The Most Common Cat Skin Problems and What to Do About Them

Like humans, and like dogs, cats are also prone to skin problems, and they are actually fairly common in cats. Skin conditions for cats can be caused by a number of issues, several of them being parasite related. Other conditions could be related to bacterial infections, allergies, a hormone imbalance, a fungal infection even stress or an injury can spark skin issues. They can be difficult for a cat owner to figure out, and more than that, deal with. The problem is, if you don’t know what the cause is, it will be difficult to treat the problem. For more insight to skin issues in cats, here are ten of the most common cat skin problems and what to do about them.

1. Abscess

An abscess is a collection of pus that collects in a bite or some kind of puncture wound. It is very painful for your cat. The typical cycle of an abscess is that it will swell and turn very firm. Over time, it softens and may rupture. If it does, a purulent discharge is expelled and will be very noticeable. If the abscess was caused by a bite during a cat-fight, you would typically find the abscess on these areas of the cat: the forequarters or abdomen, but sometimes can be seen close to the tail, (if your cat was bitten in the middle of trying to flee the scene). To prevent these types of abscesses, keep your cat as indoor cat. Outdoor cats are at the greatest risk of these types of abscess.

2. Contact Dermatitis

Contact dermatitis can be caused by a skin irritant, maybe a chemical the cat come in contact with in the yard or house. Something as innocent as rubber or plastic food dishes, can cause the skin can become inflamed or break out in red, itchy bumps. It can be miserable for your cat to have to feel itchy and scratch all the time. You can help prevent contact dermatitis by keeping your cat away from chemicals, plus, feed your cats out of stainless steel bowls, glass, or lead-free ceramic dishes. If symptoms with contact dermatitis are bad, or get worse, your cat will need to be treated by a veterinarian and may need antibiotics if your cat has scratched sores on his skin and develops an infection.

3. Ear Mites

Ear mites are a type of pest that get into an animal’s ear canal and make your cat’s ears very itchy. Some of the most common symptoms associated with ear mites will start by seeing a brown, waxy material that accumulates in the ear canal. Your cat may start to shake their head a lot and are constantly scratching at their head. It is a terribly bothersome type of infestation for a cat and if it goes untreated, and can lead to a bacterial infection so it is best to get it treated early. If treatment doesn’t start early, bacterial infection can start.

4. Feline Acne

Cats are prone to acne the same as humans. For cats, acne can develop under the chin. The acne, or comedones, (also known as blackheads) are thought to be associated with the type of water or food dishes cats use. Rubber and plastic dishes may cause this type of skin condition, and if the condition is bad enough, a special type of shampoo might be advised by a veterinarian. Antiseborrheic shampoos or shampoos that contain benzoyl peroxide with a 3% concentration or less. There are also gels that contain benzoyl peroxide and all work to break down any excess oil in the cat’s skin. Sometimes an Omega-3 or Omega-6 supplement can be given, but it should only be given to your cat if a vet recommends it.

5. Flea Allergy Dermatitis

When a cat gets fleas, it can mean trouble for some cats, while others don’t seem to be affected at all. Some cats that are very sensitive to flea bites can have an outbreak of flea allergy dermatitis after just one flea bite. The reaction can begin to happen within just hours or days of the bite and symptoms manifest in ways of an itchy rash on the base of the tail, inner thighs, back, and rear legs. Veterinarians recommend that cats are put on a regular and effective flea preventative to help ward off problems with flea allergy dermatitis, however, if a flea bite start to cause flea allergy dermatitis symptoms, start treatment for it right away before it has a chance to worsen.

6. Food Allergy Dermatitis

Certain ingredients can cause allergies in cats and dogs, just like in humans. Severe itching is one of the most common symptoms, which usually is typically noticeable around the neck, back, and head area. Your cats eyelids may also start to swell, and if not treated, but left to worsen, sores may develop from itching and your cat may even start to lose hair due to scratching and biting at the area. Part of the treatment in food allergies is to change your cat’s diet, as well as your cat may need to do a round of steroid shots to help with swelling and irritation of the skin.

7. Psychogenic Alopecia

Cats are very clean animals. They like to lick and clean themselves on a regular basis. Some cats may even be a little compulsive in self-grooming, which many times, this behavior is brought on by stress. Finding out why your cat is stressed can help you eliminate the stresses in his life and create a more calm atmosphere for him to live in. The excess cleaning can cause hair loss, which may also need to be addressed, and often this is treated with a short-term treatment of anti-anxiety medication to help keep your feline calm and relaxed.

8. Stud Tail

Cats have glands near their tails that excrete oils. Sometimes they over-excrete these oils which can lead to greasy and putrid-smelling brown material that collects near their bottoms. This is typically a problem related to male cats who have not been neutered, but female cats may also deal with this issue. If this is the diagnosis, your vet may have you wash the area two times a day using an antiseborrheic shampoo to help break the oils down for a non-greasy, fresh-smelling tail.

9. Ringworm

This is a fungal infection that is not only found in animals, but it is highly contagious and can be spread to humans. The symptoms of this skin condition would include round patches on the skin where there is evidence of loss of hair, and the area is outlined with a red ring. An antifungal medication is usually prescribed for this condition, along with an extensive cleaning and sterilization of your home and the areas in the home where the cat spends a great deal of time (napping, playing, eating).

10. Sunburn

You may think it sounds a bit odd to think of a cat as getting sunburned, but it is a fact that they can, especially cats with light-colored fur. If they spend a lot of time in the direct sunlight, they can get sunburn on their skin, which can not only be painful, but like with humans, it can raise their risks of developing skin cancer.

If you notice any of the above symptoms on your cat, or suspect he may have a skin condition that is worsening, it is important you have him checked by a vet so the proper treatment can begin. The sooner treatments are started when it comes to skin conditions, the easier they are to treat, and the sooner your kitty can start to feel better and be a happy, and much more comfortable feline again.


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