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Miliary Dermatitis in Cats
What is Miliary Dermatitis?
Miliary Dermatitis is a condition where millet seed sized (miliary) scabs
are variably distributed over the cats body. The cat is usually very itchy
and may cause damage to itself by scratching and hair pulling. The scabs
can be easily felt.
What Causes Miliary Dermatitis?
The most common cause is fleas. Other recognized causes are food
allergies and non flea skin parasites such a mite called Cheyletiellosis. In the
past, hormonal problems and vitamin deficiencies have claimed to be
associated with it. However, it may be that none of these things cause
miliary dermatitis on their own but rather work in combination to produce
The pattern by which the scabs are distributed over the cat's body may
suggest which factor is the most important cause. Scabs which are found
along the midline of the back and around the neck, and which then progress
to cover the entire body, suggest an allergy to fleas. Cat flea allergy
dermatitis can also present as hair loss over the rump area, which can
then extend along the midline of the back, toward the neck. The skin in
this area may be thickened, darker than usual, and grazed from a long time
of scratching and chewing.
Miliary scabs that are associated with food allergies tend to be more
concentrated over the head and tail regions. Food allergies can also lead
to circular sores, which are mainly found over the head, neck and shoulder
regions. Food allergies are unlikely to cause diarrhoea in dogs and cats.
The first step is to eliminate the most common cause which is fleas. The
client is asked about which flea control regime they are currently
implementing for their cat. Then using a flea comb we examine the coat for
fleas, or the tell tale sign of their presence, which is flea dirt, (faeces)
By allowing some of the suspected flea dirt to fall onto white paper and
then wetting it, we can confirm that it is in fact flea dirt when it
dissolves to blood.
So long as the current flea control regime is not very thorough, some vets
may choose to treat for flea allergy dermatitis, irrespective of evidence
for their presence. The cornerstone of this treatment is to eliminate the
fleas. The use of Revolution, Frontline
or Advantage which are topical flea killing products is
recommended. The flea
control that each of these products provide may be sufficient to allow the
resolution and prevention of
flea allergy dermatitis in almost all cases
but it is recommended that you should treat both the cat and the cat's
environment. (How to get
rid of fleas - House & Pets) Supportive therapy consists of a short course of a cortisone type drug,
whether in tablet form or as an injection to stop the itchiness and prevent
the cat from continuing to traumatise itself. Antibiotics might also be
prescribed if secondary skin infection is considered to be serious enough.
Once flea allergy is eliminated as causing the miliary dermatitis the
second condition to consider is food allergies. The cat is hospitalised
and fasted for 3 to 4 days. It is then fed a special low allergenic diet.
After commencement of this diet the cat can go home so long as special
attention is given to ensuring that the cat doesn't eat anything other
that the special diet. If the condition improves over the following three
weeks a tentative diagnosis of food allergy can be made. Then individual
items can be added to the diet a fortnight at a time so as to determine
what the cat is allergic to.
Sometimes no cause can be found. Such cases often respond well to a
medication called Megestrol acetate.
John Allerton BVSc
Different breeds of cats
with pictures, description and information on each of the listed domestic cat