Our most ferocious and beloved HoneyPot has seasonal feline atopic dermatitis, an inhalant allergy. It displays on her skin as either crust or hard black gunk, causing itching, pain, or discomfort, depending. We spent hundreds of dollars in veterinary and related costs, and endless hours of research in an attempt to figure out what was wrong with her and how to treat it. In an effort to provide others with a faster diagnosis and a less expensive solution, I present this informative blog post. Obviously there’s no guarantee your cat has seasonal feline atopic dermatitis, but if s/he does, you’re in the right place!
Beware: photos of hideous Cat Crust will make you go “Ewwwwwww!”
At first we figured the thing at the base of HoneyPot’s ear was a pimple, or dry skin, or a scratch from play-fighting with Max. She was scratching her ear incessantly, and it was red, warm to the touch. Soon a crust developed along the top edge of her ear, then the tip of her nose. Then a spot on her leg, then on her side. Itchy and warm. It spread quickly. Sometimes it was so bad patches were like fried chicken to the touch. HoneyPot was not happy.
During this period we had various vets check her out. They tested for food allergies, gave her cortisone shots, ointments, anti-histamines. She responded to the cortisone for a while but it didn’t last, and nothing else had an effect. She’s not the kind of cat you can easily hold down and put ointment on, so we only tried that a few times.
After the infamous and expensive rabbit and pea diet proved ’twas not food she was allergic to, the feline dermatologist concluded that it was an inhalant allergy, and described the endless testing required to isolate the specific allergen. The crust disappeared in the spring, so we figured we were cool and forgot about it. HoneyPot was eight, and had never had these kinds of issues before, so it seemed possible the allergy was to something we’d not realized we’d bought that we were no longer using.
The following fall, I noticed she was limping. One of her front paws seemed to have something stuck in it—hardened black gunk surrounded one of the claws and was caked in the webbing. She had a little crust on her ear, but it was nothing compared to the inflamed paw. Vets said maybe it was a nail bed infection, or milary dermatitis, that her toe might require amputation, or perhaps it was just stress. Whatever it was, it made walking painful, and we took more tests, x-rays, pills, antibiotics, Fel-I-Way air spray for stress. Nothing helped. She did her best to try to keep the paw clean, but the way the black crud hardened around the toe pad and nail, it was just impossible. And she would barely let us touch it, never mind try to clean it.
When this apparently unrelated symptom disappeared in the spring, it occurred to me that the foot gunk and the skin crust could be part of the same thing, and that the thing was seasonal. I searched the internet anew: cat crust, hard cat skin, feline dermatitis, messed up cat toe, scabby cat, feline eczema, And finally I found it, a diagnosis that encompassed both the crust and the toe: seasonal feline atopic dermatitis–I had examined the possibility before, but had not been able to find anything that mentioned the toe issue. And it turned out we had already tried all the suggested treatments!
It was then that I got even angrier at my veterinary office. They were supposed to provide holistic care, but I realized too late that they did not do this unless asked. Appalled, I decided to go the non-vet route. I contacted the local holistic pet supply store and asked them what they would suggest. They suggested Antronex, an anti-allergy pill made for humans that contains the herbal supplement yakriton.
I started with two a day, as they suggested due to her 14 lb stature, mixed into her food, and within a month the crust and gunk began to soften so she and I could begin to remove it. She lost a much-needed four pounds, and became generally more energetic. Within two months, she was recovered and I lowered the dose to one pill a day.
The following fall was the real test. We had lowered the dosage during the summer to half a pill, so we went back to 1 pill a day. She did not have any symptoms all winter long. Was it cured? Just gone? Did the treatment work? The Antronex was clearly helping keep her system in balance, so we lowered the dose again in summer and continued into this past winter. As she hadn’t had symptoms by April, we got a little lazy with dosing her, thinking maybe it had passed. And then suddenly there it was, both the ear crust and the toe thing, back in full force at the same time! For the past couple weeks we’ve upped her does to two a day, and it’s starting to get better. It takes a few weeks, but this stuff really works. I consider this recent relapse proof that the Antronex is the right treatment for HoneyPot. Note that it is not expensive and easy to find on the internet. Remember when searching, that it is not a product made specifically for cats.
That is the story of HoneyPot’s crust. I hope this tale is of benefit to your precious feline personage. And I really hope some vets read it too—I coulda done with one of them figuring it out sooner, or suggesting a healthier, holistic cure.
Update, 5/26/12: The Crust is Gone! We are back to 1 Antronex pill a day and do not ever plan to discontinue!
Update 8/23/12: Due to laziness, and the fact that she’s been symptom-free through past summers, we stopped giving her the pills for a couple months. She was fine until last week, when I saw some toe crust. So we’re back to one pill a day. Did I mention you need to keep up the treatment? Even if the HoneyPot isn’t symptomatic, the Antronex continues to have a positive effect on her in general. How many times do I have to remind myself of that? Jesus.