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scabs at neck, around ears; hair loss

post #1 of 63
Thread Starter 



Mable is a sweet, lap-loving, three-year-old Calico who lives indoors with no other animals but my wife & I. Ever since we got her about a year-and-a-half ago, she's suffered from a skin irritation that seems to wax and wane unpredictably; she'll be fine for four to six weeks, and then she'll slowly develop the following symptoms:


- Crusty, hard scabs form beneath the fur around her neck, especially in the area beneath her ears and at the top of her rib cage/bottom front of her neck. Occasionally they form on her lower jaw line or cheek, too.

- The scabs may take a week or more to mature and detach, and they often take a lock of fur with them.

- Mable shows no sign of discomfort during the flare-up; it seems not to bother her at all.

- The scabs often appear in small "colonies," grouped along one side of her neck or the other, or at the base of her skull.

- The scabs are perhaps a quarter-inch across or less.

- The scabs sometimes begin as small, linear, red fissures and then develop into blotchy, hard and roughly round forms.

- The scabs are not correspondent with laceration from her hind claws.


But the fur has always grown back and, as I say, even the worst flare-up hasn't appreciably changed her behaviour. Here's some photos I took on the occasion of a rare flare-up at the top of her head.


Here's some context:



...and a close-up:



This time, her top-of-head fur suddenly started coming off (the problem usually manifests around the neck and beneath the ears), in clumps revealing the pink cat skin below. Shortly thereafter, fissures began to form, some of which healed without incident and some of which eventually formed blotchy scabs as described above.


Our veterinarian reckoned Mable had a food allergy and put her on a diet of "potato and duck" -based food available only from her office and at great expense. After a couple of bags, it didn't appear to make any difference and she hated it. Then I found out our vet recommends "potato and duck" -based solutions for a wide variety of problems and complaints. I'm therefor not convinced the food allergy diagnosis is accurate.


What do you make of it?



post #2 of 63

Did the vet culture the sores?  That might help determine what you're dealing with rather than just guessing.  Also, is she on a flea preventative?

post #3 of 63
Thread Starter 

Thank you for asking, stephanietx.

I should have mentioned that the vet did culture the sores, and the results were negative.
As she is an indoor cat, she is not on a flea preventative.

I should add that we have checked her for fleas more than once by combing her fur over white paper, but have never found any.


Much obliged for your interest!

post #4 of 63

After what I went through with a cat I had the last nine years, I have something to say about allergies.


What you are describing is not exactly the same set of symptoms he had, Wilbur usually had one big scab but sometimes had severe flare-ups with clusters of small scabs all over his body. So I would want to do an allergy test to diagnose or rule out allergic reactions. The food test only determined she is not allergic to something in commercial cat food. A blood test is required to figure out if she has a different type of allergy like pollen, dust, fungi, or mold.

post #5 of 63

Has your vet ever mentioned eosinophilic granuloma complex (EGC)? Have a look at this site:

It can have various causes, food being one of them. My Maine Coon, Maxie, has EGC that presented in his mouth to start and then progressed to his eyes, etc.--he was miserable because he could hardly eat. Even "novel" protein diets did not help (like what your vet tried with you and Mable--except potatoes are not a great idea). What finally did help was when I was able to transition him to a homemade balanced raw diet. It took about a week to see marked improvement, but by week three you would never know he has this disease. Seems there is something in canned (never fed kibble) food that exacerbates his EGC.


I also started with diet because diet plays such a key role in their health. I was lucky, and it was diet.


Not saying Mable has this, but it sure does look similar to how EGC can present itself. Also not saying that diet is what is causing her problems, but maybe you could give a pre-made frozen raw, such as Rad Cat a try? She might not be too keen on raw at first, so we can help with transitioning if you go that route.

post #6 of 63
Thread Starter 


I'll have a word with the vet about an allergy test. Thanks for telling me about Wilbur.



I'll look into raw cat foods -- there are some vendors in Canada, where I live. Much obliged for your attention.


