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Pyoderma in Cats

By Karen A. Moriello, DVM, DACVD, Professor of Dermatology, Department of Medical Sciences, School of Veterinary Medicine, University of Wisconsin-Madison
Thomas R. Klei, PhD, Boyd Professor and Associate Dean for Research and Advanced Studies, School of Veterinary Medicine and Louisiana Agriculture Experiment Station, Louisiana State University
David Stiller, MS, PhD, Research Entomologist, Animal Disease Research Unit, U.S. Department of Agriculture, Agricultural Research Service, University of Idaho
Stephen D. White, DVM, DACVD, Professor and Chief of Service, Dermatology, Veterinary Medical Teaching Hospital; Department of Medicine and Epidemiology, School of Veterinary Medicine, University of California, Davis
Michael W. Dryden, DVM, PhD, DACVM, University Distinguished Professor of Veterinary Parasitology, College of Veterinary Medicine, Kansas State University
Carol S. Foil, DVM, MS, DACVD, Professor, Department of Veterinary Clinical Sciences, School of Veterinary Medicine
Paul Gibbs, BVSc, PhD, FRCVS, Professor Emeritus, College of Veterinary Medicine, University of Florida
John E. Lloyd, BS, PhD, Professor Emeritus of Entomology, University of Wyoming
Bernard Mignon, DVM, PhD, DEVPC, Assistant Professor, Faculty of Veterinary Medicine, Department of Infectious and Parasitic Diseases, Parasitology and Parasitic Diseases, University of Liège
Wayne Rosenkrantz, DVM, DACVD,
Patricia A. Talcott, MS, DVM, PhD, DABVT, Associate Professor, Department of Food Science and Toxicology, Holm Research Center, University of Idaho
Alice E. Villalobos, DVM, DPNAP, Director; Director, Animal Oncology Consultation Service; Pawspice
Patricia D. White, DVM, MS, DACVD,

Also see professional content regarding pyoderma.

Pyoderma literally means “pus in the skin” and can be caused by infection, inflammation, or cancer. It is not common in cats.

The most common sign of bacterial pyoderma is excessive scaling, particularly on the back near the tail. Scales are often pierced by hairs. Intact pustules are almost never found. Hair loss leads to small bald patches in affected areas or just excessive scaling. Deep pyoderma in a cat is most commonly seen as either a cat bite abscess or chin acne. Recurrent, nonhealing deep pyoderma in cats can be associated with multisystem disease, such as infection with feline immunodeficiency virus or feline leukemia virus, or atypical mycobacteria.

Diagnosis is based on signs. It is also important to identify any underlying causes. The most common causes include fleas, allergies, and poor grooming. However, any disease that causes itching and self-trauma can trigger a pyoderma. Multiple deep skin scrapings are needed to exclude parasitic infections. Bacterial and fungal cultures may also be done.

The most common causes of a bacterial pyoderma that recurs after treatment include failure to identify an underlying trigger or stopping antibiotics too soon. Thus, it is important to fully follow your veterinarian’s instructions for any medication. Cats often have concurrent bacterial and yeast infections of the skin, and it is not uncommon for your veterinarian to treat both diseases.

Antibiotic treatment is usually prescribed for at least 3 weeks. Longterm, recurrent, or deep pyodermas typically require 8 to 12 weeks or longer to heal completely.

Attention to grooming is also crucial. The hair coat should be clipped in cats with deep pyoderma and a professional grooming is recommended in medium- to longhaired cats. This will remove excessive hair that can trap debris and bacteria and will help grooming. Carefully follow your veterinarian’s instructions regarding grooming.