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Scabby Cat Disease: How to Treat Feline Miliary Dermatitis

Miliary dermatitis is a skin reaction pattern specific to cats, characterized by a scabby appearance. This condition is also known as "scabby cat disease." Our vets in Lebanon will provide insights into miliary dermatitis in cats, its causes, and the potential benefits of immunotherapy for treating the condition.

What is feline miliary dermatitis?

Feline miliary dermatitis is an allergic skin condition that affects cats. It is named after the Latin word "milium," which means "millet," and is distinguished by small, crusted lesions that can be felt rather than seen.

What are the signs of feline miliary dermatitis in cats?

Cats affected by this condition will develop an itchy rash and may lick, bite, or scratch the affected skin. The most commonly affected areas are the lower spine, around the base of the tail, face, ears, neck, flanks, and belly. In severe cases, the rash can become infected as the cat spends a lot of time grooming and scratching the affected areas.

What causes miliary dermatitis in cats?

There is a long list of reasons why a cat may develop miliary dermatitis, including:

  • Fleas
  • Pollen allergy
  • Ear mites
  • Skin mites
  • Chiggers
  • Deep hair follicle mites
  • Ringworm
  • Bacterial infection
  • Lice
  • Ticks
  • Nutritional deficiencies.

Flea bites are the most common cause of miliary dermatitis in cats. Some cats are highly allergic to flea bites and develop a severe skin reaction when bitten.

Additionally, miliary dermatitis can be a sign of food allergies or environmental allergies, such as pollen. Contact allergies are rare in cats.

How does a veterinarian diagnose miliary dermatitis?

To diagnose your cat's condition, the veterinarian reviews its medical history and clinical symptoms. If fleas or flea dirt are detected, they could indicate a flea allergy. If another cause is suspected or the condition does not respond to flea treatment, the vet may recommend cat scabby skin, biopsies, allergy tests, a hypoallergenic food trial, or refer you to a veterinary dermatologist. 

How is miliary dermatitis treated?

The treatment involves removing the irritant or allergen and reducing the cat's clinical signs. If flea allergy dermatitis is suspected, a flea preventive is used. In cases of parasite infection, topical treatments may be used. A hypoallergenic food trial is advised if a food allergy is suspected. Antihistamines, essential fatty acids, topical treatments, and cyclosporine may also be used.

Can immunotherapy work for miliary dermatitis?

Immunotherapy, also known as allergy shots, is a final treatment option. It works by changing how the immune system responds to the substances that cause allergic reactions.

The process begins with a blood or skin test to identify which environmental substances your cat is allergic to. After that, allergy shots are administered several times per week. It takes about a year to determine if the immunotherapy is effective.

It's important to note that no cures for allergic skin disease currently exist. All treatments are designed to reduce and manage inflammation caused by allergies and prevent infections and discomfort. 

Note: The advice provided in this post is intended for informational purposes and does not constitute medical advice regarding pets. For an accurate diagnosis of your pet's condition, please make an appointment with your vet.

Do you suspect your cat suffers from miliary dermatitis? Contact our Lebanon vets today to have your cat examined by one of our experienced veterinarians.

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