Feline Miliary Dermatitis

Feline miliary dermatitis is a skin condition that commonly affects domesticated cats. The condition warrants the name miliary because the scabs on the cat's skin look like millet seeds. The term dermatitis refers to inflammation of the skin.

Causes and Diagnosis

While diagnosis of feline miliary dermatitis can be established with a quick examination, the cause of the problem is more difficult to determine. Many health conditions can lead to feline miliary dermatitis, including fungal infections, bacterial infections, parasitic infestations, allergies, hormonal imbalances, and nutritional disorders. Generally, if a cat has lesions near the base of its tail, fleas are the most likely cause, but if the lesions are closer to the head, mites are a more probable explanation.

Since fleas are the most common cause, most veterinarians start an examination of feline miliary dermatitis with a flea comb. The comb is drawn through the cat's fur, and if fleas are present, they will become trapped in the comb and can be more easily detected. Other parasites, such as lice, can also be diagnosed in this way. Skin scrapings must be taken from the cat to find mites. If a case of feline miliary dermatitis is determined not to be caused by a skin parasite, a fecal exam can determine if intestinal parasites are the cause. Food trials can be administered to determine if the problem derives from a food allergy.

Symptoms of Miliary Dermatitis

Miliary dermatitis causes either local or widespread lesions covered in crusty bumps that resemble millet seeds. The inflamed lesion tissue is usually red and irritated. The lesions are most commonly located near the base of the tail or the top of the head. They are usually itchy, and in some cases the itching is severe enough to make the cat cause further damage to its own skin through excessive scratching.

Treating Feline Miliary Dermatitis

Since there are a variety of possible causes for feline miliary dermatitis, there are a variety of treatments, and the right treatment to administer depends on what is causing the problem. There are both topical and orally administered treatments for fleas, mites, and lice. These medications are toxic to parasites, and are ingested by the parasites when they bite the cat. If a fungus is causing feline miliary dermatitis, the treatment will involve fungicides, which can also be taken orally or applied topically.

Obviously, if it is determined that the problem is caused by a food allergy, the cat's diet will have to be adjusted to avoid the specific allergen that affects the cat. If the cause is autoimmune but not an allergy to anything in the cat's food, steroids such as prednisone are given to mitigate symptoms until the allergen can be identified.

Feline miliary dermatitis is rarely considered a serious disease, but it can be extremely irritating to the affected animal, and many people find the scabby lesions covering their affected pet disgusting. If you discover lesions covering your cat's skin, do your pet a favor and seek treatment promptly.