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If your cat has ever suffered from skin disease, you know how frustrating it can be. The most common signs include excessive grooming, itching, scabs and hair loss. There are a number of problems that can cause these symptoms and it can be quite difficult to tell one from another. The most common diagnoses include:
- Hypersensitivity to flea bites
- Skin parasites
- Environmental allergens
- Food allergies
Hypersensitivity to flea bites is the easiest condition to diagnose, even though it can be quite tricky to find the fleas. If a direct visual inspection or combing doesn't reveal the problem, you will be able to see traces of flea dirt on the neck, the tail base or the lower back. If you are not able to find any flea dirt, but still see your cat scratching in these places, you need to go for a treatment trial with a vet recommended flea medication
. Treat all the pets in your household for many months if you want to eradicate all the fleas.Skin parasites such as mites can also cause pruritis. Cats that spend a lot of time outside or are in regular contact with other outdoor pets have a much higher likelihood of getting infested by mites. Your pet's vet will be able to diagnose it by obtaining hair combings or skin scrapings, but there are high chances of a false positive. Treatment options include a topical parasiticide or a lime sulfur dip.Food allergies are manifested by hair loss and scabs around the face and neck, but they can also adversely affects other parts of the body. Your cat might also experience vomiting or diarrhea along with the skin lesions and pruritis. The popular belief that food allergies are a reaction to a recent diet change is not entirely true. Your cat might have been eating the food for a long time but only recently developed hypersensitivity to it. The most common allergens are fish, beef and dairy. Corn, wheat, eggs and chicken are also possible suspects, but they lie much lower on the list.There are no definitive laboratory tests to confirm a food allergy. You will need to place your cat on a hypoallergenic diet to confirm the diagnosis. If you see an improvement in skin lesions or pruritis, then you have your answer. Environmental allergies, on the other hand, begin much earlier in a cat's life and typically starts as a seasonal problem in the fall or spring. The signs get worse over time and might occur on and off throughout the year. Indoor allergens like dust mites can cause a year round problem.Diagnosing a skin problem in your cat is not easy. You need to have a lot of patience and make multiple trips to the vet's before you are handed a definitive diagnosis. It might take months for the lesions to disappear and you will have to implement a long term plan to make sure that the problem does not recur.