Thanks, everybody!

post #7 of 63
My feral Ruby had scabs and hair loss that looked just like this! I have no idea what it was though, I assumed it was a flea allergy.
post #8 of 63

I would give treating for fleas a try as it is so inexpensive. We have two indoor-only cats and we managed to get fleas somehow this year after living in the same home for four years with no issues. It is a REALLY bad year for bugs in general since winter was so mild (if you are in the US).

post #9 of 63
Strangely enough I posted on this last night in a different thread. Kat-Kat had almost exactly the same problem, he has allergies and is allergic to over the counter liquid flea preparations. Vet gave me a pill for a 40 lbs dog, quartered so I got 4 month supply, he had a steroid injection and antibiotics for a week. He's now looking real good and is playing like a kitten (which is kinda dangerous, at least to me, he now weighs about 12lbs) One other thing I just remembered, he was hungry all the time and eating an awful lot but not putting on weight. Since he's got better he doesn't eat as much but is actually getting bigger and much more playful
post #10 of 63
Thread Starter 

Wow, just the sort of conundrum I like to avoid: Stella1609 recommends flea treatment; Peer Jones' Kat-Kat manifests these symptoms because of an allergy to flea treatment! We did put an anti-flea collar on her (she's also an indoor-only cat), and while her symptoms did diminish, it was hard to say whether they were just on the wane anyway, or actually affected by the collar. The time scale and variation of period involved (three to six weeks showing symptoms, four to eight weeks not showing symptoms) make the difference between causal reaction and happenstance difficult to determine.


I wonder if Kittylover23's Rub's conditions was subject to a periodic, gets-worse, no change, gets-better, start over cycle?


Thank you all for your informed opinions.

post #11 of 63

Flea treatment may be whats needed, just not over the counter flea treatment.

We tried several different ones, Kat always freaked out.

Pretty sure Kat needed steroid injection as well as different flea treatment plus antibiotics.

Vet said he's worked with cats or over 20yrs and there is a lot vetinary college doesn't tell you (even after 7 yrs training)

BTW, flea collars only stayed on Kat until he got out, he even got out of a full harness, no idea how, came home without it after he got out (wasn't allowed out for a week but that didn't stop him)

post #12 of 63

drsills, hope you find a solution to your cat's problem.  At the same time I'm envious that it doesn't seem to bother your cat.  Our sweet cat has been in misery for a couple years, off and on, but now always on. Similar symptoms with the scabs except it's accompanied with severe itching that drives her crazy and has completely changed her loving personality. She hides in weird places and is obviously extremely disturbed. We've worked with our vet for over a year or two, starting with the diet change, expensive duck protein, etc, changed to stainless steel bowls from ceramic, didn't help..., went to prednisolone, that helped but has long term side effects so we changed to cyclosporine, that helped for a while, not any longer.  vet scraped for demidococus mites, negative.  she's on revolution - has never had fleas or ear mites. my wife is a manic house cleaner so dust/ dust mites alergy tho possible is unlikely. It started as a summer problem, we suspected grass alergy, then it came in the winter, invalidating that theory, now it's constant. we just finished a month trying duoxo phytosphingosine treatments for skin cell "repair", so far no positive results.  Our vet has given up and said we need to find a specialist.  We have an appt in several weeks with a dermatology specialist- hope he can find something.  We suspect a possible diagnosis could be malassezia, based on our research, but our vet says very rare in cats.  Her scabs are small but almost everywhere over her body, grouped together in clumps/areas and inch or more in size, especially hindlegs, back near tail, stomach, armpits, shoulders, back of neck, chin, head, ears.  They clump to the hair and on combing will come out with the hair, no balding patches her hair is extremely thick due to a side effect of cyclosporine.  very tiny open wounds near the patches of scabs that are the apparent source of the scabbing/scaling.

