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Common Cat Skin Conditions

What are the most common skin conditions in a cat and their symptoms? How should you care for your cat with skin problems and what treatments are available? Our San Jose vets answer these questions in this post. 

Skin Conditions in Cats

A cat's skin is the protective barrier between its body and the outside world. If your feline friend develops a skin condition, that barrier can become damaged and the body's defenses may be weakened. In many cases, your cat may feel uncomfortable and general health can be affected. 

Since most of your kitty's skin is easily visible to the naked eye, skin diseases in cats might be easier to notice than internal conditions. However, skin diseases and ailments in cats can have several different causes. The only way to know how the specific condition and its symptoms are manifesting in your cat, and why, is to visit the vet. 

In this post, we'll discuss some common skin conditions in cats, what you and your vet can do to help, what veterinary dermatology is, and some treatments that may be prescribed. 

Itchy Skin (Pruritus)

Itchy skin and hair loss are often related. You'll often hear veterinarians refer to itchy skin as pruritus, which occurs when the skin becomes irritated and creates inflammatory molecules to send signals to the brain, triggering an itching sensation.

While many pet parents try changing their cat's food to reduce itching, food allergies account for only a relatively small number of cases of itchy skin in cats (plus, changing your cat's food too suddenly or to a problematic food can cause other issues). This is why you'll want to see your vet for a correct diagnosis. 

While itchiness accompanies the most common skin diseases in cats, non-itchy skin diseases such as endocrine diseases, metabolic disorders, bacterial and fungal infections, and autoimmune diseases may also be the culprit. Both itchiness and pain can cause your cat to lick and scratch its skin.

Parasitic Bites

Cats are favorite targets of parasites. Ticks, mites, and other ectoparasites can thrive in or on your feline companion's skin and spread secondary diseases, generate allergic reactions and create general discomfort - not to mention also infect humans in your household. 

Parasite infestations can be surprisingly subtle but are one of the most common causes of skin diseases in cats. Your veterinarian can conduct a thorough visual inspection and perform skin scrapes and other tests if you suspect an issue with your pet's skin. 


A wide variety of infections can cause your cat's skin to become itchy, inflamed, or swollen. While we're unable to spot microbial infections with the naked eye, related symptoms such as these can also indicate skin infections in cats:

  • Green, yellow or chunky discharge from your cat's skin
  • Strong smells surrounding the skin
  • Miliary dermatitis (small, grainy bumps)
  • Pustules (small, bumps filled with fluid)
  • Epidermal collarettes (flaky skin surrounding an area of red or dark skin)

That said, infected skin may not look abnormal at first glance. One or two of the signs listed above coupled with itchiness may be the only symptoms of a skin infection that you notice. 

Your veterinarian may need to test a sample of the skin cells to learn whether the cells contain yeast or bacteria. If they cannot find a clear answer, a biopsy may be required to make a diagnosis. 

Bumps, Lumps, Skin Tags & Tumors

Abnormal growths on the skin can appear in many different fashions, and people often use their names interchangeably. The fortunate thing is that cats do not develop growths or tumors on their skin as frequently as dogs do. 

Therefore, because growths are pretty unusual for cats, we highly recommend scheduling an appointment with your vet for a dermatological exam and evaluation. He or she can perform microscopic testing to collect cells and examine them under a microscope as an important first step in identifying whether growth is something to be concerned about. 

Firm lumps under the skin of the belly in older female cats should be examined by a veterinarian or pet dermatologist near San Jose as soon as possible to check for mammary tumors. 

Prevention & Care for Skin Conditions in Cats

Here are some ways to support your cat's skin health, and prevent and care for existing conditions. 

Provide High-Quality Cat Food

A high-quality diet is a good foundational step to take in the battle to keep your cat's skin healthy and itch-free. Poor-quality diets can lead to worse skin and a dull coat. 

Keep Your Cat at Its Ideal Weight

Ensuring your cat isn't underweight or overweight is important to allow them to develop as they should and continue grooming themselves as they need to long-term. 

Use Flea & Tick Control

Even indoor cats can get fleas and ticks, so it's important to use preventives and keep them up to date. 

Manage Your Feline Friends' Stress Levels 

Helping your cat minimize stress can reduce the risk of psychogenic skin issues such as overgrooming. Ask your veterinarian if they can recommend products to relieve stress, such as pheromone diffusers for cats. 

Help With Grooming When Required 

Overweight or senior cats may have problems with properly grooming themselves. However, don't groom or bathe your cat too much, as this can also cause problems. You might want to use a good quality rubber grooming brush and a damp rag to help keep your cat's coat clean and healthy.

Veterinary Dermatology at Bloom Plaza Animal Hospital

Our vet dermatologist and veterinarians in San Jose are committed to treating skin conditions in cats and dogs. Our team has years of experience and training in veterinary dermatology and can differentiate between various conditions related to pet skin conditions, which results in accurate diagnoses and treatment methods. 

Parasite prevention is the best way to minimize the risk to your pet's health, but your veterinarian will be able to offer treatment options for parasitic infections. 

For skin infections, your cat may need to be given anesthesia or sedation so a sample of skin cells can be taken. 

A pet dermatologist or veterinarian will also often prescribe antifungal medications and/or antibiotics to be given orally or topically, depending on the infection and specific instructions of the medication. Specially medicated shampoo may also be recommended. 

If your cat's skin condition is the result of a nutritional imbalance, a veterinarian or vet dermatologist may recommend a specific type of food or diet. 

Sometimes, one of our vets or a veterinary dermatologist will remove the growth and send it for a biopsy to determine the cause. From there, treatment can be planned, if required. 

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 may have a skin condition or dermatological issue? Contact our San Jose vets today to book a checkup and ensure your feline friend receives effective treatment.

Now Welcoming New Patients

Bloom Plaza Animal Hospital is now welcoming new cat and dog patients! Our professional and talented vets are dedicated to the health of San Jose's companion animals. Contact us today to schedule an appointment for your furry friend. 

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