Thin or Fragile Skin in Cats

Cecilia de Cardenas
Oct 31, 2008
2 min read
Image: Photo Grapher / via Image Bank

Feline Skin Fragility Syndrome in Cats

Feline skin fragility syndrome has many possible causes, but mainly, it is characterized by extremely fragile and often thin skin. This condition tends to occur in aging cats that may have concurrent hyperadrenocorticism (chronic overproduction of steroid hormones in the body), diabetes mellitus, or excessive use of progesterone. A small number of cats have had no biochemical alterations. It is a naturally-occurring disease that tends to be recognized in aged cats, although physician-caused cases have no age predilection. Also, there is no breed or gender predilection associated with the disease.

Symptoms and Types

  • Progressive hair loss (not always present)
  • Weight loss, lusterless coat, poor appetite, lack of energy
  • Skin is thin and tears with normal handling
  • The skin rarely bleeds upon tearing
  • Multiple lacerations (both old and new)
  • Partial to complete hair loss on the body
  • Rat tail, ear folding, pot-belly appearance

Causes

  • Hyperadrenocorticism
  • Physician-caused: secondary to excessive corticosteroid or progestational drug use
  • Diabetes mellitus: rare, unless associated with hyperadrenocorticism
  • Idiopathic (unknown cause) 

Diagnosis

Your veterinarian will want to rule out cutaneous asthenia (a disorder of the connective-tissue), as well as cancer. will need to give a thorough history of your pet's health, onset of symptoms, and possible incidents that might have precipitated this condition, such as whether your cat has been given progestogen. Approximately 80 percent of cats with hyperadrenocorticism will also have diabetes mellitus. Any underlying metabolic disease will also need to be ruled out.

Your veterinarian will perform a thorough physical exam on your pet, including a chemical blood profile, a complete blood count, and a urinalysis. Abdominal ultrasonography, computed tomography (CT) scans, and magnetic resonance imaging may also be useful in diagnosing fragile skin.

Treatment

Many patients are debilitated by this condition and will require supportive care. If the diagnosis is hyperadrenocorticism, surgical removal of one or both of the adrenal glands is the preferred treatment. If the diagnosis is pituitary tumors, radiation therapy, which has had variable success in the treatment of pituitary tumors, may be the recommended treatment. Medication will depend on the underlying cause, and on the treatment plan laid out by your veterinarian. Hyperadrenocorticism will also have associated diabetes. You will need to closely monitor your cat if this is the case, and work closely with your veterinarian on the appropriate adjustments to the insulin treatment in order to prevent hypoglycemia when corticosteroid hormone levels fall.

Living and Management

Patients are often quite debilitated, making any form of treatment risky; close monitoring is required in all cases.

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