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Cat Skin Infections

Updated 2/2/2012

Author: VetDepot

Feline skin infections come in a variety of forms. They can be caused by bacteria or fungal organisms. Some infections affect only the superficial layers of skin; others spread to deeper tissues as well, but most infections are caused by an overgrowth of the normal microorganisms that are present on a cat's skin. Anything that disrupts the balance between the skin's protective measures and its resident bacterial and fungal populations can produce a skin infection. Possible underlying problems include:

  • allergies
  • hormonal imbalances (e.g., diabetes mellitus)
  • external parasites
  • skin trauma
  • matting
  • immunosuppression

Signs of a Skin Infection

The symptoms typically associated with a skin infection are:

  • itchiness
  • hair loss
  • pus-filled "pimples"
  • firm, raised spots in the skin
  • red, inflamed skin
  • skin darkening
  • flakiness

If the infection involves the skin's deeper layers or spreads elsewhere in the body, a cat may lose her appetite, become lethargic, develop a fever, be in pain and have open wounds that drain pus.

Home Care

If you suspect that your cat has a skin infection but it is limited to a small portion of her body and she acts like she feels fine, you can try treating it at home before calling your veterinarian. First, shave the hair away from the affected area with a pair of electric clippers. Next, thoroughly clean the infected skin with an antiseptic and then apply a topical antibiotic. If over a few days your cat's condition fails to improve, call your vet.

Veterinary Care

Your vet may suspect that your cat has a skin infection based on a physical exam, but he or she will need to run a few tests to rule out other skin diseases that cause similar symptoms and to determine what microorganisms are involved if an infection is diagnosed. Skin scrapes to look for parasites, fungal cultures to rule out ringworm and cytological preparations to get an idea of the type and number of bacteria and yeast on the skin are all routine.

Based on the results of these tests, your veterinarian may prescribe one or more of the following treatments:

Severe skin infections often have to be treated for several weeks or even longer before they are completely eradicated. A good rule of thumb is to continue treatment for at least a week after your cat's condition has completely returned to normal. If the skin infection fails to resolve as expected or becomes a reoccurring problem, your veterinarian will need to search for an underlying cause.

The above is provided for information purposes only and should not be used for the diagnosis or treatment of any condition. This information does not cover all possible variables, conditions, reactions, or risks relating to any topic, medication, or product and should not be considered complete. Certain product or medications may have risks and you should always consult your local veterinarian concerning the treatment of your pet. Any trademarks are the property of their respective owners.


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