Cat Dermatology - Everything You Need To Know About Cat Dermatology

How do skin conditions impact the health and well-being of your cat?

Your skin covers your entire body and serves as part of your immune system and protects you from outside influences. Being your first line of defense, taking care of it is really important.

Dr. Meghan Denney
Four Paws At Fulshear

Are feline dermatology problems curable?

Yes, they are. Feline dermatology issues ranging from rashes or bumps to hair loss usually can be curable if not managed. Conditions such as flea bite dermatitis arise when cats get bitten by fleas and have an allergic reaction. You will see a lot of itching around the neck or the tail. You might also see flea dirt, which are tiny brown spots that usually means the cat has fleas. You may also see lesions, crusting, and itching on the ears caused by mosquito bite hypersensitivity, which causes cats to scratch their ears raw. Hair loss on the face and crusting are signs of ringworm, which is contagious. Some people are more susceptible to ringworm than others. These conditions are all manageable with proper care and attention. Lumps and bumps are also reasons to visit your veterinarian.

For instance, my cat developed a little tumor on his face, so to find out what it was, I did a fine needle aspirate, which involves taking a little needle and poking the growth. You then squirt the cells onto a slide and look at them through the microscope. In this case, the cells weren't exfoliating very well and weren't going into the needle hub, so he had to have the tumor surgically removed. The tumor in the skin ended up being a mass cell tumor, which is malignant. Growths on cats' skin can turn out to be cancerous, so being vigilant, feeling all over your cat, and bringing them into the vet if you notice anything different is really important. We also see hair loss on the belly and around the face due to barbering, which is when cats overgroom. That can be a sign of allergies or maybe they're having an overgrowth of their own skin mites. We can see all these things when we're doing our physical exam, so it's vital to bring your can in when you notice any skin issues so we can find the right treatment and resolve it.

How will a veterinarian diagnose skin diseases in your cat?

A veterinarian can diagnose skin diseases in several ways. Visual examination and touch are initial methods. With our eyes, we can tell what type of skin lesions your cat has from looking at the crusting. For more detailed analysis, skin cytologies and impression smears are used to detect the presence of bacteria, fungal organisms, and different types of cells. If a lesion is very wet, I'll do an impression smear by pushing the slide against the lesion, drying it, and looking to diagnose potential autoimmune conditions. In certain cases, skin biopsies may also be performed to diagnose autoimmune conditions.

What treatment options are typically recommended for cat dermatology issues?

The treatment options vary based on the diagnosis. If a kitten comes in and it's crusty and losing hair all over its face and the owner is scratching and has rashes all over them, it's probably a ringworm. We'll use a black light or a Wood's lamp because 40% of ringworm cases will fluoresce under a black light. In that case, we'll use antifungals, which come in or and topical forms. Sometimes we'll use lime sulfur dips to help with the itching. We also use antibiotics and steroids for certain conditions, and specific medication for autoimmune diseases. Moreover, preventive measures like flea and tick prevention can also be recommended.

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