lumps on cat's skin

Cats are affectionate creatures (albeit on their own terms) and when Fluffy demands that scratch under her chin or a stroke down her back, you may come across a lump, bump, or even some crusts. The fastidious nature of cats means that what you’ve found isn’t likely to be foreign material stuck in her fur, but actually some changes within the skin itself. MiDOG Next-Gen Sequencing Technology may be appropriate in assisting with a diagnosis, but first, let’s discuss the types of skin lesions you may find.

Identifying the Cat’s Skin Bump

First off, “bumps” on Kitty’s skin can be divided into three categories: swellings, masses, and crusts. Identifying which category Kitty’s lesions fall into will lead your veterinarian to what is called a differential diagnosis. This is a list of the potential underlying causes for the changes you’re witnessing in your furry friend’s skin. For example, the list below shows the most common causes for each “bump” type:

Swellings (pockets of material under the skin):

  • Abscess (pus)
  • Seroma (serum)
  • Hematoma (blood)

Masses (nodular lesions):

  • Neoplasia – malignant (cancerous) vs benign (non-cancerous)
  • Cyst (glandular material)
  • Granulomatous lesion (chronic inflammation)
  • Papilloma (wart)

Crusts (scabs):

  • Dermatitis – usually associated with allergies to fleas, the environment, or food
  • Pyoderma (bacterial skin infection)
  • Sarcoptic mange (scabies)
  • Ear mites
  • Ringworm (fungal infection)

When Should You Be Concerned?

Any changes in your cat’s skin warrants a trip to the veterinarian, but only a sick cat who is lethargic, painful, inappetent, or feverish makes it an emergency visit. Otherwise, the next available appointment should suffice. Be prepared to advise your veterinarian whether Kitty is biting, scratching, or over grooming. Let the doctor know if you’ve seen any changes to the lesion(s) since you first noticed it and whether Kitty herself notices it at all, too. Prompt attention by your veterinarian is warranted if Kitty is exhibiting any of the following symptoms:

  • A nodule that has increased visibly in size within the span of 3 months
  • Any nodule >/= 1cm
  • Scratching or biting herself (if intense enough to cause bleeding, this graduates to urgent care / emergency)
  • Head shaking
  • Inflammation
  • Alopecia (fur loss, balding)
  • A fluctuant swelling with or without discomfort
  • Scabs and crusts

lumps and bumps on a cat's skin

Close-up of cat infected with ringworm

Obtaining A Diagnosis

Fluffy’s history and physical examination will narrow down the possibilities significantly. For example, if Fluffy is a kitten with crusts recently adopted from a rescue group or shelter, it will dictate that an infectious or parasitic cause is at the top of the list. Ringworm, ear mites, and mange spread easily with close contact and kittens are often housed in groups. Or if Kitty is an outdoor cat with a fever and lethargy, an abscess will be the number one rule out for a swelling. Cats frequently fight amongst themselves when adventuring outdoors and this pocket of infection often occurs after a puncture wound from a claw or tooth.

At times, differentiating between an abscess, seroma, or cyst can be challenging. Swellings are typically aspirated by your veterinarian with a needle and syringe to visualize the type of fluid present. If the appearance is atypical or Fluffy’s history is vague, the color and consistency of the fluid may not be enough to establish a diagnosis. Along with fluid analysis sent to the lab, diagnostic testing such as MiDOG Next-Gen Sequencing (NGS) Technology is useful in determining whether a bacterial component is or is not present in fluid sampled from this type of lesion. Identifying a bacterial presence will result in the appropriate antibiotic use to clear the infection as quickly as possible.

Furry friends with crusts will often have a test performed called a skin scrape. Crusts are scraped off and viewed under a microscope to identify if mites are present. A similar test is done with ear debri if an ear infection is present. Crusts, flakes, and alopecia also warrant evaluating the lesions with an ultraviolet light looking for evidence of ringworm. This test is only accurate for 50% of these fungal cases, however, so is not appropriate as a stand alone test if negative. NGS Technology is capable of differentiating between fungal and bacterial infections in a single stand alone test and is a useful tool in guiding your veterinarian to their diagnosis. This is superior to the “gold standard” culture and sensitivity test that focuses primarily on identifying bacteria alone.

