What Is Cat Dermatitis and What Can I Do?

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Is your cat itching or obsessively grooming? Do you see scabs on your cat? Find out about three different types of cat dermatitis and how to handle each. What is cat dermatitis?

→ What Is Cat Dermatitis and What Can I Do?

Got an itchy cat or noticing scabs on your cat? If you’ve noticed that your cat has been scratching a lot lately or obsessively licking and grooming herself more than usual, you might have a case of cat dermatitis on your hands. Dermatitis is a general term that refers to inflammation of the skin. This inflammation is usually caused by allergies and is very itchy.

How Can You Tell if Your Kitty Has Cat Dermatitis?

A cat with dermatitis might scratch, lick or chew on her skin, making the situation worse. You might see lesions, bumps, crusting, scabbing, redness and hair loss. Sometimes, a cat’s entire belly might become bald.

Most often, though, you might not see anything at all, especially if your cat has a lot of hair. “Inside the ears is one of the places where cats will scratch a lot where people may not necessarily notice, but there are some areas right in front of the ears where you might see some scratches,” notes Aimee Simpson, V.M.D., medical director of VCA Cat Hospital of Philadelphia. “You might notice that the cat seems kind of preoccupied, where every time she lies down she’s kind of chewing at herself.”

Most commonly, feline dermatitis is caused by an allergy to one of three things: fleas, food or environmental allergens like pollens and molds. To effectively treat your cat’s itchy skin, your vet first must determine the cause.

Let’s Look at Those Three Types of Cat Dermatitis:

1. Flea-Allergy Dermatitis

“Flea-allergy dermatitis, from the saliva from flea bites, is very common,” Dr. Simpson says. “It tends to be more of a seasonal issue that’s worse in the warmer months, but depending on which area of the country you’re living in, that might vary. It’s definitely more of a concern for outdoor cats and indoor/outdoor cats.”

Luckily, flea-allergy dermatitis is pretty easy to solve — get rid of the fleas, and you’ll get rid of the itchiness. Any itchy cat, especially one with signs of a flea infestation, should be on year-round flea control. “We always recommend flea medications that are prescribed by a veterinarian, rather than the over-the-counter pesticide products,” Dr. Simpson advises. “The medications that we carry are just more effective and safer. It might take three to six months to get rid of fleas in the household, so that flea allergy might take just as long to resolve.”

2. Food-Allergy Dermatitis

A second common cause of cat dermatitis is food allergies. This type of skin reaction occurs when a cat is allergic to certain proteins in her food. It’s possible for a cat to develop food allergies at any point in life, even if she has been eating the same food for years with no issues.

“If we’ve ruled out flea allergy, we can also do a food allergy trial, which involves feeding a cat a special prescription diet,” Dr. Simpson explains. “We usually choose a hydrolyzed protein, which is basically whole proteins that are broken down into pieces that are too small to cause allergic reactions. If we feed only that diet for somewhere between four to 12 weeks, that will help us rule out a food allergy.”

To get accurate results, cats who are doing a food trial can only eat the special prescription diet for the duration of the trial. That means no other food, including treats, table food and flavored medications. If the cat’s skin improves on the diet, then a food allergy is usually the cause of the cat’s dermatitis, and keeping the cat on the prescription diet should manage the condition.

3. Atopic Dermatitis

The third most common type of feline dermatitis is atopic dermatitis, which means that the cat is reacting to an allergen in the environment, such as pollen, mold or grass.

“If we’ve ruled out fleas and we’ve ruled out food allergies, and if we still are left with an itchy cat with skin lesions, then we default to environmental allergy,” Dr. Simpson says. “It’s harder to diagnose in cats than it is in dogs or in people because we don’t do a lot of allergy skin testing in cats. They’re very reactive to everything, so it’s hard to determine exactly what might be the problem.”

This type of allergy is harder to manage since you usually can’t eliminate these things from the cat’s environment. In most cases, cats need to take daily medications for life. “That could be a steroid, which is a good anti-inflammatory medication,” Dr. Simpson says. “Certainly, there are side effects with chronic steroids, but they work very well in cats, and most cats tolerate them pretty well. There are also some other medications that we can add in, including certain antihistamines and a prescription medication called Atopica, which is cyclosporine, an immunomodulatory drug that also helps cats with these hypersensitivity reactions.”

For severe cases of atopic dermatitis that don’t respond well to treatment, allergy injections, (called hyposensitization or allergen-specific immunotherapy) are another — albeit more expensive— option. If you wish to explore this option, a veterinary dermatologist is your best bet.

A Final Word on Cat Dermatitis

Skin lesions might not always indicate cat dermatitis. “Other — sometimes more serious — things can look a lot like allergic dermatitis, including ringworm, mites (scabies), cutaneous lymphoma (cancer) and Pemphigus foliaceous (an immune-mediated disease), so it’s always best to have any cat skin issues checked by a veterinarian,” Dr. Simpson advises.

Write comment below to us about: Have you ever seen dermatitis on your cat? How did you treat them? What was the cause of dermatitis on cats in your case? Add more info about what is cat dermatitis?

A source: Catster.com

This Post Has 24 Comments

  1. Olivia Fits

    Hey, how do you treat dermatitis in cats?

