If your cat always seems to have a greasy spot at the base of his tail, it could be a chronic cat skin condition known as stud tail. The medical term for this condition is tail gland hyperplasia or supracaudal gland hyperplasia. The supracaudal gland is a specialized gland located at the base of the tail that secretes sebum, an oily substance that lubricates the coat, keeping it soft and shiny. Sometimes, the glands that produce sebum go into overdrive and secrete far too much of the oil. This excess leads to a greasy skin and coat.
In a cat with stud tail, “matting of hair, crusts and oily secretions are found at the base of the tail,” says Aimee Simpson, VMD, medical director of VCA Cat Hospital of Philadelphia.
“In severe cases, a bacterial infection of the skin can also occur, which may result in pustules and draining tracts.” It can also cause blackheads on the skin and hair loss. Stud tail is often accompanied by an unpleasant odor.
The term “stud tail” might make it sound as if this condition only occurs in male cats, but any cat can be affected. “I think it’s a misconception that this condition only occurs in tomcats (intact males),” Dr. Simpson says. “In fact, neutered males and female cats can also be affected.”
If you suspect you cat has stud tail, schedule a vet visit. “Definitive diagnosis is with skin biopsy, but many cases are diagnosed based on physical exam,” Dr. Simpson explains. “Other causes of skin disease like ringworm and demodectic mange should also be ruled out with fungal culture and skin scrapings.”
Other conditions that can masquerade as stud tail include a flea infestation or a wound. The base of the tail is a common place for cats to get bitten by another cat (interestingly, this location is a telltale sign that the cat doing the biting was the winner, since the other cat likely turned tail and fled).
If your vet rules out other causes for the greasy skin and diagnoses stud tail, treatment may include special shampoos or medication. “Topical treatment with medicated shampoos containing benzoyl peroxide, sulfur, salicylic acid or phytosphingosine can be used for uncomplicated cases,” Dr. Simpson explains. “Antibiotics are indicated for secondary bacterial infections diagnosed with skin cytology and culture.” If stud tail is diagnosed in an unneutered male cat, neutering might help prevent the condition from reoccurring in the future.
Tell us: Has your cat ever had stud tail?
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