What are Feline Miliary Dermatitis?
Feline miliary dermatitis is the term vets use when they explain the skin condition affecting a cat, as the reaction looks like tiny millet seeds on the cat’s skin.This condition is also called scabby cat disease, papulocrusting dermatitis and miliary eczema. The rash appears most often around the neck and head of the cat, going down its back.
Feline miliary dermatitis is a term used to describe several skin conditions, usually as the result of an allergic reaction. The allergy could be to flea bites or other types of allergens. Harvest mites, walking dandruff, ear mites and lice can also lead to the development of this condition. Food allergies can also cause allergic reactions that show up on the cat’s skin.
Symptoms of Feline Miliary Dermatitis in Cats
Cats that develop feline miliary dermatitis display:
- Tiny, red crusty bumps on the skin (near the head and neck, and running down the back)
- Hair loss
- Intense itching and scratching
- Hair pulling
- Thickened skin that is darker than surrounding skin
- Grazed areas on the skin resulting from constant scratching
When a food allergy causes feline miliary dermatitis, the cat develops sores and scabs around its head and tail. Some circular sores can be found around the shoulders.
Causes of Feline Miliary Dermatitis in Cats
Cats can develop this skin condition from one of many causes, or a combination of several:
- Bacterial infections
- Flea bite hypersensitivity (most common cause)
- Cheyletiellosis mite
- Hormone/endocrine disorder
- Allergies (food, inhalant, or food intolerance issues)
- Drug hypersensitivity
- Poor diet
- Immune-mediated diseases (immune disorders)
- Contact allergies (rare)
In warm-climate areas or flea-infested areas, this skin condition can develop more frequently in cats. Cold-winter regions may see this condition develop much more often in the summer months.
Diagnosis of Feline Miliary Dermatitis in Cats
The vet will rely mainly on the cat’s medical history and the clinical signs of the condition to make a diagnosis. If they know, for instance, that the cat has experienced food intolerance or food allergies, they are more likely to tell the cat’s owner that the cat has developed feline miliary dermatitis.
It’s not easy to spot fleas on a cat, but if the vet sees flea dirt or feces on the cat, they are also likely to provide this diagnosis. The cause may be determined as a flea allergy, but if it doesn’t respond to a flea treatment, the vet will run additional tests to narrow down the diagnosis:
- Serum IgE allergy testing
- Skin scraping
- Fur samples
- Hypoallergenic food trial
- Fecal examination to look for intestinal parasites
- Biochemical profile
- Referral to a veterinary dermatologist
Veterinarians take into account the locations of the rashes and lesions in making their diagnosis. They will also measure the size of the lesions and determine what kind they are.
Treatment of Feline Miliary Dermatitis in Cats
Treatment is straightforward: Remove the irritants and make the cat more comfortable until the lesions heal.
Cat owners need to remove fleas from the cat’s home environment, which may help relieve many of its symptoms. If the fleas return, the allergy symptoms and rashes will return. Because cats groom themselves daily, it’s rare to find live fleas on their bodies.
If the cause of the cat’s skin condition is a food allergy or intolerance, the pet owner will need to switch the cat to a different food. It is vital that, once a food allergy has been diagnosed, the cat does not eat the allergy-causing food. If the cat has been allowed to roam outdoors, it will have to stay indoors permanently to reduce the risk of eating an offending food or hunting and eating prey that could cause a relapse.
The cat owner will need to give the cat one of several medications:
- Fatty acid supplements (skin oil replacements)
- Topical ointments
- Special shampoo to stop inflammation and itching
For intestinal parasites, the cat will have to take medication that helps to eliminate the parasites.
Allergy shots for cats are controversial—they are used only for cats who are severely affected
Recovery of Feline Miliary Dermatitis in Cats
The prognosis for cats diagnosed with miliary dermatitis are excellent. Once the offending substance has been eliminated from the cat’s environment or food, the cat will recover. Its skin will heal and fur will grow back.
The pet owner will have to be vigilant in keeping fleas from returning to the home if the cat’s condition is flea allergy-related. The new food given to the cat will be a permanent part of its diet. Since many causes of miliary dermatitis are allergy-related, the cat may need occasional treatments with corticosteroids to keep flare-ups from becoming severe.
As the cat gets older, its allergies may get worse. If it has been diagnosed with more than one allergy, its recovery may not be total, meaning it needs to continue with treatment to keep skin reactions and symptoms under control.
Feline Miliary Dermatitis Questions and Advice from Veterinary Professionals
I am almost positive my cat has miliary dermatitis that just developed all around her head and neck. She is inside all the time so I don't think it is related to fleas. No recent food changes or anything like that. I have a cone on her and have been using a cat anti-itch spray. She's still eating and drinking and using the bathroom just fine. Will this go away on its own? Could the allergies be seasonal causing this?
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Luna my white furry ragdoll started with black mucus from her nose which then lead to scapping on her nose and red inflammed blister liked things on the edge of her ears. Also noticed she had black tough things around her nails. Vets have given her antibiotics but nothings ails her. The change started to happen when i changed from kitten food to grown up. She is not even 2 years old. Help! I cant see my baby like this.
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To treat Miliary Dermatitis for a flea allergy what can be bought to eliminate fleas while preventing irritation to the scabs? My cat does NOT tolerate baths in any circumstamces and i flea comb her often but there are still quite a few fleas on her that bite her and cause her to it's her scabs. is there anything over the counter from petco that can be used to get rid of the fleas such as a natural spray?
would it irritate her scabs?
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