Remedies for Cat Scabs

Cats are known for their ability to shake things off and remain elegant no matter what. That’s why it can seem so alarming if you notice that your pet is developing scabs. Especially if your cat is indoors-only, seeing these injuries appear may have you rushing to the vet.

It is always a good idea to get your cat checked by the veterinarian if they develop a new skin condition. In many cases, cat scabs and itchiness are not urgent and can be treated at home, but you should always consult the vet first—then they can recommend possible at-home treatments. 

There are a number of reasons why your cat may start developing scabs, from ringworm to mange. However, if your cat stays indoors all day, the most likely cause is a condition called “miliary dermatitis.” This condition is generally caused by an allergic reaction and forms an extremely itchy rash.

The rash tends to be easier to feel under the fur than it is to see. It is often caused by fleabites or environmental allergens. Once your veterinarian determines that you are facing miliary dermatitis, you can treat it at home with the vet’s guidance. 

Cat Scab Remedies and Treatments

There are two aspects of treating miliary dermatitis and other types of cat scabs. First, it is necessary to identify the cause of the scabs and remove the problem from the environment. Second, you need to keep the cat from injuring itself or making the scabs worse until they are healed. You can and should work on both aspects of treatment at the same time. 

Check for Fleas and Mites

Fleas, mites, and lice are by far the most common cause of scabs on your cat. Regardless of whether your cat is allergic to bug bites, fleas and other blood-sucking pests can lead to scabbing and bleeding after they bite your pet.

If you notice scabs on your cat, immediately check your cat for any type of parasite. Even if you don’t spot any bugs, that may simply be a sign that your cat has excellent grooming habits. You can contact your pet’s veterinarian for flea, lice, or mite treatment recommendations that will work for your cat.

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Apply Topical Treatments

There are a number of topical treatments you can use to reduce the pain and itchiness of cat scabs. Treatments like topical steroid creams can help reduce itchiness and prevent scratching or biting at the site.

You can get topical treatments over the counter or through your veterinary office. You should consult your vet before trying this method—they may determine it’s necessary to use injectable or oral medications, which will need to be prescribed.

Bandage the Area

If your cat is scratching at an area even with a topical treatment, you may need to apply a bandage to keep them from making themselves bleed. This will also keep them from ingesting the topical cream or ointment.

You can ask your vet to apply a bandage to the area, or you can carefully wrap the area in several layers of gauze and dressing—although if you do it yourself, it’s best to ask the vet to teach you the proper method first. Do not use sticky materials that will pull at your cat's fur because this will likely only make itching worse. Change the bandage daily to make sure your cat is healing properly. 

Consider a Cone

Allergic reactions are intensely itchy for most cats, especially if they scab. While waiting for the reaction to heal, you may need to have your cat wear a cone around their neck. These cones, also known as “Elizabethan collars,” will keep your cat from biting at an injured area and potentially making it worse. This is most effective for reactions on places where the cat cannot scratch with their claws.

Try Elimination Diets

If the cat scabs are not going away after treating your pet for fleas and mites, then they may have developed a food or environmental allergy. If you have recently changed their diet or added something new to your home, try removing the new items or food.

You may need to spend several weeks slowly removing elements from your cat’s environment until you notice improvement. Once you identify what caused your cat’s reaction, you will need to keep it out of their environment in the future. 

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When to See a Veterinarian

If you notice that your cat has scabs, you should always contact the veterinarian. Scabs can be a sign of something serious, including skin cancer or infections. If you notice that your cat is bleeding, you should go to the vet immediately. They will help you identify the cause of the scabs and outline a course of treatment, as well as treat the immediate problem.

WebMD Medical Reference Reviewed by Amy Flowers, DVM on December 01, 2020

Sources

SOURCES:

Animals: “‘The Cone of Shame’: Welfare Implications of Elizabethan Collar Use on Dogs and Cats as Reported by their Owners.”

Campbell, K. L. Small Animal Dermatology Secrets. Hanley & Belfus, 2004.

Crystal River Animal Hospital: “Miliary Dermatitis.”

VCA Hospitals: “Allergies in Cats.”

VCA Hospitals: “Bandage and Splint Care in Cats.”

VCA Hospitals: “Miliary Dermatitis in Cats.”

Veterinary Partner: “Itch Relief for Dogs and Cats.”

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