What is Thin or Fragile Skin?
A cat with thin or fragile skin must be taken to a veterinarian immediately and remain under the vet’s consistent care either during the duration of the condition if it is an acute occurrence, or for the entirety of the cat’s life if the condition is chronic. Your cat could be in imminent danger of a life threatening injury and may be suffering from very serious underlying illnesses that require medical attention.
Thin or fragile skin in cats, more commonly called skin fragility syndrome (SFS), is a rare but extremely serious condition in cats that causes the skin to become dangerously thin and able to tear easily. The affected areas of the cat’s skin will usually be void of fur and the skin in that region of the body will often be either transparent or red to the point of appearing to be painfully raw. The skin can rip open when the cat scratches itself, when it scrapes against the corner of a table, and as a result of many other daily occurrences.
Symptoms of Thin or Fragile Skin in Cats
Depending on where on the cat’s body the symptoms begin to manifest and over how large or small an area of the body, the physical symptoms of thin and fragile skin can either be very easily observed or very difficult to notice until a serious wound has formed. The following symptoms should cause enough concern for you to immediately schedule an appointment with your veterinarian:
- Bald spots with red, orange, or pink skin
- Nearly transparent skin that allows veins to show through
- Tears in the skin and open wounds that often do not bleed
- Loss of appetite
- Weight loss
Causes of Thin or Fragile Skin in Cats
A congenital disorder, also called feline cutaneous asthenia, that causes loose and fragile skin that can easily tear when pulled.
Spontaneous Cushing’s Syndrome
An extremely rare condition, also called pituitary dependent hypercortisolism. This disease is the result of a benign tumor on the pituitary gland, which causes the gland to overproduce the stress hormone cortisol. Over a sustained period of time, this raised cortisol level causes such symptoms as hair loss, matting hair, thinning blood vessels, and thinning skin.
Iatrogenic Cushing’s Syndrome
This disease mimics the description of Cushing’s Syndrome above but is caused by reactions to some corticosteroid drugs such as prednisone or hormonal therapies such as megestrol acetate, which is used to fight some cancers. This cause of thin and fragile skin in cats, while still rare, is more common than spontaneous Cushing’s syndrome.
This condition is common in obese adult cats, and often accompanies Cushing’s Syndrome.
Feline Infectious Peritonitis (FIP)
A viral infection caused by the feline coronavirus, FIP has on rare occasions been reported to be accompanied by skin fragility in a cat.
A secondary condition that can sometimes accompany Paraneoplastic syndrome, a condition caused by various cancers.
A condition also known as fatty liver disease.
Cancer of the bile duct.
Diagnosis of Thin or Fragile Skin in Cats
Your veterinarian will likely begin by examining your cat’s coat and skin for bald spots, transparent and/or red skin, and the telltale lesions that are most associated with thin and fragile skin. It is not uncommon for the skin of a cat suffering from this condition to actually tear during an examination, which is an immediate indication to the vet that your cat has skin fragility syndrome. Your vet will also ask you questions about your cat’s behavior, eating and sleep patterns, frequency of urination and defecation, and other observations. Blood, urine, and fecal analyses will be done, as will skin biopsies. The vet may also order tests such as an ultrasound, MRI, or CT scan to examine your cat’s internal organs for signs of primary causes.
Skin fragility syndrome by itself can be quite easy to diagnose; it is the underlying cause that can be difficult to determine and may take extensive tests and repeat visits to the veterinarian to identify.
Treatment of Thin or Fragile Skin in Cats
Treatment of skin fragility is heavily dependent upon the underlying cause. There is little that can be done for the skin condition itself. Treatment is usually of the underlying condition in the hope that by managing the primary condition, the secondary condition of thin and fragile skin will begin to improve as well. This may involve taking the cat off of corticosteroids, beginning insulin injections, performing surgery to remove pituitary tumors, and other treatments for primary causes. If your cat’s skin fragility syndrome cannot be managed by treating the underlying cause, your cat may be extensively debilitated for the remainder of its life, in constant danger of infection, and in need of nearly continual attention. In such extreme cases, based upon your veterinarian’s guidance, euthanasia may be the most humane option for your cat.
Recovery of Thin or Fragile Skin in Cats
Whether or not your cat can recover depends upon what has caused its thin and fragile skin. You will need to work closely with your veterinarian to devise a plan of management, which may include repeat visits and daily medications. You will need to keep a close eye on your cat, being very gentle, and keeping your cat away from other animals and small children. If you notice any wounds and/or changes in behavior that match the symptoms above, contact your vet immediately.
Thin or Fragile Skin Questions and Advice from Veterinary Professionals
My foxy was put on 20 mg progesterone by our vet for 2.5 months. Now he has diabetes and fragile skin that keeps tearing. I took him to the animal hospital last Sunday and they stitched up his first wound and gave me medicine. He is now on insulin and antibiotics, and we are warning him off of the hormone. Every morning he is waking up with new lesions. Can you please tell me if I am expected to take him to the hospital every time he has a new lesions? That would be every day and get very expensive. I wiped his new lesions with a wet microfiber cloth. Thanks.
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My cat has gingivitis and hasn't been eating well or grooming herself for a long time, her furr started to clump. Anyway I've taken her to the vet's a few days ago to clean her and check up on her teeth and they discovered she has an abscess on her paw. They removed the skin and put an ecollar around her neck but she immediately tried to take it off and her nails got stuck in her skin. She ripped herself open. Now I'm really scared because it seems she has also a skin condition that makes her skin tear. I don't know what to do. Is the lack of a good nutrition might be the cause of her skin's poor elasticity??
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My cat is getting more thinner when going outside,everytime I gave him food he only ate few..mostly I gave him cat food but sometimes he doesnt want to eat it,but when I gave him some human food like meat or fish but he eats a lot of it! The problem here is that my cat sleeps often and then his appetite decreases so thats why he keeps getting more thinner.Recently, I observed that my cat is acting differently like he is not active as before ..I dont know if he is sick or its just in his nature for acting like that because of his aging (?) Because I've noticed that he's getting thinner and has a lack of appetite..he never ate any food 4 past 3 days he just stays outside and sleep more..so our only solution is tht we caged him at night with food and water so he can recover..I dont know if I notice any changes but he looks very weak and pale..I dont know if theres a symptom or illness that occurs to him..seeing him like this makes me worry and im worried if my cat is suffering from an illness..I just want him to get back 2 normal again..
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I rescued a six month old tabby from the dumpster outside my apartment. He is absolutely adorable and very friendly. I took him to the vet to get neutered. I asked them if they could look at this spot on his tail where he had been loosing clumps of hair. They told me when he was coming out of his anesthesia he had an involuntary movement so they grabbed him by the scruff to restrain him. His skin ripped, they sutured him back up afterward. They told me he has this rare skin condition called skin fragility. I'm really worried now because I have a two year old Cocker Spaniel who loves to play and ruff house (so does the kitten). I also have a six year old Russian blue who loves to play as well. I want for them all to be able to interact. I've had Lucky (the kitten) around the other two animals for two weeks before the vet visit that led to this frightening diagnosis. In addition, my local vet said he had never seen a case of this skin condition before so I'm not sure if he's even right (I hope not).
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