Ichthyosis (Fish Scale Disease) in Cats

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Overview of Feline Ichthyosis

Ichthyosis, also known as “Fish Scale Disease”, is a rare skin condition seen in cats. One of the so-called “scaling” (or “keratinization”) disorders characterized by an abnormality of the top layer of the skin, this disease is inherited as an autosomal recessive trait. It’s referred to by the unsavory moniker of “fish scale” disease due to its near-accurate description of the condition.

A variety of versions of ichthyosis are said to exist. Each form of the disease may take on different patterns in terms of progression of symptoms and location of lesions.

What to Watch For

Affected cats suffer a thickening of the skin. Rough skin under a greasy, scaly haircoat is typical of ichthyosis. Some severely affected cats can experience painful swelling of the footpads, in particular. Animals are born with this condition and experience a worsening of symptoms with age.

Diagnosis of Fish Scale Disease in Cats

Diagnosis is achieved via history and clinical signs found on the physical examination. In addition, basic skin testing (scrapings, impression smears, etc.) and skin biopsy are recommended to confirm he diagnosis and exclude other diseases.

Treatment of Fish Scale Disease in Cats

Treatment is undertaken symptomatically. Examples of treatments may include:

  • Supplements (oral fatty acids, for example)
  • Medicated shampoos
  • Topical phytosphingosine and propylene glycol sprays
  • In some isolated instances, glucocorticoids and oral cyclosporine have been used with success to alleviate symptoms somewhat.

Ultimately, however, this disease is considered highly untreatable.

Prevention of Ichthyosis Disease

All affected pets and their first-degree relatives should not be included in breeding programs. Apart from this basic concession, there is no other known means of prevention.

Veterinary Cost

The cost of diagnosis and treatment tends to remain low for most cases due to the inability of even the most expensive drugs to improve an ichthyosis-affected pet’s condition. $30 to $50 in shampoos and other topicals comprise the typical monthly expense for this condition. Oral antimicrobials to treat secondary skin infections may sometimes be necessary. In these cases, another $20 to $100 every month may be factored into the expense.

Pet insurance can cover conditions including such as Ichthyosis Disease.

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