Cat with skin problems

Author: VioVet
Published: Sunday 20th January 2013
Updated: Thursday 23rd January 2020

Our customer asked:

I live in Cyprus and have three cats and a dog. Hughie, the cat with the skin problem has had this problem for approximately 18 months now. He has had blood tests which showed he has some sort of allergy but to what is not known. My vet here has been giving giving him antihistimine injections and sometimes antibiotic too as sometimes the skin is broken. I will try and describe the condition. He has man bald patches, on his sides, the backs of his legs and one very persistent one on the back of his neck. Some of these bald areas have open areas like a graze in them. They are not extensive but are cause for concern particularly in the very hot summer months. He does not scratch a lot but is constantly licking himself. The antihistimine does seem to make the condition much better but my vet has advised that the constant use of these (roughly every months to date) is not a good idea. He also has recommended "Fucicort" cream for dogs but when I read the instructions it says that dogs should be prevented from licking areas that had been treated. I did query the use of this cream on my Hughie but he says it would be alright. Can you help please. I am about to re-order flea and tick treatments and wonder if you could recommend somethings.

Our reply:

I would say that cats which appear as you describe often have 2 separate and very different components to the problem. How important each component is can very from cat to cat, but either of them can probably just about cause the entire problem. One is allergic in nature, the other is behavioural.

Firstly an allergy to something is likely. This is most commonly to flea bites, so you should certainly be extremely diligent in treating fleas on all your pets. It could be that fleas are the main problem, and all your animals are getting bitten occasionally, but just Hughie reacts to them so badly. (Compare with peanuts in people - they are fine for most of us but can kill some people.) Therefore very careful flea control on all your cats is very important. Regularly use a spot-on flea treatment (eg Fiprospot) for all the animals, treat around the house with a suitable spray (eg Indorex) and wash all bedding. Allergies to other things, such as dusts and pollens or foods are also possible. These are difficult to do much about, though you could try changing the food to something entirely different.(eg from chicken/wheat based food to fish/rice based. Look at the ingredients and pick a completely different type if possible, then stick to it for a few weeks and see if it helps.

Allergic skin disease can be helped by certain oil supplements. These are normally a mixture of particular vegetable">Yumega for cats, which can be added to food, or Allerderm, which is applied as a spot-on.

Finally, but importantly, some cats like this have developed a sort of neurotic habit. It is a bit like people who bite their nails excessively, to the point perhaps of making them sore. Some cats, and it appears to be more common in the nervous/apprehensive natured cats, seem to get some sort of self-comfort from repeatedly licking certain parts of their skin. This becomes a habit and the slight soreness they can cause becomes a bit itchy because of the on-going self-trauma (cats tongues are very rough). They seem to feel they have to keep licking. Certainly if a large collar is put on any of these cats, the skin and coat heal perfectly, but that does not show if it is genuine itching, caused by an allergy, or it is purely a "silly habit". The point is that even if there is an allergy, it will not be causing hair to drop out or any soreness directly. It will be the repeated licking which is taking out the hair and causing the soreness too.

Cats which have a psychological component to the problem are not easy to treat either. If they can be "de-stressed", then the chronic skin problem will sometimes clear completely, only coming back if they are hassled by an aggressive cat moving in next door, or the family having a baby, or whatever. To try and treat this part of the problem, it is sometimes possible to change how you keep and feed your animals, allowing this cat a more private place to eat, drink, go to the toilet, rest and sleep. Mostly it is other cats which stress cats, often the "companion" cat in the house, so this can be difficult. It is worth thinking about though. I think that some very robust-natured cats can be as itchy as you like (crawling with fleas perhaps) but they never over-lick themselves like this because it is just not part of their nature. They seem not to care. Other cats which are just slightly itchy will lick themselves all the time and make a complete mess of themselves. The difference between the cats can be temperament as much as anything physical. For stressed cats, the usual medical treatments are Feliway and Zylkene.

All of the products mentioned are on the website. Have a think about it and I hope this helps. If in any doubt, talk to your own vet again as well.