In addition to sampling a swelling with a needle and syringe, a similar technique can be used for nodules to obtain cells for cytology. Cells are smeared onto a slide and evaluated under a microscope in the hopes of identifying the type of lesion. If warranted by the behavior or size of the mass, surgical removal and biopsy may also be necessary.

Treatment For Your Cat’s Skin Bump

The long list of changes that are possible in your fur baby’s skin makes the treatment list just as variable. Your veterinarian will advise you on the appropriate treatment course, but the below list will prepare you for what you can possibly expect:

  • Small nodules, cysts, hematomas, or papillomas = watchful waiting
  • Larger or fast growing nodules = cytology or surgical removal / biopsy
  • Seroma = surgical correction to decrease the size of the subcutaneous space (under the skin)
  • Abscess = antibiotics +/- surgery
  • Environmental allergies = steroids
  • Food allergy (suspected) = hypoallergenic feeding trial x 8-10 weeks
  • Granuloma = combination of steroids and antibiotics
  • Pyoderma = antibiotics
  • Ringworm = antifungal products
  • Mites = anti-parasiticides

As you can see, there are many possibilities for changes in a cat’s skin and paying close attention to your kitty’s demeanor, activities, and physical well being will allow you to identify them early on. Simply snuggling and petting your furry friend can be part of examining her for any changes that may alert you to a problem. And, of course, she will likely enjoy the experience and demand it anyway. She is, after all, a cat.

The MiDOG All-in-One Microbial Test utilizes NGS technology to detect and quantify microbial DNA through untargeted and comprehensive sequencing and quantitative comparisons to reference databases. The MiDOG NGS technology provides a useful opportunity to shed light on the microbial makeup of your cat’s skin for clinical application. The MiDOG microbial test is grounded on scientific research that provides veterinarians DNA evidence for the guided treatment of feline skin infections. A MiDOG microbial test provides the technologies for the accurate identification of all microorganisms within a pet’s sample, independent of culturing.

Find out if your vet uses MiDOG before you book your next appointment!


Categories: Cats, Next-Gen DNA Sequencing Technology, Skin Health, Veterinary Dermatology

animal diagnostics

Validated by Veterinarians

“Clients expect their veterinarians to stay up to date on all matters that affect the health and well being of their non-human family members. The current technique that we have used to determine the presence and antibiotic sensitivity of organisms causing disease in our pets is over a century old.

With the emergence of dangerous antibacterial resistance, it is critical that veterinarians are able to offer laser focused diagnostics and treatment. MiDog enables us to offer care that exceeds the typical standard of care.”

Bernadine Cruz, DVM, Laguna Hills Animal Hospital Laguna Woods, CA

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Michael Morgan, DVMQuail Animal Hospital, Tustin, CA

“The MiDOG All-in-One Test is amazing, I would use it instead of culture and sensitivity.  Such rapid and detailed results, I will reach for MiDOG before culture next time!

Thank you very much MiDOG, for sharing the opportunity to try your technology.”

Martha Smith-Blackmore, DVM, President of Forensic Veterinary Investigations, LLC – Boston, MA

The MiDOG All-in-One Microbial Test is our new gold standard of pathogen identification. The results are so accurate and valuable – especially with assessing both bacterial and fungal infections with the same sample.

Thank you MiDOG!”

Kathy Wentworth, DVM, Diplomate ABVP Canine and Feline Practice – PetPoint Medical Center, Irvine, CA

“The MiDOG staff was extremely helpful and supportive.”

Cathy Curtis, DVM – London, UK

“I have had great results using the MiDOG® Test. Compared to traditional culture tests, I am better able to target the treatment for dogs because the MiDOG® Test is so sensitive that it identifies all pathogens including bacteria and fungi, as well as antibiotic sensitivity.

