Cats are one of the most beloved pets in Australia, but unfortunately, they can suffer from various skin conditions that can cause discomfort and distress. In this article, we discuss diagnoses and treatments for common cat skin problems in Australia. We also answer frequently asked questions about cat skincare and share helpful tips for pet parents.
It is important to be aware of the common skin problems cats in Australia may develop, such as flea allergies, ringworm, mites and more.
Certain skin problems can be diagnosed by looking for signs such as hair loss, redness, lumps or bumps and scabs.
Treatment of skin problems in cats may include medicated shampoos, oral medications, topical treatments, dietary changes and environmental management.
Common Cat Skin Conditions
Cats are surprisingly hardy little creatures known for always landing on their feet, but they can still suffer from a variety of health problems, including skin conditions.
While this list isn't all-encompassing, some of the most common skin conditions and origins of cat skin problems include:
Ear Mites or Ear Infections
Ear mites are tiny parasites that can cause inflamed, swollen ears and a light brown discharge. And ear infections occur when bacteria or yeast overgrowth invade the inner ear and cause irritation, soreness and redness.
Both ear mites and infections can cause excessive scratching in the area of the ears, leading to skin irritation and infection. For this reason, ear mites and infections should always be treated promptly.
Yes, a cat can have a food allergy like a human. And food allergies can cause your cat to have itchy, flaky skin and even lose fur.
Allergic reactions make for an uncomfortable cat, so if you suspect food allergies are to blame, it's essential to take your kitty to the vet for an allergy test and switch up the cat's food. Be sure to follow the vet's advice regarding dietary adjustments and slowly change your cat's diet, as a sudden switch can cause gastrointestinal issues.
Environmental allergies can wreak havoc on a cat's skin. Cats can be allergic to different things, such as pollen, dust mites and even certain fabrics. Like in people, an allergic reaction can cause severe itching, leading to skin infections, hair loss and other issues.
If you think your cat has an environmental allergy, talk to your vet about conducting a skin test. Cat skin allergies are sometimes treated with medicine designed to suppress allergic response or with supplements that boost immune health. The cat may also need to avoid the allergen by staying inside more often, at least during certain seasons.
Mange is a skin condition caused by tiny mites that burrow into the cat's skin, resulting in intense itching, hair loss and redness. Cats with this skin disease may also have skin lesions.
Treatment for mange includes antibiotics, anti-parasite medication and frequent baths with medicated shampoos.
Feline acne is a common skin condition that causes blackheads, pimples and scabs on a cat's chin. Though the exact cause of cat acne is unknown, it's believed to be related to allergies or stress.
Vets often treat feline acne with medicated shampoos, antibiotics and dietary changes.
Ticks or Flea Bites
If you notice small black dots on your cat's skin or tiny red bumps, it's likely due to ticks or flea bites. Both fleas and ticks can cause irritation, itching and inflammation.
Treatment for fleas or ticks generally includes the use of flea control medication, special shampoos and spot-on treatments.
Stress can also be a factor in skin conditions in cats. A lack of stimulation, a change in the cat's environment, or even the presence of other pets in the household can cause stress that manifests itself through skin issues.
If your cat is showing signs of skin problems, look for any possible stressors and take steps to reduce them.
Skin abscesses are caused by bacterial infections and can be very painful for cats. Abscesses usually appear as red, swollen bumps or lumps filled with pus.
Bacterial infections and abscesses are usually resolved with antibiotics and possibly surgical drainage of the abscess.
Alopecia is a skin condition characterised by bald patches on the cat's body. It can even result in complete hair loss. Allergies, parasites or underlying illnesses may cause it.
Treatment for alopecia depends on the cause but may include dietary changes, antibiotics, antifungal medication and supplements.
Cat skin conditions can also involve dandruff. Dandruff is usually caused by dry skin. Dry skin can have a number of origins, including exposure to extreme temperatures or air conditioning, contact allergies and a lack of essential fatty acids in the diet.
Treatment for dandruff usually involves supplementing the cat's diet with fatty acids, using medicated shampoos and adding a humidifier to the home.
Fungal infections, such as ringworm, can also cause skin issues in cats. Ringworm is spread by contact with other animals or contaminated objects.
Treatment for ringworm usually means using medicated shampoos, oral antifungals and other topical treatments.
Tumours and Cancer
Cat skin problems can also be caused by the presence of tumours or cancer. Tumours may appear as lumps on the cat's skin, while cat skin cancer can cause changes in the skin's texture and colour.
Treatment for tumours and cancer typically involves surgery, chemotherapy or radiation therapy.
Symptoms of Cat Skin Conditions
The signs of cat skin problems vary greatly, depending on the underlying cause. However, that doesn't mean pet owners won't recognise cat skin conditions when they crop up. Several obvious signs suggest feline skin disease or other skin problems.
