What are Degenerative Skin Disorders?
Degenerative skin disorders are found in approximately 20 percent of all domestic cats. While some produce mild symptoms, others can become severe and require veterinary treatment.
While most cats have a healthy coat and skin, there are conditions that can make it less than beautiful. There are a variety of skin disorders that can affect your cat; some are considered to be degenerative. This means they have the potential to worsen as your cat ages.
Symptoms of Degenerative Skin Disorders in Cats
The symptoms of degenerative skin disorders in felines often depend on the condition causing it. However, there are some symptoms seen in the majority of skin related issues. Below are some of the most commonly seen symptoms in cats.
- Scaly skin
- Hair loss
- Redness of the skin
- Localized scabs
- Redness of the skin, localized or all over the body
- Dark pigmentation of the skin, especially around the nose and face
- Thin skin
- Wounds that heal poorly or leave scars
- Cysts on the body
- Sagging or very loose skin
- Ulcers on the skin that rupture
- Bark-like appearance on skin
There are several types of degenerative skin disorders that can occur in domestic cats. While this is not an extensive list, these are the most commonly diagnosed.
- Inherited skin tumors
- Cutaneous asthenia
- Epidermolysis bullosa syndrome
- Aplasia cutis
- Necrolytic dermatitis
Causes of Degenerative Skin Disorders in Cats
In most instances, degenerative skin disorders in cats are congenital. This means they were present at birth. Lentigo develops in older cats and typically affects only orange and white colored felines. Some conditions such as necrolytic dermatitis are the result of lymphoma or nutritional deficiencies. Vitiligo is an inherited condition, but most cats do not show signs until later in life.
Diagnosis of Degenerative Skin Disorders in Cats
Your veterinarian will take a thorough medical history from you to obtain information to aid him in diagnosing your cat’s condition. You should include information such as birth history, medications taken or unusual behavior in your animal. After taking a medical history, your doctor will examine your cat. He will observe lesions on the skin, your cat’s behavior and if he is itching or scratching.
Doctors typically draw blood and run several laboratory tests. A CBC or complete blood count, biochemical profile and electrolyte panel are common tests. After collecting a urine specimen, you doctor will check for bacteria or infection in the urinary tract.
When diagnosing degenerative skin disorders in cats, most doctors do not take X-rays. An exception to this rule may occur if your doctor suspects advanced kidney or liver disease. Your doctor may take a scrape a small area on your cat’s skin to obtain a sample. He will then observe it underneath a microscope for information that may help him diagnose your cat’s skin condition.
Treatment of Degenerative Skin Disorders in Cats
Your veterinarian will recommend a treatment plan based on his diagnostic findings. Some cases of degenerative skin disorders in felines may not be treatable. In these cases, doctors strive to control symptoms through diet and nutritional supplements.
Skin disorders that cause itching are typically treated with medications to control it. Not only will this keep your cat more comfortable, but it will reduce the chances of skin injuries that can lead to secondary infections.
When skin is ulcerated or infected, your doctor may perform surgery to debride the wound and expose healthy tissue. After surgery, your cat will take antibiotics to prevent or treat infection.
If your cat has any underlying condition such as diabetes, allergies, or cancer your doctor will treat them to help reduce skin symptoms. In the event your cat has a fatal skin disorder or advanced fatal disease your doctor will provide supportive care or recommend euthanasia.
Recovery of Degenerative Skin Disorders in Cats
The recovery time your cat will need to feel better depends on the diagnosis and treatment of his condition. In cases that are controlled by medication, cats could feel better and have reduced symptoms in one to two weeks. Keeping your cat on his medication as ordered by your doctor will help reduce his chance of relapse. Never stop giving your cat his medication for any reason until you speak with his doctor. If you have a concern about side effects, there may be other medications he can prescribe.
Cats that have surgery will need a bit more time to recover. You may need to return to the veterinarian for dressing changes and laser treatments to help the wound heal. If a skin scraping showed any mites or infection, your doctor will give you a detailed treatment plan that may include return visits until your cat is more comfortable.
Your cat has a much better chance of recovering when you follow the orders of your doctor. Giving your cat the proper medication, diet and making lifestyle changes will increase your chance of success.