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Causes and Treatment of Feline Skin Lesions

"Feline skin lesions have many possible causes including allergy, infections and parasites. Diagnosis of skin problems in cats can be a challenge since cats have a tendency to lick or use their teeth on itchy areas. Licking can cause lesions to become infected and hair loss. The leading cause of skin lesions in cats are fleas, which are often the problem despite the owners ability to locate a flea on the cats body. For example, a human could carry fleas into a house, which in turns causes a cat skin reaction. The second leading cause is atopy, which is an allergy to inhaled substances such as tree and grass pollen. A visit to a veterinarian is required for a specific diagnosis and treatment recommendation. Certain causes can be suspected based on a cats history and location of the cat skin disorder."

There are many possible causes for feline skin lesions. The treatment depends on the type and cause of the sore. Anytime your cat has a sore that doesn’t heal in a few days or that oozes yellow or green-colored puss, see your vet as this is a sign of infection.  Start by suspecting the leading cause which is fleas, even if you have trouble locating any on your cat's body.  If you cat has flea protection, next suspect atopy (seasonal allergy) or food allergy as the cause. After allergy, problems such as ringworm and scabies are potential causes. Problems such as infection are often introduced into the skin after a cat licks itchy areas, a condition referred to as a secondary skin infection.

Diagnosis of Feline Skin Lesions

There are several factors that could provide clues as to the cause of the cat skin disorder.

Age of Your Cat: Younger cats could be suffering from something inherited from the parents, skin infection. Middle age cats tend to have a problem with hormones or some type of allergy. Older cats might have a tumor which is either cancerous (malignant and fast spreading) or benign (not cancerous or fast spreading).

Seasonality: In the summer months problems could be related to seasonal allergy such as pollen (Atopic dermatitis) or insect bite. Dust mites are seen more often in winter.

Medications: New products that you might be using with your cat such as flea collars or spot ons might cause the problem.

Other Symptoms: Symptoms that your cat may be suffering from besides the skin problem could be telling:

The location of the feline skin lesion could indicate a possible cause.

Location Of The Skin Lesion

Location

Possible problem

Ears

Skin allergy, food reaction, parasite problem, infection from a medical condition somewhere else in the body, polyp which is a raised skin tumor

Head and Face

Skin allergy, food reaction, fungal infection, insect allergy, scabies, blisters

Paws Skin allergy, food reaction, blisters, skin injury
Claws Bacterial infection, immune system reaction

Base of Tail, Hair loss along the spine

Flea problem


Other Causes of Feline Skin Lesions:


Acute Moist Dermatitis (cat hot spots)

Acute moist dermatitis, or “hot spots,” are round, raw lesions that occur most often on the head, hips, and sides of the chest. They are most common on cats with long, dense hair, and occur most often during times of hot weather. Hair usually falls out in these areas. The skin becomes very irritated and cats will often lick and bite at the area.

Hot spots can be caused by a number of things, including flea bites, mites, poor grooming, and allergies. You vet can make a diagnosis after examining your cat. Treatment depends on the cause. Clipping the hair around the lesions makes it easier to clean and treat the feline skin lesions. If they are infected, oral antibiotics will be prescribed. Treatment will be prescribed for fleas or other parasites, and your vet can instruct you on proper grooming techniques.

Feline Demodicosis (Mites)

Demodicosis is a condition caused by mites. It causes feline skin lesions that ooze and crust over and also causes hair loss. This may occur in one small area or may occur all over the body.

To diagnose demodicosis, you vet will do a scraping of the affected skin and examine it under a microscope. If your cat has this condition, it is usually treated with a topical medication, although sometimes it is also treated with an oral medication as well.

picture of cat face problem

Picture of Cat Skin Problem Mange (also called scabies and demodicosis)

Consider a natural treatment for this condition such as the dip offered by Naturasil. This product has the added advantage of mixing with your cat's current shampoo, making the treatment more familiar to your cat and manageable for you.

In order to avoid re infestation, a cats environment should be cleaned with a quality disinfectant such as Benzarid.  All belongings should be washed with a liquid detergent and all rooms should be thoroughly vacuumed.

Feline Blastomyhcosis

Blastomycosis is a fungal infection that causes cat skin sores. It is a systemic infection that causes respiratory problems, generalized weakness, a poor appetite, and even blindness. One of the first signs of the illness, however, is round, oozing sores on the skin. The sores may later crust over. Cats with this condition often have difficulty breathing and have a chronic cough.

To diagnosis blastomycosis, your vet will examine secretions from the sores under a microscope. Blastomycosis is treated with an oral anti-fungal medication using traconazole (ITZ) therapy.

Feline Histoplasmosis

Histoplasmosis is a less common fungal infection. Like blastomycosis, it is a systemic infection and causes weight loss, cough, fever and diarrhea. It can also cause feline skin lesions. It is diagnosed and treated the same way blastomycosis is.

feline skin lesions
Cat Skin Lesions due to Fungal Dermatitis on Face

Cat Skin Allergies

Cat Allergies can cause feline skin lesions. These are usually in the form of raised red bumps known as hives. They are itchy and will cause your cat to scratch. Excessive scratching may break the skin, leading to infection.

feline skin lesions

Picture Cat Skin Allergy (allergic dermatitis)

feline skin lesions
Picture Cat Allergy on Face
(feline allergic dermatitis)

If no infection occurs, hives will usually go away on their own once exposure to the allergen is removed. Allergies can be caused by a change in season, if a cat comes in contact with an allergen or from food.  Experimentation is used to determine the exact cause by changing what is a cat is exposed to, or in the case of food, limiting the number of ingredients.

If infection develops, however, medical treatment will be needed. See your vet if your cat has sores that don’t go away in a few days, or sores that ooze anything yellowish in color. She may need antibiotics.

Natural Remedies and Feline Skin Lesion

In addition to any specific therapies recommended by a veterinarian, homeopathic products can provide added support.  Products such as Skin and Coat Tonic can help to reduce the severity of symptoms, speed healing, and help to maintain a healthy skin and coat.  

References:

Blastomycosis In Dogs and Cats
Adam L. Mordecai, DVM; Perry J. Bain, DVM, PhD; and Kenneth S. Latimer, DVM, PhD 

The University of Georgia, Athens, GA

Scott, D. W., Miller, W. H., Griffin, C. E.Muller
Kirk’s Small Animal Dermatology

Washington State University College of Veterinary Medicine

 

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