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Key takeaways

A rash is a very common symptom of many skin conditions in cats.

  • Rashes include many different skin abnormalities including red spots, hair loss, scabs, raw patches, and thick crusting with wrinkled skin (lichenification)
  • Usually, skin rashes are due to trauma (such as a bite wound), allergies, hormonal imbalances, parasites, bacterial or fungal infection, or can be a consequence of a tumor
  • Diagnostics can be a long process due to the number of associated conditions
  • Diagnostics include biopsy, cultures, bloodwork, and physical examination
  • The treatment varies widely depending on the associated condition but can include antibiotics, anti-inflammatories, and surgery
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A closer look: Rash in Cats

Rashes are very common in cats. They generally do not indicate a life-threatening condition, but in presence of other symptoms, such as weight loss, loss of appetite, pus discharge, and vomiting, prompt medical care is warranted.

Possible causes

There are many possible causes for skin rash.

Risk factors

The severity of the rash can be an indicator of the associated condition:

  • In cases of skin inflammation (dermatitis), as the inflammation progresses it leads to crusting and scaling. Dermatitis can go from the outer layer to the deepest layer of the skin, causing shedding/scaling of the skin, pain, and fluid discharge. Signs of long-term inflammation might also appear such as thickening of the skin, and color changes (hyperpigmentation).
  • In cases of infections, such as hot spots, the first stages present moist, itchy, and red skin. Pus discharge indicates a bacterial infection. At this stage, the condition becomes more painful, and hot spots enlarge rapidly.
  • Dermatophytosis is a fungal infection and presents with circular areas of hair loss and scaling of the skin .
  • Atopy and flea allergy usually present with recurring or chronic itching and extreme biting or scratching of affected areas that might lead to severe abrasions.
  • Some tumors, such as mast cell tumors, also present rashes and itching but may be accompanied by more telling signs such as loss of appetite, weight loss, vomiting, and visible nodules.

A rash can also vary in severity based on location and the size of skin area affected.

Testing and diagnosis

The diagnostic process can be extensive due to the many associated conditions. Initial diagnostics include:

  • A complete physical examination
  • Bloodwork
  • Cultures to determine the presence of infective agents
  • Cytology or biopsy

The treatment varies widely according to the associated condition and can include specific medications such as antihistamines, antibiotics, anti-inflammatories, and disease-specific medications. Treatment can also include chemotherapy and surgery.

Similar symptoms

Skin rashes might present in many different forms, but it is possible to mistake swellings under the skin for a rash.

Associated symptoms


Matthew Everett Miller, DVM - Writing for PetMD
No Author - Writing for Cornell Feline Health Center
Becky Lundgren, DVM - Writing for Veterinary Partner
The VIN Dermatology Consultants - Writing for Veterinary Partner
Karen A. Moriello, DVM, DACVD - Writing for Merck Veterinary Manual

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