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Eosinophilic granuloma complex

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Eosinophilic granuloma complex describes an inflammatory skin disease in cats that is characterized by three forms of skin lesions: indolent ulcers, eosinophilic granulomas, and eosinophilic plaques.  All three forms contain many eosinophils, which are common inflammatory cells associated with allergic and parasitic diseases.  The exact cause of feline eosinophilic granuloma complex is not known, but allergic and hypersensitivity responses are involved in many cases.  Genetics may also have a role.

Lesions of eosinophilic granuloma complex can appear anywhere in cats.  Indolent ulcers are most commonly found on the lips, particularly on the upper lips.  They range from small and mild to large and ulcerated in appearance. The ulcerated tissue can appear tender, red, and shiny, and it can deform the lip.  Eosinophilic granulomas are common in younger cats, and they can appear as swollen, non-itchy nodules in the mouth and throat or on the face, chin, legs, and paw pads.  Eosinophilic plaques are raised, round, hairless, fleshy, and itchy, and they are most common on the belly, inner thighs of the back legs, and the throat.

Diagnosis is usually based on the cat's history and physical examination and on microscopic examination of a lesion.  Lip ulcers are quite characteristic, but for lesions located in the mouth or elsewhere on the skin, a biopsy may be recommended for confirmation and to rule out other conditions.  Blood tests can also be useful to identify eosinophils in the circulation or the presence of inflammation.

Corticosteroid medications are often used for treatment, but lesions frequently return, requiring a longer course of therapy.  Lesions are sometimes removed by surgery or freezing.  Diagnostic evaluation for allergies and appropriate parasite control are both important in successful treatment.

Q&A

What is eosinophilic granuloma complex?

Eosinophilic granuloma complex is an inflammatory skin disease in cats.

What types of skin problems are associated with this condition?

This condition can show up in three forms: (1) indolent ulcers most commonly found on the upper lip, (2) swollen non-itchy nodules in the mouth and throat, or on the face, chin, legs, and paw pads, or (3) raised, round, hairless, fleshy, and itchy plaques that are most common on the belly, inner thighs, and throat.


What causes this condition?

The exact cause of feline eosinophilic granuloma complex is not known, but allergic and hypersensitivity responses are involved in many cases.  Genetics may also have a role.

How is this condition treated?

Corticosteroid medications are often used for treatment, but a long course of therapy is often needed to prevent recurrence.  Lesions can sometimes be removed by surgery or freezing. 

Credit: Written and reviewed by John A. Bukowski, DVM, MPH, PhDand Susan E. Aiello, DVM, ELS
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