The cost and turnaround time are about the same as a culture test, but I get much more data. The test has great performance and I believe the NGS technology will be a game changer for veterinarians treating dogs with lesions or other infections.”

Michael Kavanagh, DVM, Practice owner – Saddleback Animal Hospital, Tustin, CA

“It’s helpful to have an NGS spectrum because it gives you a broader insight of what’s happening and what might be going on.”

Richard Harvey BVSc DVD DipECVD PhD FRSB FRCVS – European Specialist in Veterinary Dermatology – Head of Dermatology, Willows Veterinary Centre & Referral Service – Solihull, England UK

“I have been using MiDog for over 4 years now and exclusively as my test of choice for all cultures for 3 years.  It is so great to submit a culture and feel confident there will be a result when it comes back, especially for urine cultures.  The reports were intimidating at first because they contain so much information.  After the first few, I am now quickly able to glance over it and pick out the highlights.  I can then come back later and pour over all the details.  I have been extremely pleased with my patients’ results using the test as well.  I don’t envision ever going back to traditional culture and susceptibilities again.”

Brian M. Urmson, DVM, Columbiana Veterinary Associates

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Dr. Melissa Giese, Chicago Exotics Animal Hospital

“MiDOG’s diagnostic approach offers the unique ability to identify pathogens that evade traditional culture and sensitivity testing. I have found that adding a molecular based testing approach in the form of Next Generation Sequencing (NGS) from MiDOG to my routine diagnostic cultures can be extremely helpful in the identification and diagnosis of uncommon pathogens in veterinary medicine.”

Dr. Wayne Rosenkrantz, Animal Dermatology Clinic – Tustin

“She [Dr. Krumbeck] really did a great job of making complicated concepts accessible and demonstrating the value of your services. I’m really looking forward to working with MiDOG on my research project!”

Dr. Yaicha Peters, Animal Dermatology Clinic – San Diego

“As a proud collaborator with MiDOG, I deeply appreciate their dedication to fostering partnerships between industry and veterinary experts. Their commitment to enhancing diagnostic quality for veterinarians is commendable. In my experience, their support has been invaluable, earning them a ‘Double A+, Triple Star’ rating. Their assistance has been faultless, contributing significantly to the success of my projects and studies. I eagerly anticipate our continued collaboration.”

Dr. Richard Harvey, BVSc DVD DipECVD PhD FRSB FRCVS; European Specialist in Veterinary Dermatology

“We’re seeing that, if we prescribe too many antibiotics or they’re taken too frequently, animals are developing inappropriate or pathogenic strains of bacteria. We’re also seeing that our antibiotics are just not working against them anymore… It’s a good example of why we need better diagnostic testing, like MiDOG, so that we’re selecting the correct antibiotic every time our patients have an infection.”

Dr. Alissa Rexo, DVM, CVA, DACVD, Mid-Atlantic Veterinary Dermatology

“The NGS technique as offered by MiDOG is wonderful because pathogens like Melissococcus plutonius, for example, are difficult to grow and keep alive in the laboratory. A standard laboratory cannot truly examine or even properly diagnose this pathogen in bee hives at this time. But with NGS, we can reliably diagnose it.”

Dr. Joerg Mayer, Entomologist and Microbiologist at the University of Georgia

“For me, as a clinician and as a researcher, I see the immense value in the product [the All-in-One Test]. I have had great success using MiDOG clinically, including identifying Mycoplasma in a 24 year old pigeon, a Nannizziopsis spp in a ball python from a large pet distributor, Mycoplasma and Fusobacterium necrophorum co-infection in a peacock, and to identify an abnormal gut GI in a technician’s dog that tested negative for everything else (but we were able to establish what was abnormal, and work toward fixing it).”

Dr. Jeremy Rayl – Veterinarian, Block House Creek Animal Hospital, Cedar Park, Texas