Scabs on Your Cat
Cats are known for their ability to shake things off and remain elegant no matter what. That's why it can seem so alarming if you notice that your pet is developing scabs. Especially if your cat is indoors-only, seeing these injuries appear may have you rushing to the vet.
It is always a good idea to get your cat checked by the veterinarian if they develop a new skin condition. In many cases, cat scabs and itchiness are not urgent and can be treated at home, but you should always consult the vet first -- then they can recommend possible at-home treatments.
There are a number of reasons why your cat may start developing scabs, from ringworm to mange. However, if your cat stays indoors all day, the most likely cause is a condition called “miliary dermatitis.” This condition is generally caused by an allergic reaction and forms an extremely itchy rash.
The rash tends to be easier to feel under the fur than it is to see. It is often caused by fleabites or environmental allergens. Once your veterinarian determines that you are facing miliary dermatitis, you can treat it at home with the vet's guidance.
Cat Scab Remedies and Treatments
There are two aspects of treating miliary dermatitis and other types of cat scabs. First, it is necessary to identify the cause of the scabs and remove the problem from the environment. Second, you need to keep the cat from injuring itself or making the scabs worse until they are healed. You should work on both aspects of treatment at the same time.
Check for Fleas and Mites
Fleas, mites, and lice are by far the most common cause of scabs on your cat. Regardless of whether your cat is allergic to bug bites, fleas and other blood-sucking pests can lead to scabbing and bleeding after they bite your pet.
If you notice scabs on your cat, immediately check your cat for any type of parasite. Even if you don’t spot any bugs, that may simply be a sign that your cat has excellent grooming habits. You can contact your pet’s veterinarian for flea, lice, or mite treatment recommendations that will work for your cat.
Apply Topical Treatments
There are a number of topical treatments you can use to reduce the pain and itchiness of cat scabs. Treatments like topical steroid creams can help reduce itchiness and prevent scratching or biting at the site. Make sure you keep your cat from licking off the cream. To do this, you may need to buy an “E-collar” for your cat to wear.
You can get topical treatments over the counter or through your veterinary office. You should consult your vet before trying this method — they may determine it’s necessary to use injectable or oral medications, which will need to be prescribed.
Try Elimination Diets
If the cat scabs are not going away after treating your pet for fleas and mites, then they may have developed a food or environmental allergy. If you have recently changed their diet or added something new to your home, try removing the new items or food.
An elimination diet can be hard to do when your cat eats nonprescription food. Your vet may recommend a diet trial with prescription food. For a trial, your cat can eat the food prescribed by your vet -- and only that food -- for 8 weeks. Even a little bit of another food, just as a treat, will skew the results. If a food allergy is behind your cat's skin issues, you should see some improvement.
After a thorough checkup, your vet may suggest your cat go back to their regular diet at the end of the trial to see if the symptoms come back. Cats can be demanding about their food, so a diet trial can be a challenge for both you and your cat. You should only try one with your vet's guidance.
When to See a Veterinarian
If you notice that your cat has scabs, you should always contact the veterinarian. Scabs can be a sign of something serious, including skin cancer or infections. If you notice that your cat is bleeding, you should go to the vet immediately. They will help you identify the cause of the scabs and outline a course of treatment, as well as treat the immediate problem.
Cat Scabs and Hair Loss
Whatever's causing your cat's scabbing issues, you're likely to see some hair loss as well -- it may the first bald patches that tip you off to the scabs on their skin. Most conditions that have scabs as a symptom cause a lot of itching and discomfort, and your cat's response is to lick themselves more and more. Some cats may even bite themselves. They can break off or even pull out their hair. This sets up a cycle of itching, grooming, and hair loss that can be hard to break.
Other Causes of Cat Hair Loss
Even in cats that don't have scabbing, some hair loss is normal, like shedding their winter coat. But if they lose a lot of hair, there might be a problem.
Cats groom themselves a lot -- up to half of the time they’re awake. Too much can cause hair loss, skin sores, and infection. If your cat seems more interested in licking their fur than other activities like playing or eating, that’s a red flag.
Your cat could lose their fur because:
- They were born with a harmless skin condition.
- It’s a side effect of an easy-to-treat condition.
- They are sick.
The Most Common Reasons for Cat Hair Loss
You’ll need to check with your vet to find out exactly what’s going on. In most cases, the cause isn’t serious.
Allergies: They’re the top cause of hair loss. Like people, your cat can be allergic to food, insect bites, medicines, dust, or pollen. To ease the itch, they’ll lick their fur until there are bald spots. It’s simple to treat, but you might have to give them medicine for the rest of their life.
Parasites: Fleas, mites, lice, and ticks can make them scratch and lick, too, causing bald spots and even sores. Treatment is usually quick and easy. Ask your vet which medicine you should use.
Ringworm infection: No, it’s not a worm. It’s a fungal infection. And a scaly ring of missing hair is a sign. Your vet can tell you for sure and prescribe antifungal creams or ointments, medicated baths, or even oral meds
Stress and anxiety: When cats are stressed and obsessively lick and scratch, they can lose hair. Vets call this “psychogenic alopecia.” Cats that have it tend to pick at their belly, sides, and legs. It’s most common in female purebreds with nervous personalities.
Pain: Cats with arthritis may lick themselves at the site of the pain.
Pure breeds, like Himalayans and Bengals, are more likely to have genes that cause hair loss. Others, like the Sphynx, are bred to be hairless.
It’s unlikely, but hair loss can be a symptom of an immune system problem, diabetes, an overactive thyroid, or cancer. Tell your vet all about your cat’s diet, behavior, and home to help them pinpoint the cause.
Treating Hair Loss in Cats
There are some things you can do if your cat is losing hair:
Help distract your cat from the source of the stress with lots of attention and playtime. Offer them places to get away, such a high perches or boxes to hide in. Try to keep to a routine as much as possible. You may consider using a pheromone spray that mimics the scents cats use to mark their territories. These are available where you buy pet supplies.
Bandage the Area
You may need to apply a bandage to keep them from making themselves bleed. This will also keep them from ingesting the cream or ointment. Ask their vet before trying this remedy.
You can ask your vet to apply a bandage to the area, or you can carefully wrap the area in several layers of gauze and dressing -- although if you do it yourself, it’s best to ask the vet to teach you the proper method first. Do not use sticky materials that will pull at your cat's fur because this will likely only make itching worse. If a bandage is too tight, it can cause life-threatening injuries. Change the bandage daily to make sure your cat is healing properly.
Consider a Cone
While waiting for the reaction to heal, you may need to have your cat wear a cone around their neck. These cones, also known as “Elizabethan collars,” will keep your cat from biting at an injured area and potentially making it worse. This is most effective for reactions on places where the cat cannot scratch with their claws.
If these things don't work, ask your vet if your cat needs an antidepressant. You should still work to address the causes of your cat's stress and treat any conditions that may be causing the hair loss with an eye to weaning them off medications if possible.