Skin diseases in cats come in all shapes, textures and colors. Some of the more remarkable, both common and rare, are worth
a closer look, says David Senter, DVM, Dipl. ACVD, from the Veterinary Allergy and Dermatology Clinic in Overland Park, Kan.
Senter made the comments at the recently concluded CVC in Kansas City.
( FLICKR RF/GETTY IMAGES)
The lesions (crusts and pustules) of this most common immune-mediated skin disease in cats generally appear initially on the
face and pinnae but characteristically cause hyperkeratosis of the footpads with a purulent/casceous discharge crusting around
the claw beds. Pemphigus foliaceus is diagnosed by identifying acantholytic keratocytes on cytologic examination of skin biopsy
samples. Treatment involves immunosuppressive doses of corticosteroids plus or minus the use of chlorambucil, cyclosporine
or gold salt injections. After remission is achieved, the goal is to slowly transition to safer, nonsteroidal maintenance
protocols. This condition can mimic chin acne and has a wide range of severity, often complicating diagnosis.
Feline plasma cell dermatitis
While the pathogenesis of this condition is unknown, it is thought to be immune-mediated. Plasma cells infiltrate the footpads,
resulting in large swellings. Generally, more than one pad is affected, and while affected cats may begin to chew on them,
they are often nonpainful. The condition is frequently associated with concurrent feline immunodeficiency virus (FIV) infection.
It can often be diagnosed by physical examination alone and can be confirmed with skin biopsy. Immunosuppressive doses of
corticosteroids (slowly tapered) are warranted and effective in most cases. Treatment with doxycycline is also beneficial,
but response is slow. For recalcitrant cases, gold salt injections or surgical excision of the pad may be necessary.
This is a "fat cat" disease resulting in pale-yellow or white papules, nodules or plaques with surrounding erythema. The lesions
form over body prominences and on the trunk, head and neck, but can occur over other areas of the body as well. Foamy macrophages
and multinucleate histiocytic giant cells are seen within the dermis histopathologically. Impression smears or fine-needle
aspirates from larger papules can contain these foamy macrophages as well. Complete evaluation of these cases should include
evaluating cholesterol and triglyceride concentrations on a serum chemistry profile as well as screening for diabetes mellitus.
Treatment is focused on reducing body fat. Diabetes should be controlled, and patients should be fed a low-fat diet. Resolution
in most cases is achieved within 30 days.
Bowen's disease/squamous cell carcinoma in situ
Affecting older cats, this disease is thought to be a malignant transformation of viral papillomas causing lesions that are
confined to the epidermis. The lesions are most commonly observed on the head, neck, dorsal thorax ventrum and legs, characterized
by hyperkeratotic, pigmented macules and plaques. Shaving the cat in the regions of the lesions is advised to avoid missing
early, mild lesions. Chronic lesions may have protruding keratin horns or may be ulcerated. Studies have shown that some cats
can develop invasive squamous cell carcinomas in focal areas with this condition.
The disease is diagnosed based on results of a skin biopsy. The ideal treatment modality for squamous cell carcinoma in situ
is a carbon dioxide laser. Complete ablation of the lesions is highly effective in many cases. Additionally, topical 5% imiquimod
(applications in both human and equine medicine against lesions caused by papilloma viruses) can also be effective. Early
detection and treatment are critical while lesions are confined to the epidermis.