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Ask a Vet:
I recently adopted a female kitty and she’s been getting these patches on her skin and keeps scratching around her neck and in the back of her ears. I am concerned that this could be contagious or harmful to my other cat and puppy. What should I do?

Skin disease in cats and dogs is a common occurrence and there are multiple potential causes for what you are describing. Contagious causes of hair loss and/or itching can include mites (demodex, scabies) and ringworm (which is actually a fungus and not a worm). These types of skin pathogens are microscopic and can be spread to other animals and even people in the household. Scratching around the head, neck and ears could also be due to ear mites or ear infection. Other potential causes for skin disease include allergies. Common allergies in cats include flea bites, food, and environmental allergens such as pollens, dust mites, and grasses. Even pets that stay indoors have the potential to come into contact with these allergens (including fleas) as they are often carried inside in the air or on your shoes or other clothing. Occasionally cats may also have skin problems because of an overactive immune system (immune mediated skin disease). With any of these causes it is common for them to get skin infections on top of the inciting cause due to scratching, chewing, or licking at their skin and breakdown of the skin’s normal defense mechanisms. Skin infection can include bacteria and/or yeast and add to the itchiness of your pet. It is important that any time a pet has a skin problem that they be evaluated by a veterinarian to determine if it is contagious and what medications are needed to treat or manage the problem. A veterinarian will collect skin samples and evaluate them under the microscope to better evaluate for potential contagious causes or infection. Please make an appointment to have your cat evaluated. In the meantime you should keep the affected cat separate from the other pets in the household, avoid having children or immune compromised individuals have direct contact with her, and wash your hands thoroughly or wear gloves when you do have direct contact with her. You may obtain more information by visiting our website www.tampabayvets.net , clicking on “pet health resources”, clicking on “pet health articles”, then searching for key words such as “allergy” or “mites”.

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