What is Seborrhea?
Seborrhea can occur anywhere on your cat’s body, but it is most likely to affect the areas where there are a lot of sebaceous glands, such as the back and underbelly. This skin condition causes a great deal of discomfort, so it’s important to take your cat to a vet as soon as possible to treat the seborrhea and the underlying condition that may be causing it.
The two types of seborrhea, seborrhea oleosa and seborrhea sicca, are fairly common in cats. Seborrhea is a skin disorder that occurs when the sebaceous glands produce too much sebum. Cat owners may confuse seborrhea with dandruff, because both conditions are characterized by white, flaky skin. However, seborrhea is very different from dandruff. This condition is usually a symptom of an underlying health issue, such as bacterial, fungal, or parasitic infection, hormonal imbalance, or allergies.
Symptoms of Seborrhea in Cats
There are two types of seborrhea: seborrhea oleosa, which is characterized by oily skin, and seborrhea sicca, which is characterized by dry skin. It may be difficult to spot seborrhea if your cat has long or thick hair, as the skin is less visible. However, if you brush back the hair, some of the symptoms you may observe include:
- Flakes that resemble dandruff
- Red, inflamed skin
- Itchy skin
- Odor on the skin
The areas most affected by seborrhea are the back, underside, neck, feet and thighs.
Causes of Seborrhea in Cats
A number of different health conditions can cause seborrhea, but in some cases, no cause can be determined. If your cat has been diagnosed with seborrhea, it could be caused by one of these medical issues:
- Fungal or bacterial infections
- Unbalanced diet
- Autoimmune disorders
- Hormonal issues
- Fleas or ticks
Diagnosis of Seborrhea in Cats
If you spot any symptoms of seborrhea, bring your cat to a veterinarian right away. Describe the symptoms you have observed in as much detail as possible. You should also tell the vet about your cat’s medical history and diet.
The vet should be able to tell the cat has seborrhea from conducting a physical exam and looking at the skin closely. However, he will need to perform tests to determine the underlying cause, if any. First, the vet will conduct a complete blood count, urinalysis and blood chemistry profile test. This will help the vet determine whether there are any electrolyte imbalances or hormonal issues.
Next, the vet will scrape a sample of the affected skin and examine it under a microscope. The vet should be able to spot bacteria, parasites, or fungi under the microscope if they are present on the skin. The vet may also need to perform a skin culture to determine what type of bacteria, if any, is causing the infection.
If nothing turns up with these tests, the vet may need to take a stool sample to check for parasites. Because allergies may be a factor, the vet may also need to perform allergy testing in order to eliminate this as a cause.
If no cause can be determined after these tests, the diagnosis will be idiopathic seborrhea, meaning there is no known cause.
Treatment of Seborrhea in Cats
The treatment of your cat’s seborrhea will depend on the underlying cause, but first, treatment will focus on alleviating the symptoms to make your cat more comfortable. Dry seborrhea can be treated with moisturizing shampoo, while oily seborrhea is usually treated with coal tar or benzoyl peroxide shampoos. These shampoos, along with an oral corticosteroid, will reduce your cat’s discomfort. The vet may also recommend you feed your cat Omega-3 fatty acid supplements to promote healthy skin and fur.
Treatment will also need to address the underlying issue. If a bacterial, fungal, or parasitic infection is causing the seborrhea, the vet will prescribe medication that to help your cat heal. If the cause is hormonal, the vet may need to treat your cat with hormone therapy, which usually consists of a series of injections.
If an unbalanced diet is the cause of the seborrhea, your vet will discuss how to adjust your cat’s diet to prevent future outbreaks.
Recovery of Seborrhea in Cats
Be sure to closely follow the vet’s directions when it comes to administering medication and changing your cat’s diet.
Once the underlying cause of seborrhea is treated, you should notice the symptoms beginning to disappear. However, if the cause of seborrhea is unknown, your cat may live with this condition indefinitely. To keep your cat comfortable, you will need to manage his symptoms with special shampoos and moisturizers.
If allergies are causing seborrhea, you will need to prevent your cat from coming into contact with the allergen. Most allergens are found outdoors, so try to keep your cat inside as much as possible if he has been diagnosed with seborrhea.