Anyway, just sharing that it could be much worse for your cat, hope you find a solution but be grateful that it hasn't ruined her quality of life. Good luck.

post #13 of 63
I'm not sure if you're still looking for a response, but I wanted to tell you that I may have a solution to your problem! My calico female cat Tinkerbell had the exact symptoms and we were just as crazed by all the vet "fixes" as you! However, we finally found a solution after 2 yrs of exploring options! Our Tink had an allergy to both fleas and dust/pollen. When the scabs start to appear if you purchase liquid form Benadryl (1oz per feline lb) It goes away! We have great success with this! Good luck!wavey.gif
post #14 of 63

Tiny had that issue once, with his ears. They were inflamed and itchy. The vet gave us a few doses of steroids to bring the inflammation down. They worked, the ears healed, and the symptoms never came back. I assume it was some kind of allergic reaction to something, which was then aggravated when Tiny started scratching at it. I wonder if your cat might be prone to inflammation for some reason, like Tiny was, and have problems because she scratches at the sores. If that's the case, then just treating the itching might help her heal. I don't think steroids are supposed to be given long-term unless it's absolutely necessary, but maybe there are other solutions.

post #15 of 63
Originally Posted by Jenn Burns View Post

I'm not sure if you're still looking for a response, but I wanted to tell you that I may have a solution to your problem! My calico female cat Tinkerbell had the exact symptoms and we were just as crazed by all the vet "fixes" as you! However, we finally found a solution after 2 yrs of exploring options! Our Tink had an allergy to both fleas and dust/pollen. When the scabs start to appear if you purchase liquid form Benadryl (1oz per feline lb) It goes away! We have great success with this! Good luck!wavey.gif

Ordinary Benadryl like humans use?

post #16 of 63
I had the same condition with my cat Tiger and the scabs and jaw condition cleaned up immediately after I improved my litter box maintenance. I was cleaning the litter box regularly but allowed the level to get too low.
post #17 of 63
Thread Starter 

First, an update: Mabel continues to suffer the condition, and while the severity of it has waxed and waned since my first writing, it seems to be not as bad as it was, fortunately. The reason for her doing a little better remains unclear: Since November 2012, I've been dosing her monthly with "Advantage 18," a "flea adulticide" from Bayer, and it seems to be keeping her symptoms within the rage of zero to twenty percent of the severity I documented in the first post of this thread. I say "it seems to be," but in fact I still don't know what's causing the sores and hair loss and not entirely persuaded that it's a flea allergy. I mean, isn't an allergic reaction a sort of all-or-none thing?


My plan, for the moment, is to keep up with the flea treatment until mid summer at least; keeping the one treatment constant should inform a better clinical perspective.


Thanks for your input, 2Cutes. Humbling but true: many of our own species' worst health problems have causes related to hygiene. I'll keep up my dump-the-whole-thing-weekly schedule -- which is overdue as of today, come to think of it (and thanks for reminding me).


About the Benadryl solution, Peter Jones, I have discovered that there exists such a thing as cat / dog Benadryl, but also that its clinical indications are mixed: we might prefer more recently-developed antihistamines with less bothersome side-effects. Still, if Jenn Burns' assertion that one ounce (of what I'm assuming is ordinary, people-purposed Benadryl) per cat pound administered at first symptom will address the problem, I'm going to click my heels and whistle through my teeth.

post #18 of 63

Since using a flea treatment reduces the severity I'd be inclined to treat the house with a spray - the bombs don't really work as well. 


Lots of information on this page including generic names for the ingredients so you can get the right thing whatever country you are in:


Also I don't know when you last went to the vets with your cat, but I'd be inclined to go as clearing up this sort of thing often seems to need steroid and antibiotic treatment to settle the skin down.


Of course there might be a food element as well, but if using a flea treatment reduces the symptoms I personally think that's a big pointer as to what the issue really is.  Note that a cat with flea allergy just needs one bit to break out all over again.

post #19 of 63

Have you tried a grain free food like "Taste of the Wild". Grain allergies tend to present with skin issues.

I have also seen a cat who is allergic to flea bites react with scabs and hair loss. However, unless you have a

flea infestation in your house, I doubt this is the cause. Have you parted her hair to look for the "pepper like"

granules of flea dirt? A popular spot is on the back near the base of the tail.

I agree with the above post that perhaps a course of antibiotic and steroid might be the kicker you need.

post #20 of 63

Advantage (in any form) is one of the products Kat-Kat has is allergic to.