Common symptoms include:
Lesions and sores
Redness or inflammation
Changes in skin colour or texture
Flaky skin or dandruff
Due to excessive grooming and scratching, cats may also develop a bacterial infection or secondary skin infection.
Diagnosing Cat Skin Problems
If you suspect your cat has skin issues, it's best to take them to the vet for diagnosis.
Your vet will likely conduct a physical exam and look for outward signs of problems on the cat's body, such as bald patches or other hair loss. A simple physical exam may reveal skin diseases, parasites, tumours or infections. They may also conduct diagnostic tests such as skin scrapings, fungal cultures or skin biopsies to get an accurate diagnosis.
Once you have an answer to the cause of the skin problem, the vet can recommend the appropriate treatment.
Managing a Cat's Skin Condition
Cat owners can take steps to help manage their pet's skin condition.
If a lack of nutrition causes your cat's condition, you can modify its diet to ensure it gets the nutrients it needs. It can help to feed your cat high-quality cat food that's vet-recommended.
If the cat suffers from a food allergy, your vet may also suggest specific diet changes depending on the cause.
Cat supplements encourage healthy skin and coat development and better overall health. Supplements that contain fatty acids can be beneficial, as they provide essential nutrition to the cat's skin and fur.
in-sideout Cat Formula is an excellent holistic supplement for enhancing a cat's overall health. in-sideout supports the immune system and a healthy skin and coat. The supplement also contains pre and probiotics that facilitate optimal gut health and sound digestion, promoting good stool quality and better utilisation of nutrients.
in-fibre Psyllium Husk is also a good option if your cat is constipated or needs more fibre in its diet.
Finally, in-fusion msm - Ultra Pure Methylsulfonylmethane Joint Supplement can improve an animal's skin and hair condition by increasing keratin production. It also supplies joint support to animals who have arthritis or other joint problems, encouraging better grooming by boosting mobility.
Many medications are available to treat common cat skin problems. Your vet will prescribe the best option for your cat's specific case.
Anti-inflammatory medications can help reduce redness or swelling in the skin, while anti-parasite medicines may be prescribed to treat flea infestations.
Antibiotics may be prescribed to treat cat acne or bacterial skin infections, while oral antifungals and other topical treatments address fungal problems.
In addition to any treatment prescribed by the vet, owners should ensure that the cat lives in a clean, stress-free environment. Stress can cause skin problems in cats, so it's crucial to minimise any potential stressors, like loud noises or too much activity. Also, give the cat access to plenty of comfortable resting areas and exercise opportunities.
Regular brushing of the cat's fur can also help to remove dead skin cells and reduce the likelihood of skin problems. This is especially important if the cat is overweight or has arthritis, making it challenging to clean itself properly.
FAQs About Cat Skin Conditions
Cat parents often have questions about their pet's skin conditions, so we've answered some of the most commonly asked questions below.
How Can Cat Owners Prevent Itchy Skin?
Prevention is key when it comes to cat skin problems. Regular brushing of the cat's fur, using a suitable flea preventative and keeping the animal in a stress-free environment are all critical steps to take. Also, make sure that the cat gets plenty of exercise and access to a balanced diet.
Supplements, like in-sideout Cat Formula and in-fusion msm, are also great for ensuring healthy skin and coat development.
How Can I Tell if My Cat Has a Fungal Infection?
Fungal infections can cause itching, redness or scaly patches on the cat's skin. Other signs include bald patches, discolouration, sores or foul odour.
Pet owners who suspect a fungal infection should consult a vet for an accurate diagnosis and advice on the most suitable treatment.
Is There Anything I Can Give My Cat to Help With Itchy Skin?
Anti-inflammatory medications may be prescribed if your cat's skin is itchy and inflamed.
Potential home remedies for itchy cats can include natural ingredients like aloe vera, coconut oil and oatmeal baths. Aloe vera can help soothe the skin and reduce inflammation in some cases, while coconut oil is an effective moisturiser. Additionally, oatmeal baths are a great relief for some animals and can be made by blending oatmeal in warm water. That said, many cats are not amenable to being bathed.
Please remember that home care options should be discussed with your vet before use. Also, always use products specifically designed for pets.
Promote Good Skin Health to Keep Your Cat Comfortable
Ultimately, it's up to you as a pet owner to promote good skin health in your cat by providing them with a balanced diet and necessary supplements, maintaining cleanliness, minimising stressors, grooming regularly, and seeking veterinary assistance if needed. Doing so can help keep your furry friend happy and healthy for life.
By Dr. Guangda Xue (Danny), BSc, MRes, PhD
Animal scientist specialised in gut health development and inflammation management