Itchy Skin Diseases in Cats
The itchy skin diseases in this
table are characterized by constant scratching, licking, and biting at the
skin, and rubbing up against objects to relieve the itch. There will be crusty
areas produced by scratching.
- Allergic contact dermatitis: Similar to
contact dermatitis, but rash may spread beyond the area of contact. Requires
repeated or continuous exposure to allergen.
- Chiggers: Itching and severe skin irritation between the toes and around
the ears and mouth. Look for barely visible red, yellow, or orange chiggers
- Contact dermatitis: Red, itchy bumps and inflamed skin at the
site of contact with a chemical, detergent, paint, or other irritant. Can also
be caused by rubber or plastic food dishes. There may be scales and hair
Ear mites (ododectes): Head
tilting and shaking, and scratching at the ears. Excessive brown, waxy, or
purulent material in the ear canals.
- Feline miliary dermatitis: Small bumps
and crusts around the head, neck, and back felt beneath the haircoat. May be
associated with fleas. May be complicated
- Flea allergy dermatitis: Red, itchy
pimplelike bumps over the base of the tail, back of rear legs, and inner
thighs. Scratching continues after fleas have been killed.
- Fleas: Itching and scratching along the back, and around the tail and
hindquarters. Look for fleas, or black and white gritty specks in hair (flea
feces and eggs).
- Food allergy dermatitis: Severe itching over the head, neck, and back.
Swelling of eyelids. May only show as reddened ears. Often complicated by hair
loss and oozing sores from constant scratching and biting.
- Inhalant allergy (atopic dermatitis): Appearance is similar to feline
miliary dermatitis. May have symmetrical hair loss over body.
- Lice: Two-millimeter-long insects, or white grains of sandy material (nits)
attached to the hair. Found beneath matted coats in poorly kept cats. May have bare spots where hair has been rubbed
- Maggots (myiasis): Soft-bodied, legless fly larvae found in damp matted fur
or open wounds. May be complicated by pyoderma.
Scabies (sarcoptic mange):
Intense itching around the head, face, neck, and edges of the ears. Hair is
rubbed off. Typical thick gray to yellow crusts. May be complicated by
- Ticks: Large or very small insects attached to the skin, or possibly
walking slowly through the hair. May swell up to the size of a pea. Often found
around the ears, along the back, and between the toes.
- Walking dandruff (cheyletiella mange): Large amounts of dry, scaly, flaky
skin over the neck, back, and sides. Itching may be mild.