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What are Feline Miliary Dermatitis?

Feline miliary dermatitis is the term vets use to describe a certain reaction pattern 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 and along its rump.

Feline miliary dermatitis is a term used to describe the effects of 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 in this manner on the cat’s skin. 

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Feline Miliary Dermatitis Average Cost

From 344 quotes ranging from $200 - $1,500

Average Cost

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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 may develop sores and scabs around its head and tail. They may also have gastrointestinal signs such as loose stool. 

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Causes of Feline Miliary Dermatitis in Cats

Cats can develop this skin condition from one of many causes, or a combination of several:

  • Flea bite hypersensitivity

    (most common cause)

  • Bacterial infections
  • Cheyletiellosis mite
  • Hormone/endocrine disorder
  • Allergies (food, inhalant, or food intolerance issues)
  • Drug hypersensitivity
  • Poor diet
  • Mites
  • Ringworm
  • 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.

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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 and anti-itch medicine, the vet will run additional tests to narrow down the diagnosis:

  • Serum IgE allergy testing
  • Skin scraping
  • Fur plucks
  • Skin swab
  • Hypoallergenic food trial (which should last a minimum of 6 weeks)
  • Fecal examination to look for intestinal parasites
  • Biochemical profile
  • Biopsies
  • 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.

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Treatment of Feline Miliary Dermatitis in Cats

Treatment is theoretically straightforward: Remove the irritants and make the cat more comfortable until the lesions heal. In practice, it can be difficult to identify the cause and the skin can flare up.

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 parent 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 again. If the cat has been allowed to roam outdoors, it may 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 may need to give the cat one of several medications:

  • Antihistamines
  • Corticosteroids
  • Fatty acid supplements (skin oil replacements)
  • Antibiotics
  • Topical ointments
  • Medicated shampoo to minimise inflammation and itching

Allergy shots for cats are controversial—they are used only for cats who are severely affected and are not always successful in curing the condition.

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Recovery of Feline Miliary Dermatitis in Cats

The prognosis for cats diagnosed with miliary dermatitis is generally 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 cat 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.

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Feline Miliary Dermatitis Average Cost

From 344 quotes ranging from $200 - $1,500

Average Cost

$500

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Written by hannah hollinger

Veterinary reviewed by: Linda S.

Published: 11/09/2016, edited: 04/21/2021

Feline Miliary Dermatitis Questions and Advice from Veterinary Professionals

Need pet health advice? Ask a vet

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Ask a Vet

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Siamese mix

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One Year

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Unknown severity

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1 found helpful

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Unknown severity

Has Symptoms

Red Bumps

My kitten got spayed. Her wound was almost done healing and she started licking it and made a huge nasty mess of it. I've had a cone on her for like 3 months. The wound is slowly healing and fur is growing back. Now she has these bumps all over her stomach and I'm not sure what they are or how to treat it

Aug. 3, 2020

Owner

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Dr. Sara O. DVM

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1 Recommendations

Hello, These are pustules. Very similar to pimples in people. This is a bacterial skin infection that will need antibiotics to clear up. If there were just a few, it would potentially clear up with just topical cleaner. Your vet should be able to prescribe your cat some antibiotics to help with this.

Aug. 3, 2020

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Orange kittens

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Six Weeks

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Unknown severity

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0 found helpful

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Unknown severity

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Open Wounds, Scabs, Biting Themselves, Scratching, Hair Loss

Hello, I have two stray kittens that stay with their mom all three have fleas and from my research I came to the conclusion that the reason they have opened wounds on their legs, scabs and hair loss on top of their head is because of the fleas. I was wondering what can I do for them? I can’t afford going to the vet so I wanna know if I can buy medicine for their fleas and wounds? Is there a possibility that the flea medicine get rid of their scent and the mom rejects them? Thank you for your time.

July 10, 2020

Owner

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Dr. Michele K. DVM

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0 Recommendations

I'm sorry that the kittens are not feeling well. Most flea control products are not licensed for kittens under 8 weeks. They may need a prescription product to help treat them. It would be best to have them seen by a veterinarian, as they know which products are safe. There are many low-cost clinics that exist, and there may be one in your area, or a Humane Society. I hope that all goes well with the kittens.

July 10, 2020

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Houdini

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tabby

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7 Years

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Moderate severity

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0 found helpful

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Moderate severity

Has Symptoms

Scabs, Hairball, Excess Grooming, Lesions

Houdini has suffered from dermatitis for nearly 5 years but this summer is especially terrible. He has been throwing up numerous hairballs a month He is flea treated but past vets have determined it is a flea and possible dust allergy as he has only been an indoor cat for the last 5 years of his life. And his skin looks terrible. Scabs, inflammation, lesions. I just moved and am so low on funds, what can I do for him at home? He is eating, drinking plenty of water, playing and sleeping as he normally would but you can feel the scabs and bumps from his neck to the tip of his tail and I am heartbroken for him.

Aug. 17, 2018

Houdini's Owner

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0 Recommendations

It is important to determine whether fleas and dust are the triggers or not, allergy testing would be the best to confirm whether this is the case; it is also important to ensure that you are using an effective flea prevention medication as well. There is no specific one fits all solution and you would need to work with your Veterinarian to determine what is the best solution for Houdini. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM

Aug. 17, 2018

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Bells

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As above

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10 Years

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Mild severity

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Mild severity

Has Symptoms

The Seedy Lumps Dry Coarse Hair

My vet gave me Zymox for the miliary dermatitis. I noticed it is ear drops. Currently my finances are not ideal for skin testing to find cause. Bella is ten years old and is extremely overweight. 25#. She is Maine coon and Norwegian Forest. I am going back to the vet in a couple of weeks. Let me add she has multiple fatty tumors and a hard one the size of a dime that the vet is concerned about. Is this treatment for the dermatitis one that works? She initially had them around her neck, now I noticed she has them down her back to her tail. She does not scratch, she has no fleas or mites. I am heartbroken over this especially the tumors. How long will it take to clear? What type of shampoo should use. Her skin is dry and where the dermatitis is coarse compared to her soft fur. Any comments would be appreciated. Again going back to the vet is going to cost more money as she also wants to do blood work. Thank you.