    1. Katrin Camtont

      Hi Olivia

      Your itchy pet may benefit from topical treatment including cool baths, medicated shampoos and conditioners, and soothing sprays. If your cat has mild allergies, she may be treated with antihistamines or omega-3 fatty acids. More severe cases may require stronger medications such as prednisone or allergy shots.

  2. Rendy Fuyer

    Hi, is cat dermatitis contagious?

    Ps thanks for info:)

    1. Katrin Camtont

      Hi, Rendy

      Mites cause severe skin infections in cats, generally starting on the face and ears and spreading to the rest of the body, and are highly contagious. Demodectic mange (caused by Demodex cati or Demodex gatoi) is not considered contagious, nor is it common in cats.

  3. Suzie Denzer

    Why does my indoor cat have scabs?

    1. Katrin Camtont

      Hello Suzie

      Scabs, this reaction is an allergic response to proteins or antigens present in the flea’s saliva. Maybe you cat have fleas.

  4. Rachael Gerkensmeyer

    Hi therr ,what can I give my cat for dermatitis?

    1. Katrin Camtont

      Hello Rachael

      Your veterinarian may prescribe a short course of anti-inflammatory drugs such as corticosteroids to make the cat feel more comfortable and reduce the constant itching while the specific treatment takes effect. Other treatments may include antihistamines, essential fatty acids, and cyclosporine (brand name Atopica®).

  5. Aneta Dabrowska

    Wonderful post but I have more question, can humans get dermatitis from cats? Thanks!

    1. Katrin Camtont

      Hello, Aneta

      Yes, human infestation to ectoparasites such as ticks, lice, cimex, fleas, mites and others agents may result in intensive allergic reaction with symptoms of itching, skin infection and severe irritation.

      Cat flea saliva, feces and debris are considered as allergens. Usually in late summer (August and September) flea populations reach their peak and their potential ability to attack to host increases when the temperature and humidity increases. Concerning the delayed reaction in both males and females, younger age groups were noticeably more sensitive compared to older age groups to the bites of fleas.

      Based on the characteristic patterns of flea bites, they normally prefer the ankles and bare feet while. The skin reaction to insect bites and stings usually last only up to few days. Nonetheless, in some cases, the local reaction of skin can last up to two years. These bites sometimes cause misdiagnosis in other forms, as either benign or cancerous lesions.

      Not only flea bites may result in severe allergic reactions in susceptible individuals but also scratching the bites can lead to secondary infection.

  6. Caroline Bickovskii

    Hi, maybe some know, what can cause dermatitis in cats?

    PS If you want to improve your knowledge only keep visiting this blog.

    1. Katrin Camtont

      Hello, Caroline

      Atopic Dermatitis is an inflammatory, chronic skin disease associated with allergies. These allergic reactions can be brought on by normally harmless substances like grass, mold spores, house dust mites, and other environmental allergens. Furthermore, dogs are more prone to atopic dermatitis than cats.

      PS Thanks for your comment))

  7. Tina Brooke

    Hello all, why does my cat have scabs but no fleas?

    PS. I just want to say I am newbie to blogging and site-building and seriously loved you’re web site. Most likely I’m going to bookmark your blog. You amazingly come with fabulous articles and reviews. Thanks a lot for sharing your web site.

    1. Katrin Camtont

      Hello Tina

      Flea allergy is the most common allergy in cats. These scabs are often referred to as miliary dermatitis, a term that was coined because the scabs look like millet seeds (see “Miliary Dermatitis in Cats” for more information on this skin condition).

      PS. Thaaaanks)))

  8. Sonny Debias

    Hi. Can I use hydrocortisone cream on my cat?

    PS I’m glad found kotikmeow.com website, I really like it, the article is very useful and I shared it!

    1. Katrin Camtont

      Hi, Sonny

      Yes, you can use Hydrocortisone Cream. Davis Hydrocortisone Cream calms inflamed, itchy and irritated skin due to flea bites, dermatitis, eczema and allergies. Davis Hydrocortisone Cream is non-stinging and free of fragrances or dyes that could cause further irritation. Safe for use on dogs, cats and horses.

  9. Bill Robinson

    Eyy, what does dermatitis look like on a cat?

    Take care!

    1. Katrin Camtont

      Hi, Bill

      Feline miliary dermatitis is a general term used to describe a skin condition in cats that most commonly results from an allergic reaction. Clinically, the patient has a very itchy rash and may lick, bite, and scratch at the affected skin.

  10. Lora Nikolas

    Thanks for the helpful information about feline dermatitis, I learned something new. My cat recently had a problem with feline dermatitis, but my veterinarian was on vacation, I had to look for a replacement, so the treatment was delayed a bit since the treatment was not immediately started. But now all is well.

    1. Katrin Camtont

      Thanks for your comment, I glad to hear that your cat is healthy.

  11. Jorge Jacobsen

    Very interesting info!Perfect just what I was searching for!

  12. Tina Erison

    Once I saw injuries on my cat’s cat’s skin, but I didn’t immediately understand what it was, I went to the veterinarian in the local clinic, as I contacted immediately, everything went quickly enough and most importantly I got advice on what to do immediately as you see something like this.

    1. Katrin Camtont

      I am glad to hear that everything went without complications, yes, the main thing is to immediately contact a veterinarian if you have such a problem for the first time. Thank you Tina, for your comment.

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