miliary dermatitis in cats

Miliary Dermatitis in Cats – Causes and Treatment

Allergies can affect the skin and cause allergic dermatitis, which is the result of an inadequate immune response. In other words, it’s the immune system reacting defensively to things that do not threaten it. Miliary dermatitis in cats is a skin condition in cats often caused by allergies. The name ‘miliary’ comes from the Latin word ‘milium,’ meaning ‘millet,’ because the crusty lesions resemble millet seeds.

If your cat is constantly scratching, uncovering patches of red, swollen skin, the reason could be dermatitis and it’s probably the right time to visit your veterinarian.

Skin issues of all varieties are a very common problem for felines. Although they can be caused by numerous different diseases and microorganisms, the most common contributor to skin problems are allergies. So the immune system of a cat with an allergy will confuse a benign protein for a virus or parasite and try to attack it, causing inflammation.

What are the signs of miliary dermatitis in cats ?

The most prominent signs of feline dermatitis include:

  • Severe itching, especially around the face and feet
  • Foul-smelling skin
  • Swelling
  • Red rashes, bumps and blisters, sometimes with crusting
  • Dry, cracked, scaly skin
  • Darkened skin that feels thicker than usual
  • Excessive loss of hair

signs of miliary dermatitis in cats

How to treat miliary dermatitis in cats

Before settling on a diagnosis, your veterinarian will first want to rule out bacterial and fungal infections, which can also be the cause of skin damage in cats. Chronic, systemic diseases that cause skin changes will have to be eliminated too.

After a thorough physical examination, and multiple skin, blood and urine tests, the veterinarian will be able to conclude whether your cat has allergies. But that won’t be enough. They now have to discover which type of allergies trouble your feline in order to prescribe treatment accordingly.

The three main types of allergies in cats are flea allergies, food allergies and environmental allergies, and here’s what you need to know about them.

Food allergies in cats

Just like people, cats can develop allergies to certain ingredients in their food, which then cause skin and gut issues. Food allergies emerge when the immune system mistakenly treats a food type as dangerous, thereby overreacting. Most cats with food allergies are allergic to the protein in the food, instead of the grain source, so corn and wheat aren’t the real offenders here.

In fact, the most common food allergies in cats are to chicken and fish. Even though food allergies usually develop by 4-5 years of age, they can affect cats of any age, and represent around 10% of all allergic conditions in felines.

How are food allergies in cats treated ?

Once all necessary food trials are performed and your vet determines what ingredient your cat is allergic to, the treatment is fairly simple – feeding your cat a diet that doesn’t contain the trouble-causing ingredient.

Environmental allergies

Environmental allergies, otherwise known as atopic dermatitis, are triggered by pollen from trees, grasses or weeds, molds, dust spores, mildew and dander – all of which can be commonly found in the ground and in the air, from where your cat can breathe them in or absorb them through the skin.

The sources of these allergens are versatile and will depend on the climate you’re living in. Atopic dermatitis makes cats incredibly itchy, and their scratching damages the skin even further.

How to treat atopic dermatitis in cats ?

The typical solution for it includes antihistamines, an increased intake of omega-3 fatty acids and treatment of the skin with medicinal shampoos and soothing sprays, but more severe cases may require allergy shots.

Flea Allergy Dermatitis in Cats

Cats who are allergic to fleas will develop an intense rash and itchiness around their head, neck, tummy and back legs, each time they are bitten by a flea. Besides constantly scratching themselves, flea-allergic cats will often compulsively chew or lick the hair off their legs, so the symptoms of a flea allergy include hair loss around the tail base, neck and head, as well as numerous skin infections covered with scabs.

This allergy can develop at any point throughout your cat’s life.

How to treat flea allergic dermatitis ?

The treatment requires eliminating fleas from the cat and its environment, and providing an antihistamine or prednisone therapy along with dietary adjustments.

Even though there’s not much you can do to truly eliminate an allergy, there’s plenty of preventive measure you can take to minimize your cat’s exposure to allergens. Early diagnosis is half of a successful treatment, and treating cat skin allergies involves several steps, such as relieving the itchiness, reducing the inflammation and treating bacterial infections.

Check your cat for fleas as often as possible, and look for signs of excessive scratching. If you suspect your cat might have allergic dermatitis, schedule a visit to your veterinarian right away. In the meanwhile, you can try to reduce the inflammation and soothe the skin by giving your cat a bath or a dry shampoo treatment.

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