Coat changes in cats can be harmless and completely normal, but also have serious causes such as skin diseases. Find out here which diseases these can be, how to recognize them and which coat changes in your cat you should take seriously.
Cats are known for their cleanliness. They groom their fur often and willingly, giving it that typical silky sheen. Changes are all the more noticeable, such as hairless areas, matted nests, or even bloody scabs and traces of secretion.
Behind these changes are often relatively simple causes, such as an infestation with parasites, which can be easily remedied with appropriate treatment. It becomes more difficult if the skin is not directly affected, but reacts to disturbances in other organs or feeding errors.
Normal Сoat Вevelopment Or Pathological Change?
It is important to distinguish pathological changes in the hair coat from normal coat development. Normal fur developments in cats are:
- Puppy fur loss
- Change between winter and summer fur
- Formation of hairless areas at pressure points (horny calluses)
- Gray hair: Loss of pigment is a common aging phenomenon in pets, along with a dull coat and reduced sebum secretion. However, the effects of graying and skin aging are nowhere near as dramatic as in humans.
- Less hairy areas on the temples, especially in short-haired cats
- Hairlessness over old scars
Shaggy and unkempt coats without a shine can be an indication of various diseases.
Hairless areas are particularly suspicious if the skin underneath appears reddened or altered. You should show these places to your veterinarian. He usually has to do a number of tests before treatment is useful, as there are many causes of coat changes in cats, all of which often share the same symptoms.
Dander in Cats
Dandruff in cats is often caused by:
- dry skin
- general diseases
- skin fungi
In addition, there is a disease in dogs and cats called “pemphigus foliaceus”, in which misguided immune cells attack their own skin. Here, too, dandruff forms, which in mild cases cannot be distinguished from those of other causes.
Hairless Patches in Cats
Causes of hairless patches in cats are:
- Consequences of itching and irritation, cats can literally lick themselves bald with their sharp tongue (FSA)
- skin fungi
- hormonal problems
Some skin fungi can also be transmitted to humans, so if you suspect you have to go to the veterinarian and consistently undergo appropriate treatment. Even after the symptoms have subsided, you should continue to give the antifungal medication (tablets and/or ointment) for some time to avoid recurrence. For all applications of ointments or lotions, you should always wear gloves so that you do not treat yourself.
In the case of hormonal problems, the hairless areas are often distributed symmetrically, for example on both flanks. Especially sex, thyroid and adrenal cortex hormones have a significant influence on hair growth. Their content in the blood can be determined by laboratory tests.
Nutritional deficiencies can also be behind coat changes in cats. In canned food from well-known manufacturers, however, the composition is usually optimal, and the right vitamin supply is also guaranteed.
Purulent Skin Diseases in Cats
Purulent skin diseases can develop very dramatically. The bacteria involved usually colonize already damaged skin. Healthy skin has several defense mechanisms such as:
- fatty acids
- PH value
- horny layer
- natural germ flora
The interaction of these factors allows pathogens to “rebound” so to speak. Increased moisture or fat secretion, on the other hand, promotes the growth of germs and softens the outermost layers of the skin. Pathogens can then penetrate more easily. Skin folds or open wounds are particularly at risk.
Bacteria in the Skin
If the cat’s natural skin flora is also attacked or the skin’s immune system is disturbed, bacteria can spread in the skin. If the bacteria manage to penetrate deep into the skin, abscesses or even extensive purulent areas develop, which can be very painful for the cat.
When the purulent secretion sticks to the hair, hard scabs form that looks relatively harmless. However, so that the underlying infection cannot spread undisturbed, you should definitely have such areas treated by a veterinarian.
If the pathogens remain limited to hair roots and sebaceous glands, acne-like pustules form.
Although bacterial skin diseases can develop independently, there is usually another disease behind it:
- weakening of the immune system
- hormonal imbalance
Timely treatment is important. So pay attention to the skin and fur of your animals when you scratch them every day.
Diagnosis of Skin Diseases in Cats
Changes in the skin can have various causes. A large number of examinations may therefore be necessary at the veterinarian in order to find out the root cause. Part of the fur often has to be shaved off in order to assess the surface of the skin.
But even then it is not always obvious at first glance which disease is involved. Because the clinical pictures are sometimes very similar, although the underlying causes are very different. Therefore, the following tests are used for diagnosis:
- Skin scraping: Using a scalpel or razor blade, the vet scrapes away hair and superficial layers of skin to examine under a microscope for parasites.
- Wood’s lamp: Certain (but not all) skin fungi light up under UV light of a certain wavelength.
- Culture: Special culture media are inoculated with plucked hairs. After some time, any bacteria or fungi that are present will grow into colonies, which can then be tested for their susceptibility to various antibiotics.
- Imprint preparation: A small glass plate is pressed onto an open area of skin. The attached cells can then be stained and examined under a microscope to identify cancer or immune cells.
- Skin biopsy: The vet cuts out a small piece of skin and subcutaneous tissue to have it examined in a special laboratory. Together with the clinical picture, this is one of the most meaningful procedures, but also the most complex.
Prevent Skin and Coat Diseases in Cats
With species-appropriate husbandry and care, skin and coat diseases in cats can be prevented as well as possible. You should pay attention to this:
- Make sure you eat the right food: For cats, branded ready-to-eat food is the safest way to avoid deficiencies in vitamins, fatty acids, and minerals. If you feed a large amount of homemade food, you should follow a proven recipe or have the ratio assessed by a nutritionist.
- Avoid bugs and parasites: Consistent treatment of ticks, fleas, and worms protects against unpleasant surprises. Clean the cat’s sleeping places regularly. The fur of long-haired animals, especially those with a dense undercoat, should be brushed and groomed frequently to prevent matted areas from forming.
- Strengthen the healthy skin flora: Harmful germs can multiply more easily in damp, warm areas of the skin, which is why skin folds are often the starting point for bacterial skin diseases. You should pay special attention to these “problem areas” and, if necessary, also give them regular care. Above all, the pH value, moisture content, and fatty acid level are important for the healthy germ flora of the skin. Grooming products available from the vet can correct these factors if necessary.