April: "Basil" - 17 year old Russian Blue cross.
I was called to see Basil because he had lost fur on his chin and his chin became red, swollen and very sore to the touch.
The skin of the chin was discharging a lot of dirty looking material which Basil had continually tried to remove as a result ending up with this discharge all over his paws.
When I examined Basil carefully I noticed the following abnormalities in addition to the chin problem described:
- There were a lot of black specks in Basil's fur around the chin area. These look like flea dirt but are actually an indication of a skin infection.
- The lymph nodes underneath Basil's jaw were very swollen, indicating that they were reacting to an infectious or inflammatory process.
These findings are characteristic for a condition known as "Feline Acne" which involves the formation of blackheads on the chin and surrounding areas as a result of sebaceous secretions clogging up the hair follicles. This then leads to infection and inflammation and can result in hairloss, swelling, itching and pain - as seen in Basil.
Sometimes a predisposing factor can be found and these include plastic food bowls which harbour a lot of bacteria that is deposited onto the cat's skin as the cat eats.
In order to help Basil overcome this severe infection we started him on potent antibiotic therapy and while results were initially slow, he improved drastically over the four weeks of treatment.
Unfortunately the infection relapsed soon after the antibiotic course was completed and despite thorough checks for potential complicating factors such as a fungal or parasitic infection, evidence of these could not be found.
Once again, Basil drastically improved on antibiotics but any attempts to cease treatment resulted in a relapse.
It was then that serious alarm bells started to ring regarding Basil's immune function and we decided to test him for Feline AIDS which is caused by FIV (Feline Immunodeficiency Virus). After a small blood test in the home and a five minute wait we had the result - positive!
As Basil suffers from a progressive destruction of his immune system due to the virus we now understand that we must continue antibiotics in order to help him stay on top of this infection. We have also added a topical antibacterial wash to keep the area nice and clean. Currently he is doing very well and we hope that this continues for a long time to come.
Feline AIDS is spread via saliva and the main way in which cats contract the disease is through cat fights if any biting occurs. This is the reason that we are currently recommending that owners whose cats spend time outdoors consider vaccinating them against this devastating disease.