A closer look: Contact Dermatitis in Cats
Any type of skin irritation is cause for concern. Non-urgent veterinary attention is recommended, especially when symptoms develop into infections or open sores.
Other symptoms of contact dermatitis may include secondary bacterial or yeast infections. Generally, symptoms will worsen with time and/or repeated contact with the offending substance.
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Contact dermatitis is caused either by exposure to something that irritates the skin or an allergic reaction to an antigen. As with all types of allergies, the root cause is unknown, but a genetic disposition is suggested.
With the exception of flea allergy dermatitis, most forms of contact dermatitis are uncommon in cats, as their grooming habits tend to remove irritants from the fur before they make contact with the skin.
The duration of contact dermatitis depends on the success of efforts to avoid exposure to the causative substance. In the case of irritant contact dermatitis, this may be simple and immediate. In allergic contact dermatitis, the causative substance is often difficult to identify and in this case, symptomatic treatment is usually effective.
Testing and diagnosis
Diagnosis of contact dermatitis requires a detailed history of the patient to identify substances the patient has come into contact with. The most common causes are ruled out first, such as flea allergy dermatitis (FAD) and reactions to other external parasites. Diagnostics may involve skin scrapings or other skin tests. The veterinarian may also order blood tests, allergy tests, or food trials.
Steps to Recovery
Treatment may be simply avoiding the offending substance, but this is usually combined with medications. Examples of medications that may be used to treat contact dermatitis are steroids, topical ointments or sprays, antihistamines, and antibiotics for secondary infections. Treatment also typically involves bathing the patient with anti-itch shampoo. Note: many topical treatments for animals are not safe for cats. Always consult a veterinarian before administering topical treatments or using medicinal shampoos.
Contact dermatitis typically lasts as long as the cat is exposed to the offending substance. Both types of contact dermatitis (irritant and allergy) are usually life-long conditions. Secondary infections may be deep-seated and may take weeks or months to fully heal.
Contact dermatitis is not contagious to humans or other animals. However, symptoms may be seen in other people or animals in the household, due to exposure to the same substance or parasite.
Is Contact Dermatitis in Cats common?
Contact dermatitis is uncommon in cats.
- Avoidance of offending substance
- Topical anti-itch preparations
- Medicated shampoos
- Antibiotics for secondary infections
- Allergy medications
- Allergy immunotherapy