Feline Itchy Skin, Help!
In our house it's usually easy to find Bear,our dog, she is usually close by but if not a quick call brings her running. Dogs are normally more responsive to being called. Finding Boo,our Cat, is a little trickier. Cats are normally much quieter so Boo can be anywhere in the house and it can take us a long time to find him. Of course, we have a unique built-in cat finder, our dog Bear is 100% in love with Boo and if we want to know where the cat is all we have to do is let Bear loose and within minutes Bear is making happy noises that she has found her true love. Not all houses have this feature and we truly appreciate having it.
Finding your cat is, unfortunately, easier if they are scratching, which has its own identifiable noise and is often accompanied by a thumping noise as their foot repeatedly hits the floor. Sounds innocent but when your cat is bothered by constant or frequent itching, it can be hard to listen to day after day.
Is your feline constantly scratching, licking, biting at the skin, or rubbing up against objects? If so, they could be suffering from an itchy skin disease, a very common problem found in felines and characterized by behaviors focused on relieving the itch. If your feline friend is itching, the first step to take is to carefully look at the skin and the hair coat.
A feline’s skin and hair coat can tell a great deal about their general health and condition.
What are the basic functions of the skin?
Because felines are such curious creatures they often find themselves in situations where they are at risk of injury or exposure to noxious chemicals or harmful environmental conditions. The cat’s skin provides a barrier that helps to keep bacteria, microorganisms, and foreign elements from entering the body, and protects the internal tissues from dehydration and loss of body heat by insulating against conditions of extreme heat and cold. The skin also acts as a receptor for the awareness of touch, temperature, pressure, and pain.
What are the functions of the hair coat?
The hair coat also has specific useful functions. The outer coat is made up of primary hair, which grows from its own individual root. Connected to these roots are tiny muscles that enable a feline to fluff out its coat trapping warm air creating a form of insulation. Secondary hair, or the undercoat, is more abundant and also functions to provide added warmth and protection. Tactile hairs include the whiskers, eyebrows, chin hairs and the hairs found on the backs of the front legs. Tactile hairs are specially modified to provide detailed information about anything that they touch which gives important sensory information to the cat. Whiskers are longer, thicker, and stiffer than normal hairs and a feline can fan them out, and rotate them forwards or backward. The nerve endings in whiskers are clustered and help to supply a feline with detailed information about air currents, air pressure, or objects close to their face. This information helps to supplement the feline’s other senses of smell, sight, and hearing and are useful when investigating objects nearby.
What does healthy cat’s skin and hair coat look like?
Different breeds have different hair – short, medium, or long and fine, medium or coarse, but all healthy felines should have shiny and mat-free coats. A feline with dull fur that breaks easily or has bald spots may indicate that there is a health issue and your veterinarian should be consulted.
How to examine the skin and hair coat of a feline:
- Run a comb or bristle brush against the lay of the hair to expose the skin
- Check the appearance of the skin
- Look to see if there is any residue on the comb or brush.
What am I looking for?
- Flea detritus
- Scaly flakes
After looking at my cat’s skin, I believe they have a problem, What could be causing it?
Here is a short list of itchy skin diseases and their characteristics:
- Allergic contact dermatitis: Red and itchy bumps, inflamed skin at the site of contact, a rash that may spread beyond the area of contact
- Chiggers: Itching with skin irritation between toes, around ears and mouth
- Contact dermatitis: Red, itchy bumps, inflamed skin at site of contact, may be caused by rubber or plastic food dishes
- Ear mites: Head tilting and shaking, scratching at the ears, brown, waxy material in ear canals
- Flea allergy dermatitis: Red, itchy bumps over the base of tail, back of rear legs and inner thighs, itching continues after fleas have been killed
- Fleas: Itching and scratching along the back, around tail and hindquarters, may see fleas, flea feces, and eggs
- Food allergy dermatitis: Severe itching over the head, neck, and back, swelling of eyelids, reddened ears, possible hair loss and oozing sores
- Inhalant allergy: Small bumps and crusts around the head, neck, and back beneath hair coat, may have symmetrical hair loss over body
- Lice: Look for nits that look like white grains of sandy material attached to the hair, may have bare spots where hair has been rubbed off
- Maggots: Soft-bodied, legless fly larvae found in matted fur or open wounds
- Scabies: Intense itching around the head, face, neck, and edges of the ears, hair is rubbed off, typical thick gray to yellow crusts on skin
- Ticks: Often found around the ears, along the back, between the toes
- Walking dandruff: Large amounts of dry, scaly, flaky skin over the neck, back, and sides, mild itching
This partial list shows feline skin ailments can be caused by allergies, parasites, irritations, or internal diseases. Your veterinarian is trained to recognize the symptoms and diagnose a remedy that will relieve the itchiness before the cat suffers hair loss, wounds, or bacterial infections.
What you can do:
Once the cause of the skin irritation has been identified, steps should be taken to prevent the animal from further exposure. Bathing the animal right away may help to minimize or eliminate the discomfort.
The following treatments will not cure the problem but will help to control the symptoms by reducing the itching and soothing the inflammation. Such treatments include the use of:
- Topical or oral corticosteroids
- Allergy shots
- Immune therapy
To Your Pet’s Good Health,