Folliculitis in Cats – Causes, Symptoms and Treatment


Folliculitis in cats

What is folliculitis?

Folliculitis is an inflammation or infection of the hair follicles that is characterised by the presence of red bumps on your cat’s skin. The most common areas to be affected are the head (particularly the chin) and the neck and the base of the tail.

Folliculitis is an inflammation or infection of the hair follicles that is characterised by the presence of red bumps on your cat’s skin. The most common areas to be affected are the head (particularly the chin) and the neck and the base of the tail.

The condition occurs when bacteria, which normally reside on the skin invade the hair follicle, usually due to damage caused by itching, scratching or inflammation. Feline acne, allergic dermatitis, mites, metabolic disorders, flea bite allergy and stud tail can both lead to folliculitis in the cat.

Folliculitis may be primary or secondary. Most cases of folliculitis in cats are secondary to an underlying condition (see above). The most common bacteria found in feline folliculitis is Pasteurella, Streptococci, and Malassezia.

What are the signs of folliculitis in cats?

  • Red or pus-filled papules on around one or more hair follicles.
  • Small fissures (splits or cracks) or ulcers may occur in more severe cases.
  • Thinning or bald patches may occur in the affected area.
  • If feline acne is present, the follicles may contain blackheads, with surrounding skin red and inflamed.
  • Itchiness. Your cat may frequently scratch and rub the affected area.
  • Localised lymph node swelling may occur.
  • Pain.

How is folliculitis diagnosed?

Your veterinarian will carefully examine your cat’s skin and obtain a medical history from you. In most cases, diagnosis can be made by examination alone. He may need to rule out other possible causes such as ringworm, eosinophilic granuloma, and cancer. These may include:

  • Skin scrapings and fungal/bacterial culture.
  • Cytological examination (evaluation of cells from the affected area).
  • If an allergy is suspected, a patch test may be given, this exposes your cat to multiple “allergens” (common substances which can cause allergies), and the skin is then evaluated for redness/swelling to a particular allergen.
  • Complete blood count, biochemical profile, and urinalysis may also be recommended to evaluate the overall health of your cat and check for possible systemic disorders.

Treating folliculitis in cats: 

Finding the underlying cause, and treating if possible.

  • If acne is suspected, switching from plastic to glass or ceramic food bowls. Food and water bowls should be thoroughly washed out daily. The skin should be cleaned with a topical preparation such as hydrogen peroxide, iodine (diluted to the colour of weak tea), or Epsom salts.
  • If an allergy is a cause, removing the allergen if possible. Common allergens include plants, food, chemicals, soaps, and detergents.
  • Medicated shampoos or topical preparations to help dry up the pustules and relieve itching.
  • Antibiotic therapy for 2-4 weeks.
  • Topical glucocorticoids may be prescribed to reduce inflammation and itchiness.

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