My Cat Has Neck Scabs

CatChannel veterinary expert Arnold Plotnick, DVM, talks about the reasons cats develop neck scabs.

By Arnold Plotnick, DVM | Posted: July 9, 2010, 3 a.m. EDT

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Q: My cat has thick scabs on her neck. Could this be from rough play with our other kitten? The scabs seem to be taking a while to heal.

A: Scabs around the head and neck are common in cats, and many people mistakenly believe that they come from rough play with other cats in the house. This is not usually the case. The most likely cause is some type of allergy, the most common being flea allergy, food allergy or allergy to something inhaled in the environment. 

Take your cat to your veterinarian for evaluation. She will carefully evaluate your cat’s coat for fleas or flea dirt. Food allergy causes itching around the head and face, and may cause scabbing on the neck. Feeding a hypoallergenic diet — a diet containing a protein source that your cat has never encountered, such as rabbit, venison or duck — is one way to determine whether food allergy is the culprit. A definitive diagnosis may require several weeks of feeding, so patience is required before food allergy can truly be ruled in or out. 

If flea allergy and food allergy are ruled out, the next most likely cause would be atopy — allergies to something inhaled, such as pollen or house-dust mites. This can be definitively diagnosed by a veterinary dermatologist by doing skin testing, however, most people opt for a trial course of anti-inflammatory medication to see if the itching and scabbiness resolve. Have your vet take a look. This is a common problem and is usually easily treated.

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My Cat Has Neck Scabs

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Reader Comments

Paula    International

3/27/2016 7:26:48 AM

Changing Ruby's food was definitely the culprit. Back to her Royal Canine food. I never should have switched. Oh...and to help with the skin irritation...a daily rub of good ole vaseline at her neck had the skin pink and healthy in no time:)

Elaine    Antioch, CA

1/17/2015 7:51:36 AM

Many Thanks for this forum. Good counsel. We just changed from "weight management" food (full of fillers, etc.) to a no grain. How long on changed diet before we could expect to see results? Thanks

Phyllis    Summerfield,, FL

8/21/2014 8:20:01 PM

My 3 cats started having scabs around their neck and on the back of head. After reading this site i realized i "upgraded" their food. So i bought the old food (special kitty dry) that they were raised on, and scabs were "hard" to find, after a couple weeks. Weeks 3-4 i "cant" find them. Thanks for helping. Meow!

Paul    euclid, OH

9/10/2013 1:13:16 PM

very good article. I will try the change in food. I had cats some years ago and used lamb

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