a 5 year old female siamese named Mali with terrible skin problems. She has been to the vet many times and given neo medrol shots which only help for a couple of months. She has tiny black scabs on her chin and sometimes muzzle and red dry patches on her armpits and spreading across her chest. She scratches and licks herself raw. She and my other cat who does not have any problems (except for eating soft toys) both eat a top quality food, Innova, which I have tried to supplement with baby food which they don't really like and with raw and cooked meat and fish which are also not a favourite. Mali is also what I call neurotic and nervous and I am begining to wonder if her problems may be also related to her temperment. She recently "escaped from the house and spent two days on the run and now she seems to be worse. HELP

September 27th, 2001, 06:32 PM
Skin problems can be so frustrating, especially when you've put so much effort into finding a solution. You could be dealing with a number of problems. The first possibility is flea allergy, a skin irritation caused by the saliva of fleas. This typically shows up as scabs all over the body and hair loss over the back. You may want to put on one of the topical flea control products sold by your veterinarian to prevent fleas and eliminate this possibility.

Other allergens in the environment are a second possible cause of the problem. Dusts, mold and pollens can cause redness and irritation all over the body. The allergens -- and the skin irritation -- usually come and go with the seasons. If they are responsible for the condition, she should be responding better to any treatment, which probably includes steroid injections and oral medication for any infection. (if she is taking any).

Food allergies, the third possibility, are a constant, year-round source of irritation to a cat. They probably are the source of Mali's misery. Her failure to respond well to treatment and the fact that the skin irritation is concentrated on her face are also clues pointing to food allergies. As you can see, tracking symptoms to the guilty allergen takes time.

You should talk to your veterinarian about putting her through a food trial. That is, feeding her a diet she has never had and monitoring her reaction. Your veterinarian can provide directions for a homemade diet or you can purchase a prescription diet. She may, for example, recommend that you feed Mali rabbit and rice food (or even just rabbit) and nothing else for eight weeks. Whatever the food it is, it must not be similar to anything she has eaten in the past. If the trial works as expected you will find a considerable decrease in her itchiness. The allergens will be out of her system. If you find a particular food that works well for her, she will need to stay on this food for the rest of her life.

There are also other causes of the symptoms you describe. These include various types of mites (even ear mites), as well as bacterial, fungal and yeast infections. Your veterinarian can perform specific tests on your cat to identify these conditions. Less commonly, diseases of the immune system such as feline immunodeficiency virus (FIV) can cause facial itching in cats.