Cool Cat Case of the Month - February 2024
A Cat With “Burning” Skin
A 2-year-old neutered male Domestic Shorthair (DSH) cat was presented to us by our rescue partner Pet Promise for severe skin irritation. The cat’s name was Fuego, which means “fire” in Spanish. He was named this for the incredible redness of his skin noticed when he was found as a stray. Fuego was very itchy and uncomfortable with hair loss and scabbing over much of his body. We started his treatment by ruling our infectious causes such as ringworm (a fungal infection of the skin) and Demodex (a cat skin mite). We also treated him for a secondary skin infection with a long-acting antibiotic injection. Once the infectious disease tests came back negative, we then started him on a steroid to decrease his inflammation, and a novel protein diet to see if this was a food sensitivity.
Food allergies can occur in any age cat and often develop even when the cat has been on the same food for a long time. This is because food allergies develop slowly and require many exposures to the same food ingredients before symptoms show up. We have two different types of diets we may try when we suspect a food allergy. Novel protein ingredients are diets made from protein sources that most cats would not have been exposed to in the past, so they would not be able to be allergic to these proteins. We have diets made from rabbit, venison, duck and even alligator! The second type of diet is called a hydrolyzed protein diet. These may be made from common cat food ingredients (chicken or fish), but the proteins are chemically chopped (hydrolyzed) into small pieces, so the cat can still use them as a source of protein, but their bodies will not recognize the source of the protein so the food will not set off an allergic reaction.
It took many months for Fuego’s skin reaction to improve, so long that we actually performed a biopsy and a skin culture to be sure we weren’t missing something like an auto-immune skin disease called pemphigus or an antibiotic-resistant bacteria. The results of these tests confirmed we were dealing with an allergy, so we continued Fuego on his novel protein diet, steroid, and an oral antibiotic. A full year later, we were able to discontinue Fuego’s steroid and continue him just on his novel protein diet, which he will most likely be on for life.
Look at this handsome boy now!