Common Skin Infections in Cats

Skin infections are among the most common medical conditions in cats. They can have various causes, such as bacteria, fungi, parasites or an internal problem. Symptoms of skin infections in cats may be similar to other conditions such as allergies, so they need to be diagnosed by a veterinarian. It is also recommended to have the condition correctly diagnosed as soon as possible to prevent further development of the infection.


Common Skin Infections in Cats


Most common skin infections in cats are caused by bacteria and fungi. Parasites can also cause skin infections in cats (i.e. mange), but this type of infection is not as common. 

Skin infections can also be secondary diseases. There might an underlying disorder or a parasite (lice, fleas) which causes your cat to scratch. Scratching opens up the skin to microbes and other foreign bodies which cause infections.

Left untreated, skin infections can expand and develop into more severe forms. Some of them are also contagious and can be passed from one cat to another, or even to humans.

Sometimes, diagnosis can be made just by looking at the symptoms manifested on the skin. However, the veterinarian might decide to run further tests: blood tests or skin scraping tests.


Bacterial Skin Infections in Cats


Bacterial skin infections generally affect only the surface layer of the cat’s skin. Treatment should start immediately; otherwise the infection should penetrate the deeper layers. Cat bites also produce skin infections caused by the various types of bacteria found in the cat’s saliva that enter the skin through bites.

Bacterial skin infections usually manifest through:


  • Small pimples and pustules
  • Red skin
  • Excessive scratching and hair loss in the area
  • Skin lesions
  • Flaky, crusty skin


Bacterial skin infections are usually associated with other underlying disease which weakens the immune system and makes the skin more vulnerable to infections. The underlying cause of the infection has to be diagnosed and treated as well.

Bacterial skin diseases are treated with antibiotics (pills and ointments) and special shampoos. Your veterinarian might also prescribe an immune stimulant and nutritional supplements rich in zinc and Vitamins C and E. It is also important to keep the infected area clean.


Fungal Skin Infections in Cats


Fungi can cause infections both in the outermost layer of the skin and in deeper layers. The most common fungal skin infections are the ringworm infections.

Ringworms is generally a self-curing skin infection. However, it is highly contagious and can be passed to other animals and humans. Therefore, treatment is recommended as soon as the first signs appear. The infection manifests as a round red spot on the skin; hair loss may also occur. Sometimes, there might be small pustules and scaly skin. The infection can spread to the entire body.

The treatment plan usually consists of a combination of antifungal oral and topical medication. Most common topical medication includes ointments, lotions, powders or sprays and anti-fungal shampoos. In more severe cases, the veterinarian may recommend lime-sulfur dips.