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Dr. Kara
Dr. Kara, Veterinarian
Category: Cat
Satisfied Customers: 17921
Experience:  Over 20 years of experience as a veterinarian.
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Our cat has developed scabs around the back of the head and

Customer Question

Our cat has developed scabs around the back of the head and neck area and is constantly itchy. She has not shown signs of fleas at all this summer and her last regular drop on flea treatment was around two weeks ago, have you any ideas?
Submitted: 3 years ago.
Category: Cat
Expert:  Dr. Kara replied 3 years ago.
Hello, my name is***** and I have over 20 years of experience as a veterinarian. I'm sorry to hear about Poppy's small scabs on her neck and back of her head that are itchy.
The little bumps that you are feeling are her skin's reaction to an allergy or irritant and are called miliary dermatitis.
The most common reason for these symptoms is flea allergy dermatitis, so I am glad that you are treating her to prevent fleas. Flea allergy dermatitis is horrible. In allergic cats it only takes one bite a month for them to itch like crazy. If you don't see any fleas you might not have a huge population. If you have other pets who aren't itchy they may not be allergic. Even if she doesn't go outdoors it is easy for a few fleas to make their way indoors.
Ideally in allergic animals effective flea control must be used every 3 weeks. Many over the counter products have a problem with fleas being resistant and some can be down right dangerous. I never
recommend any products that Hartz or Sargent's make. I recommend Advantage II or Frontline Plus every 3 weeks for at least 4 months if all pets are indoor only or consistently if any pets go outside as they will be a continual source. All pets in the house must be treated as if you don't the nonallergic ones serve as a flea reservoir for the allergic one and you'll never solve your problem.
Inhaled allergies (to pollens, dust mites or mold spores) are another possibility.
To control allergic symptoms (flea allergies or inhaled allergies) you can try:
1) Benadryl (diphenhydramine only, the combination products with decongestants and acetaminophen are toxic to cats) at 1mg per pound every 8 hours. That's a half of 25mg tablet every 8 hours for a cat that is 4 to 8 kilograms.
2) Chlorpheniramine at 4mg once or twice daily.
Combined with high doses of omega-3 fatty acids antihistamines work to relieve her itchiness. I like 3V caps or Derm Caps. I recommend an omega 3 fatty acid dose based upon the EPA portion (eicosapentanoic acid) of the supplement as if we do that the rest of the supplement will be properly balanced. Give her 20mg to 40mg of EPA per kilogram of body weight per day. For example a 4 kilogram cat could take 80mg to 160mg of EPA per day. Antihistamines and omega-3 fatty acids work synergistically, better than either one alone. These should help reduce the itch. Be aware that antihistamines can cause drowsiness or hyperactivity which should resolve with continued use.
Food allergy is another reason for excess grooming and itchiness. You might wish to try a hypoallergenic food for 8 weeks or so. My suggestions are Hills Z/D or Royal Canin Duck and Green peas. She will need to eat only that food, no other treats or foods during her food trial. You should see an improvement in 8 weeks but full effects may not be seen for 12 to 16 weeks. There really aren't any true, effective hypoallergenic diets available at pet stores.
You can also use cortisone cream or spray on especially itchy areas as long as they aren't raw.
For now I would start with continued flea control, an antihistamine and omega 3 fatty acids. If she's not significantly better in 2 to 3 weeks then it's time for a veterinary examination to look further for problems and/or a hypoallergenic food trial.
Please let me know if you have further questions by replying to this post.