Of all the body organs, the skin is not only the biggest but also the most problematic organ of the cat’s body. Most medical conditions demonstrate symptoms that relate to skin and coat. In addition, external factors like physical trauma and parasites can also affect the skin in a significant manner. Like dog skin problems, cats can also suffer from skin disorders that are self limiting, and chronic conditions that require treatment over a protracted period of time.
Pruritus: The Itchy Cat
Itching brings forth an amazing array of changes in a cat’s skin. Constant itching can make it impossible for the veterinarian to ascertain whether the skin condition has caused the itching or whether the excessive itching has caused the skin lesions. Besides itching, pruritus causes symptoms like symmetrical feline hair loss , damage to skin due to intense scratching and Miliary dermatitis. Miliary dermatitis relates to appearance of multiple crusty lesions that are greasy and filled with cat dandruff. It can also lead to Eosinophilic granuloma complex, a condition where linear inflamed crusts are accompanied by oozing, red areas near the chin and the trunk.
Food allergy, bacterial infection, external parasitic ear or other mites, dust, pollen and insect bites are some of the major causes of pruritus.
While grooming, cats eat fleas that may have infested their coat. This makes it difficult for the owner to ascertain the presence of fleas. You can determine whether your cat has fleas by using a fine-toothed comb on the coat and examining the comb for trapped fleas. Black and comma-shaped flea excreta or flea-dirt can also prove the prevalence of fleas on a cat.
Fleas can be harmful for cats in various ways:
- They carry larva of intestinal parasites that can infect your pet.
- Allergies to flea bites can induce itching and scratching. This causes many skin problems later.
- Adult fleas feed on the blood of the host and can cause anemia in young cats.
Ringworm is caused by fungi that grow in dead tissue, hair or nails. It is a condition that causes skin lesions and circular areas of hair loss appear. Ringworm is infectious and occurs mostly due to contact with an infected individual.
Feline acne and stud tail
Cats use secretions of sebaceous glands located near the chin, nose and the base of the tail for territorial markings. Excessive use of the sebaceous glands makes cats susceptible to feline acne. Use of the glands at the base of the tail for territorial marking is commonly known as ‘stud tail’. Cats with feline acne or stud tail do not show any clinical signs except for black heads or some bacterial infection. Severe cases cause irritation and inflammation and the affected skin might become overly swollen.
Besides the conditions discussed above, cats develop skin problems due to overexposure to sun (especially among light colored cats), mite infestations and excessive licking of the inflamed site of the skin.