Skin Conditions in Cats

cat with skin infection
A small number of cats develop various skin conditions, sometimes more than one condition at the same time. Skin conditions can affect a cat’s appearance, as well as increase its risk of more serious skin infections.

Causes of Skin Conditions

Several factors can affect a cat’s skin, along with related parts of its body such as the claws, hair and the glands in the skin that lubricate the hair and skin. These factors include:

  • Allergies to food, mosquito or flea bites or particles in the air
  • Certain parasites, such as fleas or ticks
  • Bacterial infections, including Methicillin-Resistant Staphylococcus Aureus (MRSA)
  • Abscesses
  • Injuries from fighting cats or other animals
  • Over-grooming
  • Skin diseases that affect certain breeds

Symptoms of Skin Conditions

The symptoms that a cat shows depend upon the underlying skin condition, but can include:

  • Excessive licking, scratching or chewing of the fur
  • Redness or discoloration of the skin
  • Hair loss
  • Flaky, scaly or scabby skin
  • Bumps or swelling on the skin

Diagnosing and Treating Skin Conditions

Determining the cause of a skin problem will help your feline veterinarian choose the best treatment. However, it is not always possible to find that cause. To diagnose a skin condition, your veterinarian will rely on:

  • History of the cat’s symptoms and other illnesses
  • Physical examination
  • Laboratory tests
  • Cat’s response to dietary or lifestyle changes or to treatments

Treatments for skin conditions in cats may include:

  • Flea control products, for a flea infestation
  • Changing the diet, for a food allergy
  • Draining the pus with a needle and giving the cat antibiotics to fight the infection, for an abscess
  • Anti-fungal medications, for fungal infections
  • Medications or creams to prevent inflammation and scratching, for inflammation of the skin (dermatitis)

Some skin conditions can be passed between cats, so your veterinarian may also recommend that you keep your cat isolated until it is better.

Challenges of Skin Allergies

One of the most challenging skin conditions to diagnose is skin allergies. Cats can have allergic reactions to food, medications or things in its environment. Some cats may also be more likely to develop skin allergies than others, especially certain purebred breeds.

While veterinarians can treat the symptoms of these conditions—such as with steroids—if the cat is not kept away from whatever it is allergic to (i.e., an allergen), it will continue to have skin problems.

Identifying the cause of a cat’s allergy is not always easy. Cats often eat packaged food that contains a mix of ingredients or may occasionally eat “people” food, so it is not always possible to know which food is causing a problem. In addition, it may be difficult to tie something in a cat’s environment to its allergy, unless you see the allergic reaction shortly after it occurs.

In addition to treating a cat’s symptoms, the feline veterinarian may recommend an overhaul of the cat’s diet. Healthy fats, such as omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids, which are found in foods like fish and certain plants, may relieve your cat’s symptoms. Your veterinarian can offer more advice on improving your cat’s diet.

If dietary changes do not clear up your cat’s symptoms, your veterinarian may use blood tests or allergy testing done under the skin (intradermal) to identify the cause of the allergy. If you and your vet can identify the allergen, you may be able to keep it out of your cat’s environment.

Eosinophilic Granuloma Complex

One special skin condition in cats is called an eosinophilic granuloma complex (EGC). This can show up as skin eruptions in many places on a cat’s body. These may leak pus or fluid, appear as holes in the skin (ulcers) or look like tumors. Cats may also have allergic symptoms, such as itching, inflammation or swelling.

Often, this condition is caused by the immune system responding to a parasitic infection that does not actually exist. Instead, the body may be reacting to bites from fleas, mites or mosquitoes. In response to the bites, specialized immune cells (eosinophils) release chemicals that cause inflammation of the skin.

Eosinophilic granuloma complex may also be caused by reactions to foods, particles in the air, antibiotics or heart medications.

Some lesions will go away on their own. Other times, a cat may scratch at them so much that they become infected. Depending on where the lesion is on the body, a cat can create an open wound in the skin within hours just by scratching.

