Common Skin Complaints in Cats

Cats can contract a a variety of skin conditions and diseases. The following list is intended to give a simple and informative set of information for the most common causes of skin problems in cats. Always consult your vet if your cat is sick.

1 – Ringworm (Dermatophytosis) – Not a worm at all, but a fungus. It commonly affects nails, skin and hair and is fairly common amongst the cat population. The disease is contagious and manifests in circular, red patches on the cat’s skin. Cats can infect each other and the disease can also be passed via food bowls and bedding if shared.

Symptoms and treatment – A cat may be infected and not show any symptoms. When symptoms do appear the classic circular patches are a clear give-away. These mostly occur on the head, ears and front legs. In severe cases, the red and sore patches can spread over the entirety of the body. Shampoo or medicated cream may be given to treat cases of ringworm. Oral treatment may also be necessary if the infection is severe. It is imperative that a vet sees any animal suspected of having ringworm to prevent spread of the disease and to treat the cat quickly.

2 – Feline Acne – This condition is common and can affect any cat regardless of age or gender. ‘Blackheads’ appear on the cat’s lips and chin. These may become red and inflamed if the cat is particularly irritated by the problem. Stress, poor hygiene, food allergies and even reaction to plastic food bowls have been suggested as possible fac tors, but the actual cause is unknown.

Treatment of the condition may involve changing the cat to a non-plastic bowl, cleaning its chin after meals and daily washing of food and water bowls. Medical treatment could include medicated, gentle washes, vitamin additives, antibiotics and creams in more severe cases.

3 – Flea allergy – This is possibly the most common skin condition suffered by cats. Contrary to popular belief, most cats suffer little irritation from the presence of fleas. A great deal of itching in a cat with fleas usually means the cat has developed an allergic reaction to the flea bites, actually to the flea saliva.

An allergic cat may first show symptoms of excessive scratching which may lead to sore patches, especially around the base of the tail (a favourite place for fleas to gather). This may be followed by sneezing, discharge from the eyes and nose, coughing and general respiratory distress. This stage is followed by a third which affects the digestive system, usually causing sickness and diarrhoea.

The most obvious treatment is to rid the cat of fleas. If permanently removing the fleas proves to be difficult, anti-allergy medicines may be given. The best advice is to seek out your vet and follow his guidance.

4 – Psychogenic Alopecia – This is very similar to human OCD. The cat becomes obsessive about grooming and literally grooms itself until fur comes out and bald patches appear on the skin. The term actually means ‘hair loss having a psychological or emotional origin’. It appears even cats have their stress factors. Cats are very good at hiding their problems and it could be that an owner will only have the appearance of bald patches to go on. The cat may also have an excess of hairballs or develop constipation from eating too much fur.

Causes, aside from stress, can include flea and other allergies, fungal and bacterial infections or tumours. A variety of tests will be carried out by the vet to determine what sort of alopecia the cat has. These could include looking for fleas in the fur, allergy tests and fungal cultures.

Treatment is based around de-stressing the animal. This could involve changes in the home, more playtimes to stop the cat becoming bored and ignoring the excess grooming behaviour. Collars or bad tasting sprays may be used and, in severe cases, anti-depressant medicines may be given. Your vet is the best person to talk to if your cat is exhibiting this behaviour.

5 – Contact Dermatitis – This condition has two causes, irritant and allergic. The first is the most common and is usually caused by alkalines, acids, solvents, medications and general chemicals. The latter is caused by hypersensitivity, plants and wool being the most common causes in cats. Symptoms include itching that is not caused by fleas or other already known allergies, especially around the anus, chin, toes and belly. Skin may also become inflamed, develop sores and show signs of thickening.

Treatment is based on removing the cause of the irritant or items causing hypersensitivity. Anti-allergy treatments may be administered and antibiotics may have to be given if there are other infections caused by the scratching and open sores.

As has been stated throughout the article for any skin condition in cats, seek help from your vet and follow their advice.