Understanding Acral Lick Dermatitis In Cats

Acral lick dermatitis is an inflammatory skin condition that can cause ulceration and reddening of the skin around the back of the paw or between the toes. The condition can affect cats regardless of breed or age, and there are a number of potential causes that need to be considered when diagnosing and treating this condition. Here's an overview of the causes, symptoms, diagnosis and treatment approach for acral lick dermatitis in cats:

Causes And Symptoms

Acral lick dermatitis can be caused by bacterial or fungal infections, hormone imbalances, mites, skin allergies or localised trauma. The condition can be difficult to treat, as the cause really needs to be established for your vet to prescribe the correct medication, and establishing the cause can be a lengthy process.

Symptoms of acral lick dermatitis include chewing or excessively licking the affected paw, localised hair loss and small red bumps. The skin on the paw may crack and bleed, and your cat may appear to have a sore foot when walking. Inflammation around the foot can also allow bacteria to enter your cat's bloodstream, which may cause a secondary bacterial infection that causes further swelling or pus to develop at the site of any lesions.

Diagnosis And Treatment Approach

In addition to physically examining the affected area, your vet will take details of any additional symptoms or behavioural changes your cat has displayed. A blood sample will be collected to check for hormonal imbalances, and skin scrapings will be collected from the affected area to check for the presence of a bacterial or fungal infection. Additionally, your cat may undergo allergy testing to check if their skin reacts to environmental triggers, such as dust or mould spores.

Treatment for acral lick dermatitis is dependent on the underlying cause. Fungal and bacterial infections can be treated with oral antibiotics and topical antifungals, while hormonal imbalances may require your cat to take medication that either artificially boosts their levels of certain hormones or limits the production of certain hormones. Medication to alter hormone levels will typically have to be taken for the rest of your cat's life. If your cat is reacting to an environmental allergen, you may need to make changes to their living conditions, such as vacuuming more often or ensuring their bed is not situated in a high humidity area of your home that's prone to condensation or mould spots.

If your cat has any of the symptoms associated with acral lick dermatitis, take them to a local vet surgery as soon as possible to prevent unnecessary suffering.