August 2008 Issue

Understand Skin Disorders

While most of the conditions are readily treatable, some can be life-threatening. Here's why.

The function of your catís skin extends well beyond its role as the matrix for the animalís lustrous haircoat. In a healthy feline, the skin also works, for example, as a barrier against invasion by harmful microorganisms. It serves as a watertight seal, retaining an animalís body fluids and preventing dehydration. And it insulates an animalís internal organs against the outside worldís extremes of heat and cold. Despite its normally durable structure, however, every catís skin is subject to a wide array of disorders, most of which are minor and readily treatable. But some untreated skin conditions can rapidly progress to a serious, even lethal, stage, with systemic implications. Considering the dangerous potential of virtually any untreated skin condition, William H. Miller Jr., VMD, a professor of dermatology at Cornell Universityís College of Veterinary Medicine, strongly urges cat owners to practice what he terms "preventive maintenance." Keep an eye out, he advises, for any suspicious scratching or hair loss that might suggest the presence of a parasitic, bacterial or fungal infection. Take note of any skin wounds, growths or swollen areas on the skin, no matter how inconsequential they may seem. And seek the counsel of a veterinary dermatologist if any such suspicious signs appear.

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