Daisy was a beautiful white Persian cat whose owner had brought her to us on a number of occasions with itchy, inflamed skin and hair loss.
When checking when these episodes occurred, a seasonal pattern was identified and after further investigation and a referral to a dermatologist, it was confirmed that Daisy had atopic skin disease.
Neurodermatitis (atopy) is a skin condition that is generally caused by an allergy to something in the environment such as tree or grass pollen, mold, or house dust mites. It causes symptoms such as itchy, inflamed skin, rash, and coat loss, and can appear at any age and in any breed of cat, although it is more common in certain breeds such as the Abyssinian and Devon Rex.
Overall, pretty rarely in cats before diagnosing it, your vet will want to rule out other more common causes of itchy skin, such as fleas and flea bite dermatitis.
Treatment for atopy often includes avoiding the things your cat is allergic to, medications to relieve itching, immunotherapy to control the allergic reaction, and skin supplements to help keep skin healthy.
In addition to itchy skin, other symptoms include excessive care (licking, chewing, biting), hair loss and thinning of the hair, especially on the head, neck, sides, abdomen, armpits and inner thighs, inflamed rash, recurring ear infections and flaky and thickened skin.
Blood and skin tests can be used to find out what your cat is allergic to, the latter being more reliable.
If your cat has chronic atopy, life-long medication is often required. Immunotherapy vaccination treatments to try to counteract the allergic reaction; and the management and avoidance of suspected allergy “triggers”.
It is possible to reduce exposure to some allergens through regular vacuuming and dusting; Keeping affected cats indoors when seasonal pollen counts are high; and by not using air fresheners and other irritating sprays.
With help, skin diseases and allergies can be treated.
Antibiotics may be needed if your cat develops a secondary skin infection due to a severe skin inflammation, or ear drops if he develops a secondary ear infection. If your cat has been tested to find out what they’re allergic to, they can also be given tailored immunotherapy vaccines to help reduce the allergic reaction they’re experiencing.
Immunotherapy will not work for every cat, and additional anti-itch medications are often still needed to relieve symptoms.
Skin supplements are aimed at improving overall skin health and can help provide and promote a good, strong skin barrier.
Your veterinarian can also recommend a special prescription diet to keep your cat’s skin as healthy as possible.
Your cat may have “flare-ups” from time to time, but working closely with your veterinarian or animal dermatologist can identify and treat its symptoms quickly.
Daisy has responded very well to her recommended medical treatments used for her seasonal skin allergies in the spring and summer months.
Atopy can cause a lot of suffering and discomfort.
Constantly itchy, sore skin can make a cat very unhappy, but with successful treatment and a good long-term management plan, she can lead a much more comfortable life.
Alison Laurie-Chalmers is a Senior Consultant at Crown Vets in Inverness.