Cat Skin Conditions

"Cat skin conditions are diagnosed by looking at the location of the condition (one area or in multiple areas), shape of the skin problem and the condition of your cats coat."

Types of Cat Skin Problems

Another name for a cat skin problem is dermatitis. Common causes of feline skin health problems include:

  • Multiple Causes of Infection such as:
    • Bacteria
    • Virus
    • Parasites
    • Fungus

    Diagnosis of Skin Conditions

    Location of Cat Skin Conditions

    If you see a skin problem in one area it could be caused by a parasite that entered your cat's body or some type of disorder where the cells are multiplying in an abnormal way. This may or may not be malignant (cancerous that spreads) or benign (not cancer or spreading). Another name for this type of growth is called a neoplasm or lesion.

    If the skin condition is spread over the body then it is usually due to some type of disease or problem within the body.

    Shape of Cat Skin Condition

    The shape of the cat skin conditions can indicate the type of problem. If the skin problem is the same on both halves (bilateral symmetry) then possible causes include Hypothyroidism, hyperadrenocorticism or pemphigus foliaceus (skin condition with scaling).

    If the skin condition has uneven shapes then your cat could be suffering from a parasite or fungus.

    There are four main patterns of cat skin problems:

    • miliary dermatitis (pattern of bumps, associated with fleas)
    • feline symmetrical alopecia (hair loss)
    • eosinophilic granuloma complex (allergy causing red bumps, worn skin)
    • head and neck pruritus (areas where your cat may have itched)

    Coat Quality and Cat Skin Conditions

    If your cat's coat does not have the shine it usually have then she could be suffering from an issue with her hormones, nutrition or a disease of the skin.

    If the color of your cat's coat has changed it could indicate a skin disease or some type of infection that is affecting the hair follicles (follicular dysplasia).

    Common Types of Cat Skin Disorders

    Cat Alopecia - This is a common cat skin conditions where your cat loses hair over certain parts of the body. The cause is often infection or inflammation at the base of the hair (called hair follicle dysplasia).

    Diseases that can cause hair loss include infection (bacteria, fungus) parasites, injury, poisoning and burns. Other causes include problems in the diet (protein problem), and hormone issues. In all likelihood the cause is probably fleas or a allergic reaction.

    cat alopecia picture Picture of Cat Alopecia

    Diagnosis of this condition will depend on whether or not your cat is licking the hair out or if it is falling out. Your veterinarian will examine some hair follicles under a microscope to make a diagnosis.

    Feline Skin Allergies - Several types of allergies can affect the skin. This includes allergens that are airborne and in your cat's food. One condition due to allergy causes severe itch (Feline atopy) which is another name for skin allergy.

    It is very difficult to diagnose feline skin allergies since the pattern of skin irritation can appear as any one of the four patters listed above. Because of this the diagnosis of the condition is based on the elimination of other causes.

    If your vet suspects allergy they will attempt to identify the allergen and then eliminate your cat's exposure. Since foods are usually the cause, they will suggest elimination of most foods from the diet and then will add the eliminated foods back in one by one.

    Cat Skin Ulcer - red areas on the skin where the skin almost looks like it is worn away. The cause is usually some type of injury or something that is causing the skin to become inflamed.

    Granuloma - There are three types of granulomas. They can be found on the head, face, nose and ears. Granulomas are caused by insects, allergy or infection.

    Eonsinophilic or Indolent Ulcer - Looks like a reddish area on the lip.

    picture cat lip problem Picture of cat lip indolent ulcer

    Cat Skin Plaque - Red raised itchy areas on the belly and thigh.

    picture cat skin problem Picture of Cat Skin Plaque

    picture cat skin condition Picture of Cat Skin Granuloma

    Cat Flea Skin Problem (flea allergy dermatitis) - Fleas can irritate the skin due to the saliva that they inject into your cat. The saliva may cause your cat to itch which damages the skin even more. You should see a small solid bump. Another name for this condition is feline miliary dermatitis.

    picture cat skin condition Picture of Cat Milliary Dermatitis (feline flea skin problem)

    Severe itching of a feline flea problem can cause the hair to fall out. This condition usually happens in the late summer.

    If your veterinarian suspects fleas they will treat for this condition. If the cat skin disease disappears then the cause is obviously flea dermatitis.

    Flies and Mosquitoes - Flies like to feed on your cat's blood. Skin conditions are usually temporary and appear as small bumps.

    Cat Skin Hives - Hives are red areas on the skin that look like patches. They usually itch. Usually it is a reaction to something your cat came in contact with. Hives tend to quickly disappear (another name for hives is urticaria or wheals).

    Cat Skin Itch (Pruritis) - This is a condition usually found around the head and neck.

    picture cat skin itch Picture of Cat Pruritis (cat skin itching on the face and neck)

    Be sure to alert your veterinarian if this condition appears immediately after a vaccination.


    Carter, G.R., Wise, D.J., and Flores, E.F. (Eds)
    A Concise Review of Veterinary Virology

    Peter Hill
    BVSc, PhD, DVD, Dip. ACVD, MRCVS
    Senior Lecturer in Veterinary Dermatology
    Division of Companion Animal Studies,
    Department of Clinical Veterinary Science,
    University of Bristol,
    Langford, Bristol, UK

    Dermatologic Examination
    R.S. Mueller
    Department of Clinical Sciences
    College of Veterinary Medicine and Biomedical Sciences, Colorado State University, Fort Collins, CO, USA


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