What Is Miliary Eczema in Cats?

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What Is Miliary Eczema in Cats?
Miliary eczema causes itching and hair loss. (Thinkstock/Comstock/Getty Images)

A condition known as miliary dermatitis or eczema, sometimes mistakenly referred to as "military" dermatitis, causes crusty, scabby lesions on the skin of cats that look like millet seeds. These lesions cause itching, hair loss and excessive grooming due to the discomfort of this skin condition. This disease has a variety of underlying medical causes that require veterinary diagnosis and treatment.

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Feline miliary dermatitis or eczema is not, in itself, a medical condition, rather it is a set of symptoms that result from an underlying medical problem. Food allergies, bacterial, fungal or yeast infections of the skin, and external parasites can all lead to miliary eczema, according to PetEducation.com. Certain autoimmune diseases, hormonal imbalances or nutritional deficiencies can also lead to this skin condition. A cat who suffers from this condition has multiple, small, crusty raised bumps that cause severe itching. These lesions may cover a small or large portion of the cat's body. Continued scratching causes increased redness and leads to hair loss or open sores.


To diagnose the cause of miliary eczema, a veterinarian gives the cat a thorough physical examination. Lesions primarily around the base of the tail may indicate a flea infestation, while those around the face usually indicate mites, according to PetEducation.com. The veterinarian will look through the cat's fur for any external parasites and rub a dull scalpel over the skin to take a skin scraping for examination under a microscope. If the doctor suspects ringworm, a type of fungal infection, he will take a few hairs from the area to culture in a laboratory for 10 to 14 days for proper identification.


After determining the underlying cause of the miliary eczema, the veterinarian will put the cat on a regimen of medication to treat it. As many as eight out of 10 cases of this skin condition result from flea bite dermatitis, according to Pawprints & Purrs. To eradicate the fleas, the owner should apply topical flea treatment monthly. Some of these treatments also kill other external parasites such as mites or lice. The veterinarian may prescribe an antifungal or antibiotic cream, shampoo or dip to treat skin infections. Ringworm requires immediate veterinary care because it can also spread to humans in the home.

Food Allergies and Alternative Treatment

If a veterinarian finds no underlying cause for the cat's miliary eczema, he may suggest a hypoallergenic diet for a period of two to three months. If the cat's skin condition improves, the doctor will switch the cat back to its former diet. If the cat's condition worsens when fed the prior food, the cat most likely has a food allergy and will benefit from switching to a hypoallergenic diet permanently. In addition to prescription treatments, shampoos containing colloidal oatmeal and dietary supplements containing essential fatty acids can help moisturise and provide relief for the cat's itchy skin.

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