My Cat Has Neck Scabs

CatChannel veterinary expert Arnold Plotnick, DVM, talks about the reasons cats develop neck scabs.

Scabs around the head and neck are common in cats. Via Elizabeth K. Joseph/Flickr

Q:

My cat has thick scabs on her neck. Could this be from rough play with our other kitten? The scabs seem to be taking a while to heal.

A: 

Scabs around the head and neck are common in cats, and many people mistakenly believe that they come from rough play with other cats in the house. This is not usually the case. The most likely cause is some type of allergy, the most common being flea allergy, food allergy or allergy to something inhaled in the environment.

Take your cat to your veterinarian for evaluation. She will carefully evaluate your cat’s coat for fleas or flea dirt. Food allergy causes itching around the head and face, and may cause scabbing on the neck. Feeding a hypoallergenic diet — a diet containing a protein source that your cat has never encountered, such as rabbit, venison or duck — is one way to determine whether food allergy is the culprit. A definitive diagnosis may require several weeks of feeding, so patience is required before food allergy can truly be ruled in or out.

If flea allergy and food allergy are ruled out, the next most likely cause would be atopy — allergies to something inhaled, such as pollen or house-dust mites. This can be definitively diagnosed by a veterinary dermatologist by doing skin testing, however, most people opt for a trial course of anti-inflammatory medication to see if the itching and scabbiness resolve. Have your vet take a look. This is a common problem and is usually easily treated.

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