Mange is not just a dog thing! Though mange in cats is rare, it does occur. You may have seen it on a stray or feral cat. Mange in cats is an inflammatory skin condition caused by microscopic mites (a spider-like parasite) living on the cat’s skin.
Demodectic Mange in Cats
Demodectic mange is the type of mange that most comes to a person’s mind when the subject of mange is brought up. It can also be called Demodicosis. This type of mange in cats is caused by two different species of Demodex mites. The life span of these mites is fairly short – 20 to 35 days and they will only live while on a host.
Having a few of these mites on the cat’s skin won’t cause any problems, they are considered a normal part of the flora of the skin of many mammals. Normally, a healthy immune system keeps these critters in check. It is when the population of mites gets out of control that symptoms begin to appear. Symptoms can include:
- Persistent scratching
- Hair loss (usually on the eyelids, ears, neck, and flanks)
- Skin lesions
- Scaly skin
- Crusty patches of skin.
Demodex Cati is the more common type of demodectic mange in cats.These mites like to live in the hair follicles of their host. If this sort of mange becomes symptomatic, it could be indicative that the cat has problems with either their immune or metabolic systems (Diabetes, FIV, Feline Leukemia, etc).
Less common is the Demodex Gatoi mite. This sort of mite lives only on the outermost layer of the cat’s skin (stratum corneum) which is made up of dead cells. Unlike Demodex Cati, Demodex Gatoi is not indicative of any other illnesses. However, it is very contagious and can be spread from cat to cat.It is important that if one cat in a multicat household is found to have this type of mange, that all of the cats in the household be treated for it.
Sarcoptic & Notedic Mange
Sarcoptic (Sarcoptes Scabei) and Notedic mange (Notredes Cati) are technically different types of mites, but the illnesses caused by them are often spoken of interchangeably when it comes to cats. Both illnesses present the same symptoms and are treated in the same way.
These types of mange, known as Feline Scabies, are the most common type of mange in cats. Symptoms include persistent scratching, hair loss, thickened, wrinkled skin, and grayish/yellow crusts. Since the scratching can lead to openings in the skin, secondary infections are very possible. If the scabies are left untreated, there may also be swollen lymph nodes.
Both Sarcoptic and Notedic mange are very contagious. They are passed from one cat to another through physical contact. Stray cats are common carriers of scabies. This is another illness for which all cats in the home need to be treated even if only one has symptoms. Blankets, beds, and other materials that the cats are in contact should also be washed or replaced to prevent spreading the mites around.
Scabies can also be transferred to humans! In humans, it will appear as an itchy, red rash with bumps similar to those of mosquito bites. However, scabies is self-resolving in humans because the mites can not complete their life cycle on humans.
Diagnosis & Treatment
If you think that your cat might have any type of mange, consult your veterinarian. The most common way they test for mange is by taking skin scrapings and looking for the mites under a microscope. However, finding the mites can be a bit tricky – many of them get scratched away. It could take several skin scrapings to get a positive diagnosis. Sometimes it is difficult to distinguish between mange and allergies.
According to PetMD, 90% of infections of mange in cats will resolve without any treatment. There aren’t really any products approved to kill the mites that cause mange in cats. DO NOT use products made for dogs on cats! Products made for dogs can make your kitty very sick. Lime-sulfur drips may be used to help give the cat some relief.
As usual, prevention is the best cure. Since mange in cats is often associated with having a compromised immune system, the best thing you can do for your kitty is strengthen their immune system. It is likely that a cat with mange will show improvement as their immune system grows stronger. Just like in humans, the best ways to strengthen your cat’s immune system are:
- Feed them nutritious, species appropriate food. For cats, this means high protein, high moisture, and low carbohydrates.
- Let them get plenty of rest.
- Make sure they are getting appropriate exercise.
- Keep stress levels as low as possible.
- Keep a clean environment.
- Avoid contact with strays and sick kitties.
- Don’t ignore signs of illness.
How do you keep your cat’s immune system strong?
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