It isn't the actual 'active ingredients' but the liquid used to deliver them onto skinthat cause the problem.

According to vet, most liquid anti flea medications use an alcohol base?

post #21 of 63

drsills...My cat seems to have the same problem....I think I am going to try Benedryl (liquid allergy relief for children). But I am posting because 1 oz seems to me to be too much. Please Research Dosage !    Hope it works for poor kittys.

post #22 of 63

I would be interested as I know Kat-Kat has allergies

Getting 1 oz into Kat could be dangerous (for me, he's a big boy with a lt of muscle and very long sharp claws)

post #23 of 63
If the flea meds have cut down her scabs to 0-20%,I would say that's a pretty good indicator of the problem. Allergies can be residual and also just one flea bite can cause a flare up.

I would also discontinue flea collars if you already haven't, they usually do more harm than good. agree.gif
post #24 of 63

What was the medication called that they gave you for your cat please My Poor Tigger had a huge one between his eye and ear As I was Doctoring this really nasty sore that he ripped into and is still trying to heal after a month of me putting  hydrocortisone  spray for itching Pet type on him I have noticed the scabs all around his neck ears and face Bless his heart I will hear him when he scratches ones that hurt His Meows go from a regular meowowowow to a MEOWROROROR like it really is painful to scratch but he does it anyway He did not have this til a few weeks ago I have had him sense he was a kitten Im on disability so cant afford no big vet bill for them really not to Know He does not have Any Flees We dont have them in My Home He has always eaten just one type of food Never nothing new So I cant figure what it could be 

post #25 of 63

I just joined after researching online and finding this thread.


My long haired tabby named Dolly was originally a feral living outside my apartment before I adopted her in October 2012, along with a tuxedo named Wren. Back in May I had a flea infestation and found Dolly to be the one who might have had most connectivity with the fleas due to dry white scab build up on the neck, head, and chin and scratching more often than Wren.


Dolly seems to have FAD and is allergic to any off the counter medicines. She started throwing up when I first started using drops and collars on her, so I'm now going to stop using off the counter for her and feed her a bland diet.


Before I get her checked by a vet, is there anything else I can do to help control her FAD?

post #26 of 63

I have had discussions with some verts over the years and one vet even suggested that the constituency of the item referred to was nothing more than bicarbonate of soda. But i have used a product called Thornit. My cats are 'indoor cats' and i have no doubt that sometimes maybe they might like to venture out but it isn't possible from here. Fleas are not an issue. Pollen, they all enjoyed the balcony at our last flat and the problem with scabs only flared up once and fortunately with one cat. I applied Thronit powder directly onto the scab. I have found that it dries the scabs up quicker and that the cat is obviously so much more happy fairly soon after applying too. I hope this may help.
post #27 of 63

Correction: Thornit.

post #28 of 63



My cat appears to have exactly the same problem (scabs around the back of the neck, patchy hair loss, recently started to loose weight) that you described and photographed previously.  I live on a remote island where there is no real veterinary service.  Please, can you tell me what your can'ts problem was and how you solved it?  Many sincere thanks!

Kaen's momma 

post #29 of 63

I also agree that the dosage of 1 oz/cat pound is in dire error.


A web search says 3/4 teaspoon is dosage for a 22lb child.


My kitty is 12lbs. and 12oz of benedryl would probably result in a grave consequences.

post #30 of 63

I have the same problem too.  And my mom now  has a flea infested house thanks to me, so I still get bitten by fleas but the medicine I take kills them right after they bite me.  

My scabs have  improved since I had a medicated flea bathe and the medicine.  My mom had to give it too me in a syringe hehe  Next time I will know better and run and hide.

I was lost when my new mom found me and very skinny  so it was not her fault   I had fleas.  

I have had a very usual life  according the  doctor.  More about  that later  if I don't  get better  from all  the other  things  not right with me and I need your help :)


OH NEVER  give your beloved  pets any medicine you can  get over the counter  without asking the   vet  "IT"   could poison them!

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