Aug. 11, 2018

Bells' Owner

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In cases of feline miliary dermatitis, it is important to determine the underlying cause of the symptoms as the term is a general term; ZYMOX among other products may be given but it is always best to know what the underlying cause is that you’re treating instead of addressing the symptoms only. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM

Aug. 11, 2018

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Maddie

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British Blue

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3 Years

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Fair severity

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Fair severity

Has Symptoms

Fleas, Decreasing
Fleas, Decreasing. Scabs.

My British Blue had a flea infestation that I was unaware of. She wasn't scratching unduly and her behavior was fairly typical. She was pregnant by design when I discovered it. Her vet advised against treatment while pregnant due to potential for miscarriage. The manufacturer of the flea medication felt clearly that treatment while pregnant was O.K., but I followed our vet's advice. I treated her right after the birth of her six beautiful kittens, but now I am combing the kittens daily until they are old enough for topical treatment. The babies are healthy and plump and active. The mom eats and drinks plenty but has developed scabs. I am vaccuuming daily and washing the kittens bedding daily. I think the flea population is decreasing and I am guessing everything will get back to normal in time, but how long will it take for my mama cat's skin to heal completely and return to normal? The scabs are pretty thick. Thanks for your help. Deborah

July 31, 2018

Maddie's Owner

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0 Recommendations

There is no set time frame since severe lesions will take longer to heal, plus whilst she is nursing most of her energy and nutrition will go to lactation. You should continue with the treatment and environmental cleaning you’re currently doing and monitor Maddie for improvement. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM

Aug. 1, 2018

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Kitty

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Tortoiseshell

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5 Years

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Mild severity

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0 found helpful

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Mild severity

Has Symptoms

Bumps
Flakes
Hard
Tiny

My cat had ringworm on her ear a little over a month ago. I gave her the medicated baths for fungus and lime sulfur dips. Her ear now has her fur back but I noticed that her coat is very thin and scruffy looking now. Not to mention, the spot on her ear where she had ringworm now has tiny hard bumps. I looked into it and saw that it's possible miliary dermatitis, how can I fix this? Can I buy a cream in stores for her?

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Yoda

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Brendle tabby

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3 Years

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Moderate severity

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0 found helpful

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Moderate severity

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Itching

My cat Yoda has had dry, sensitive,scabby skin since adopting him from vet at only 6 months old.He is now 3 years old and still have it but some worse which us from fleas from other pets that go outside.So now I'm treating him for fleas along with my other 4 fur babies.I have already gave all them cap star to take care off adult fleas and next I'm giving them a waterless bath with vets best waterless shampoo which is suppose to kill remaining adult fleas,flea eggs,flea larva and repels against ticks and moskitoes.My question is...is it safe to use this waterless shampoo on Yoda since he has sensitive skin and alit of scabes? I love my baby and don't want to do anything to hurt him worse!

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luca

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Maine Coon

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6 Years

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Moderate severity

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0 found helpful

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Moderate severity

Has Symptoms

Biting, Scratching

I have a 6yr old Maine coon mix. Since we have moved into our new house he started biting and scratching himself all over. He is on flea and tick meds so it isn't that. His food is limited ingredient and he takes a benadryl a day. When things had gotten really bad with him I got him the corticosteroid shot and it made him super aggressive and did not help the scratching at all. Now besides extra oil to help his skin, he gets antibacterial baths 2x a week, anti itch spray and bitter apple to deter the OCD habit

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Miss Mew

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Tuxedo

dog-age-icon

8 Years

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Moderate severity

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0 found helpful

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Moderate severity

Has Symptoms

Crusty Outer Ears

Our 8 yr. old female cat appears to have military dermatitis around the outer edges of her ears, from research online. Vet prescribed Prednisolone Oral steroid and Otizole Ear drops and improvement was noticed within a few days. Upon learning about the link between steroids and diabetes, we weaned her off the steroids as quickly and safely as possible. A week later, the ear scabs returned and she's chewing the hair off the joints of her back legs. We suspect it's a food allergy (kibble and canned food), so we'll try a hypoallergenic canned food and continue with the topical steroid and hope for improvement. Question: how long before we should expect to see improvement before trying another approach, ie another brand of food?

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Dexter

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Domestic long hair

dog-age-icon

10 Years

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Mild severity

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1 found helpful

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Mild severity

Has Symptoms

Scab

I have a 10 year old long hair cat. I just discovered a patch of scabs at the base of his back and the top of his tail. He’s changed food quite a few times in the last few months because our other cat has a sensitive stomach. We also give Dexter a dose of high calorie gel once or twice a week, he’s skinny and just barely a healthy weight. I don’t think the scabs are bothering him and we’ll likely bathe him this weekend. He seemed to enjoy having the area scratched with his brush. Any other home remedies before taking him to the vet? I ask because I cannot stress enough how he is terrified of strangers, leaving the apartment, or even his humans if we are walking around. He’s a simple boy that enjoys his humans on the couch or bed.

Feline Miliary Dermatitis Average Cost

From 344 quotes ranging from $200 - $1,500

Average Cost

$500

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