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CAT CHAT with Petsecure’s Chantele & Dr. Berney Pukay

CAT CHAT with Petsecure’s Chantele & Dr. Berney Pukay


Today our discussion with Dr. Berney Pukay revolves around feline skin issues and how to best resolve these under veterinarian guidance. Feline skin conditions can involve (but aren’t limited to):

  • Environmental allergies
  • Fleas or skin mites
  • Food allergies

icon-question Today's question:

"Our 12 yr old neutered male cat started getting scabs on his body, especially around his head and ears and down his back. Twice the veterinarian has injected him with some kind of steroid along with antibiotics. This cleared the scabs up the first time, but after a month the problem, returned. After the second treatment, the scabs came back again about 2-3 months later. The veterinarian we go to suggested expensive blood work to determine the cause but he was not very optimistic about finding out the cause. Our question is are his symptoms most likely caused by system failure? What can we expect if these symptoms are not treated?"

Dr. Pukay:

Skin diseases in cats are difficult to diagnose and challenging to treat because cat skin only responds to disease in a limited number of ways. As a result, the same symptoms can mimic more than one medical problem. A diagnosis often requires that skin biopsies be taken so that the tissue can be examined under a microscope.

Scabs that involve the body and in particular the head and ears can often be due to allergies. Food allergies are surprisingly common in cats and this may be the case with your cat. Frequently, the allergy is to one particular ingredient in the cat’s diet usually a protein such as chicken or cereal. Cats with food allergies are very itchy and the self-trauma due to licking, biting and scratching causes scabs to form on the skin, a condition called "military dermatitis" Environmental allergies can also cause generalized scabbing and itching. An allergy test is necessary to diagnose this problem and involves sending a blood sample to a laboratory or testing the skin with intradermal injections. Patients with environmental allergies respond well to steroid treatment.

Fleas and skin mites can also cause this condition. Specifically, a mite called Noteodres cati, can lead to self-excoriation that focuses primarily on the ears and head but can spread to the rest of the body. Treatment is simple and effective, using a topical drug called selamectin (Revolution) that is simply applied to the skin between the shoulder blades. Your concern about a "system failure" is understandable since there are certain systemic illnesses such as auto-immune diseases, metabolic disorders and skin cancers that can manifest themselves with symptoms that include skin lesions. A blood and urine test can be an effective way to rule out systemic problems and confirm that your cat is healthy. If your cat’s symptoms are left untreated, your cat’s skin condition will only get worse and may progress to the point where your cat will traumatize the skin so severely that he will stop eating, become listless, lose weight and suffer with pain.

Talk to your veterinarian about doing some lab work and, if the tests are normal, doing a skin biopsy to get a definitive diagnosis.

Cat Owners - Did You Know?

A comprehensive Petsecure plan for your feline can help cover the costs of diagnosing and treating skin allergies. Contact Petsecure today to speak with a licensed representative and discuss the many benefits of providing your cat with the best in veterinary care, without the burden of veterinary costs.

Dr. Berney Pukay is the chair of Petsecure’s Veterinary Advisory Board and a well-known and highly-respected Canadian veterinarian. *Some conditions, limitations and exclusions may apply.