Miliary Dermatitis

Feline eczema, or miliary dermatitis, is seen frequently during the late summer and early autumn.

Miliary Dermatitis in Cats

In the less acute form, the affected cat’s skin appears very dry and scaly and may be thickened and wrinkled over the shoulders and rump. The hair is dry and is shorter than usual over the affected areas. Small raised areas covered in a reddish-brown scab may be present on other parts of the body, particularly around the head and neck.

In the acute form of feline eczema, large open weeping patches may suddenly appear. The cat is acutely itchy and rubs, bites and licks, further increasing the area of damaged skin. Usually, the hair is matted over the lesions and care must be taken to differentiate between eczema and the infected wounds that are a common sequel to cat fights.

An infestation of fleas is often associated with feline eczema and it is thought that affected animals become hypersensitive to the bite of the flea. Certainly, if the condition is to be controlled, the first step is to completely eradicate the fleas.

What to do if my cat gets miliary dermatitis

Anti-inflammatory drugs are used to relieve the acute irritation and, if the skin is broken, a topical lotion is often prescribed. As cats invariably quickly lick anything that is applied to their skin, care must be taken to choose not only a non-toxic substance but one in a form that is quickly absorbed.

Veterinarians usually prescribe a low dose of a hormone which, when given once or twice weekly, is beneficial in restoring a healthy covering of hair.

The skin of the cat seems particularly sensitive to some irritant chemicals. Paint, bitumen, turpentine, kerosene and motor car oils cause a severe inflammation if left in contact with the skin. It is difficult to remove these substances using everyday household remedies, and indeed solvents for most of these substances are themselves irritant to the cat.

The veterinarian usually has to resort to anesthetizing the animal and laboriously clipping and washing the offending substances from the inflamed skin and paws.

A form of skin cancer affecting the parts of the face which are lightly covered with hair is quite common in older cats. The ultraviolet rays of the sun are the predisposing cause of these tumors, which are far more common in animals which have little or no pigment in their skin.

The first stage of the tumor is a reddening of the skin at the tips of the ears or at the end of the nose. The skin becomes thickened and is often covered with a brownish exudate. As more cells are affected deeper within the skin the area becomes raised and may tend to bleed.

Treatment of the condition is not always practical. Keeping the animal out of the sun during the hottest part of the day will slow the development of the condition, but this is not easy to achieve. The application of solar-blocking agents to the affected areas each day will also help.

The condition is nevertheless progressive and eventually, surgical excision will become necessary if the tumor is in an area such as the lips of the ears. Tumors on the end of the nose unfortunately are difficult to treat surgically and irradiation with radioactive isotopes has been attempted.


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Hannah Elizabeth is an English animal behavior author, having written for several online publications. With a degree in Animal Behaviour and over a decade of practical animal husbandry experience, Hannah's articles cover everything from pet care to wildlife conservation. When she isn't creating content for blog posts, Hannah enjoys long walks with her Rottweiler cross Senna, reading fantasy novels and breeding aquarium shrimp.

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