Felis ISSN 2398-2950

Therapeutics: skin

Contributor(s): Maggie Fisher, Linda Horspool, Rosanna Marsella, David Scarff, C Taylor

Dermatological vehicles

  • Skin disease can be treated topically and/or systemically. The choice between topical and systemic therapy, or combination of these, is usually dependent on the diagnosis. For example, topical treatment is the preferred route for flea infestations and for surface pyoderma. On the other hand, systemic therapy is usually used for superficial and deep pyoderma   Deep pyoderma   and for atopic dermatitis   Skin: atopic dermatitis  . Topical and systemic therapy may be combined, such as in the treatment of flea allergic dermatitis   Flea bite hypersensitivity  .
  • Agents used in the treatment of skin disease include anti-allergic or anti-inflammatory drugs, eg corticosteroids   Therapeutics: glucocorticoids  , antimicrobials   Therapeutics: antimicrobial drug   (antibacterials, antifungals), antiparasitics   Therapeutics: parasiticide   and immunomodulators   Therapeutics: immunological preparation  .
    * Indicates product not licensed for this use in this species.

Dermatological vehicles

  • Vehicle and active ingredient are important: vehicle affects skin hydration, may have anti-inflammatory effect, may aid penetration.
  • Prepare area for treatment by clipping and cleaning: stress importance of this to owners.
  • Licking can be minimized by applying treatment before a meal or exercise, or using Elizabethan type collars.


  • Ready-to-use liquid formulations in individual pipette for spot-on administration.
  • Usually contain an ectoparasiticide (eg fipronil   Fipronil  , imidacloprid   Imidacloprid  ) or endectocide (selamectin   Selamectin  ), sometimes in combination.
  • Animals should usually not be handled until application site is completely dry.
  • Skin reactions, such as hair loss, redness and itching, develop rarely at application site.


  • Emulsion of oil and water in approximately equal proportions.
  • Readily removed.
    Do not use in exudative lesions.
  • Penetrates stratum corneum.
  • Easier to apply than ointments.
  • Aqueous cream.(Emulsifying ointment 30% + phenoxyethanol 1% in water - soothes and hydrates.) Use as emollient on dry, scaling lesions - frequent applications.


  • Greasy, semisolid, formulated using hydrophobic, hydrophilic or water-emulsifying bases, more occlusive than creams.
  • Effective barrier against moisture loss.
  • Use: emollient - chronic dry lesions.
    Do not use in exudative conditions.
  • May not be suitable for household pets.
  • Emulsifying ointment. (Emulsifying wax 30%, white soft paraffin 50%, liquid paraffin 20%.)
  • Hydrous ointment.(Oily cream: dried magnesium sulfate 0.5%, phenoxyethanol 1%, wool alcohols ointment 50% in water.)
  • Hydrous wool fat - lanolin.(Wool fat 50% in water.)
  • White soft paraffin.(White petroleum jelly.) 
  • Yellow soft paraffin.(Yellow petroleum jelly.)

Dusting powders

  • Absorb moisture   →   reduces friction, discourages bacterial growth.
    Do not use on wet raw surfaces or   →   crusting and caking.


  • Usually aqueous solutions or suspensions.
  • Easy to apply (less friction) on inflamed unbroken skin. Can sting on application.


  • Stiff preparations - high proportion of finely powdered solids.
  • Less occlusive than ointments.
  • Use: circumscribed, ulcerated lesions.
  • Compound zinc paste.(Zinc oxide 25%, starch 25%, white soft paraffin 50%) - emollient, soothing and protective - mild astringent.
  • Magnesium sulfate paste.(Dried magnesium sulfate, after drying, 45 g, phenol 500 mg, anhydrous glycerol 55 g) - minor skin infections.


  • Semisolid aqueous solutions.
  • Liquefies upon contact with the skin.
  • Easy to apply, not greasy, miscible with water, wash off easily.
  • Use: large hairy areas.


  • Pressurized aerosols or spraying units.
  • May avoid irritation caused by application of creams and ointments (although noise of spray may   →   nervousness).


  • Use:
    • To clean skin and remove crusts and debris.
    • As vehicle for ectoparasiticides, antipruritic and keratolytic drugs.
    • Skin disinfecting and cleansing preparations.
  • Formulated to reduce irritant effects, usually well-tolerated.
  • Effective rinsing is essential.

Anti-allergic and inflammatories

This article is available in full to registered subscribers

Sign up now to purchase a 30 day trial, or Login


This article is available in full to registered subscribers

Sign up now to purchase a 30 day trial, or Login

Anti-infective skin preparations

This article is available in full to registered subscribers

Sign up now to purchase a 30 day trial, or Login

Keratolytic and keratoplastic agents

This article is available in full to registered subscribers

Sign up now to purchase a 30 day trial, or Login

Disinfectants and cleansers

This article is available in full to registered subscribers

Sign up now to purchase a 30 day trial, or Login

Further Reading


Refereed papers

  • Recent references from PubMed and VetMedResource.
  • Murphy M, Ball C A, Gross S (2009) Comparative in vivo adulticidal activity of a topical dinotefuran versus an imidacloprid-based formulation against cat fleas (Ctenocephalides felis) on cats. Vet Ther 10 (1-2), 9-16 PubMed.
  • Wisselink M A, Willemse T (2009) The efficacy of cyclosporine A in cat with presumed atopic dermatitis: a double blind, randomised prednisolone-controlled study. Vet J 180 (1), 55-59 PubMed.
  • Schnieder T, Wolken S, Mencke N (2008) Comparative efficacy of imidacloprid, selamectin, fipronil-(S)-methoprene, and metaflumizone against cats experimentally infested with Ctenocephalides felis. Vet Ther (3), 176-183 PubMed.
  • Ahman S, Perrins N, Bond R (2007) Treatment of Malassezia pachydermatitis-associated seborrhoeic dermatitis in Devon Rex cats with itraconazole--a pilot study. Vet Dermatol 18 (3), 171-174 PubMed.
  • Gutzwiller M E, Brachelente C, Taglinger K et al (2007) Feline herpes dermatitis treated with interferon omega. Vet Dermatol 18 (1), 50-54 PubMed.
  • Noli C, Scarampella F (2006) Prospective open pilot study on the use of ciclosporin for feline allergic skin disease. JSAP 47 (8), 434-438 PubMed.
  • Wildermuth B E, Griffin C E, Rosenkrantz W S (2006) Feline pyoderma therapy. Clin Tech Small Anim Pract 21 (3), 150-156 PubMed.
  • Dickin S K, McTier T L, Murphy M G et al (2003) Efficacy of selamectin in the treatment and control of clinical signs of flea allergy dermatitis in dogs and cats experimentally infested with fleas. JAVMA 223 (5), 639-644 PubMed.
  • Medleau L, Hnilica K A, Lower K et al (2002) Effect of topical application of fipronil in cats with flea allergic dermatitis. JAVMA 221 (2), 254-257 PubMed.