Diagnosis of eosinophilic granuloma complex is done similar to other skin conditions. A biopsy may also be needed. This involves removing a small piece of tissue from one or more of the lesions.

Treatment for eosinophilic granuloma complex may include:

  • Certain medications, such as steroids
  • Antibiotics to treat infections of the lesions

To reduce your cat’s risk of developing these kinds of lesions, keep him or her indoors when the mosquitoes are out, use appropriate flea control and monitor your cat’s reactions to its food. If your cat is exhibiting symptoms of a skin condition, contact us to make an appointment.

Location

Find us on the map

Office Hours

Our Regular Schedule

Monday:

9:00 AM-6:00 PM

Tuesday:

9:00 AM-8:00 PM

Wednesday:

9:00 AM-4:00 PM

Thursday:

9:00 AM-6:00 PM

Friday:

9:00 AM-5:00 PM

Saturday:

9:00 AM-3:00 PM

Sunday:

Closed

  • "I have my puppy for only 4 days and the doctor provided all the answers to my million questions. She was patient and kind and very loving to my pup. She diagnosed ear mites and cleaned his ears throughly. She explained everything throughly and even comforted me when I got upset about him being a little sick. I would highly recommend and will be taking Finn her from here on out. Thank you thank you thank you!!"
    by Jeanna P. on 04/06/2022
  • ""My husband and I absolutely love Three Village Veterinary Hospital! Our puppies adore Dr. Sophia, and she takes the best care of them whenever we bring them in. When our newest puppy broke her leg and had to have surgery, Dr. Sophia called us right away to check in and see how she was doing, which meant the world to us! All of the vet techs and front desk staff are also amazing! I couldn't imagine bringing our babies anywhere else.""
    Jessica K.
  • "'They have taken great care of my puppy...even when he does scary things like eating light bulbs ( metal and all). As a first time dog owner I have lots of questions and each of the vets have taken their time to answer all of my questions and concerns without ever making me feel stupid for asking. The support staff is also very knowledgeable, helpful and truly gets excited to see each of the animals that comes through the door.'"
    Joanne W
  • ""I could not be happier with my visit to Three Village Veterinary Hospital! I just recently moved to New York and have been extremely nervous in choosing a new veterinarian for my dog (he’s super stubborn and can be a real handful). I called Three Village Veterinary Hospital and right off the bat Dr. Sophia Was fantastic! She really took the time to dive into Huxley’s history with me, including his anxiousness about vet visits. Hearing Dr. Sophia ask all the right questions reassured me that Huxley was in good hands.

    Huxley came out of his appointment with a bill of clean health and a ton of new friends in the office staff, I couldn’t believe how happy he was! I am so glad that I was recommended to Three Village Veterinary Hospital and feel incredibly relieved to have found a fantastic new team that I can trust Huxley with. I HIGHLY recommend!""
    Michelle G
  • ""I would never go to another place but this one, even if I had to travel. best professional understanding point on doctors there. they opened their doors and stayed open just for me after hours. They had so much empathy & helped me make the right decision in a short time. I recieved a hand written card from them a couple of days after my visit, which made me cry. I trust them and respect all of them 100% my entire will be taken our pets theres. I cant thank them enough""
  • "We've been with TVVH for over 25 years. Could not imagine going elsewhere. In addition to their professional expertise is the consistent human element; their very real kindness and caring. Office staff, technicians and doctors all are exceptional."
    Linda B
  • "The staff and doctors are amazing. The older my Shih Tzu gets the more difficult and snappy he has become. Your doctors and staff are kind, gentle, and professional. You don't make me feel like I have a bad dog or I raised him wrong. I feel you care not just for me dog but for me (who can be a bit neurotic about my dog). Your tech staff and doctors...even the front desk staff are the best!!"
    Rebecca D
  • "I not only use Three Village Veterinary for my personal animals, but frequently recommend them to my grooming customers as well. I trust them explicitly and value their professionalism, but above all their compassion... all the doctors there are great & the fact that they put up with my MANY emergencies (& my neurosis) makes them my fav. Love you guys <3"
    Melissa V