Miliary Dermatitis in Cats – Diagnosis and Treatments

Feline miliary dermatitis is a term that is used to identify a skin condition that most often results from an inflammatory dermatological response to allergens. The condition can make your cat uncomfortable and miserable, and it can lead to secondary skin infections if treatment is not sought.

Miliary Dermatitis in Cats

Causes of Feline Miliary Dermatitis

There are a number of different potential allergens that can result in cat miliary dermatitis, but the most common culprit is the flea. For cats that are hypersensitive to fleabites, it takes only a single flea to trigger the inflammatory response. Other potential causes of miliary dermatitis include other parasites, such as mites, food allergies and inhalant allergies, such as pollens.

Signs of Feline Miliary Dermatitis

Feline miliary dermatitis presents with a scabby appearance to the skin, often accompanied by thinning hair. The affected areas typically appear on the cat’s back and on the flanks, but the abdominal area may also be affected. Cats with miliary dermatitis are itchy, which incites intense bouts of scratching. The itch can be so severe that owners may observe twitching on the cat’s skin, and a well-intentioned loving caress can set off another round of itchiness. A cat with miliary dermatitis will likely engage in excessive grooming in an attempt to relieve the itch, and scratching may inadvertently result in open lesions that can become infected.

Diagnosis of Feline Miliary Dermatitis

Since cats are notoriously diligent groomers, you may not observe a flea on your cat’s skin. Your veterinarian may come up empty handed when combing your cat’s coat with a flea comb. Since fleas are the most frequent cause of feline miliary dermatitis, many veterinarians conclude their physical examination by prescribing a topical flea control product. If the condition does not resolve, then further skin testing will be necessary to rule out other dermatological conditions. Hairs will be plucked to perform a fungal culture, which rules out ringworm. Skin scrapings will be performed for microscopic examination to rule out mites. Feeding trials with a prescribed hypoallergenic food may be initiated to rule out a food allergy. If your veterinarian does not turn up any answers, then you may be referred to a board-certified veterinary dermatologist for further evaluation.

Treatment of Feline Miliary Dermatitis

The immediate goal of treatment is to relieve your cat’s misery by quelling the itch. This is accomplished with the temporary use of corticosteroids, the anti-inflammatory properties of which work quickly to reduce your cat’s discomfort. If the lesions on your cat’s skin have become infected, antibiotic therapy may be required as well. Concurrently, the goal of treatment must also be to prevent recurrence of the condition. When the cause of miliary dermatitis is fleas, resolution is easily achieved by applying a topical flea control product that is prescribed by your veterinarian. Once your cat has been treated for flea allergy miliary dermatitis, it will be essential to make flea control part of your cat’s routine home care. If other allergens are deemed to be the cause of your cat’s miliary dermatitis, then long-term treatment may include a hypoallergenic diet, parasitic treatments, antihistamine therapy, allergen desensitization injections or intermittent use of corticosteroid drugs.

Cats usually respond well to treatment once the offending allergen has been identified. Since fleas are the most common cause of cat miliary dermatitis, complete resolution is easily achieved. If your cat’s scratching behavior far exceeds the normal occasional itch, bring your feline friend to your veterinarian. The sooner the discomfort is relieved, the sooner your cat can resume the happy and carefree quality of life that every pet deserves.

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