Help! My Cat’s Sores and Scabs Have Turned to Hair Loss and Black Skin

CatChannel and CAT FANCY veterinary expert Arnold Plotnick, DVM, discusses how to help a Persian cat with seborrhea, which causes darkened, oily skin in cats.

Q: I have a male Persian cat, about 6 months old. When we got him, we were told he had been treated for ringworm. He developed a rash that looked like little insect bites. Our vet tested him and said it wasn’t ringworm, and wasn’t sure what it was.

It began with sores and scabs that, when picked, looked mostly like dandruff. He would lose the hair in that area. Now, a year later, he has lost most of his hair, most of this occurring within the last two or three months. His skin is turning black and has a greasy feel. His ears and skin get dirty very easy. When given a bath the water turns brown. He now attacks his tail to the point he has taken the tip off, and it is bleeding.

He has had antibiotics, a steroid shot, an immune booster and a special shampoo. When this started he was almost 10 pounds. He now weighs 7 pounds. Can you give me any ideas to help him?
A: Persian cats are predisposed to ringworm and, although your cat was tested for ringworm, I’d have him tested again, just to be sure.  

Persian cats are also genetically prone to developing seborrhea, a skin disorder that results in the overproduction of a greasy, oily substance from the skin glands. The inherited form of seborrhea occurs as a primary condition. Cats can also develop seborrhea secondary to an underlying problem, such as allergies, parasites, or fungal infections like ringworm. It sounds like your cat has seborrhea.

A young Persian cat like yours certainly could have the inherited form, but you must rule out an underlying problem first, because the seborrhea may be difficult or impossible to control if you don’t address the underlying problem. Diagnosing the underlying problem might require additional testing, such as bloodwork, a skin scraping, a fungal culture and possibly a skin biopsy. Primary seborrhea cannot be cured, but it can usually be controlled using medicated shampoos and conditioners, and possibly fatty acid or vitamin supplementation. 

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Cats · Lifestyle