Feline scabies is an uncommon skin ailment caused by the head
mite Notoedres cati. The first sign is intense itching about the head and neck,
along with hair loss and the
appearance of bald spots. Due to the incessant scratching, the skin becomes
red, raw, and excoriated. Typically, you will see thick gray to yellow crusts
around the face, neck, and edge of the ears. The condition also may involve the
skin of the paws and genitalia.
In severe or untreated cases the skin forms scabs, crusts, and thickened
wrinkled skin on the head that gives the cat an aged look. With
intense scratching, the wounds become infected.
The retina is a thin, delicate membrane that lines the back of
the eye and is actually an extension of the optic nerve. In a healthy cat, the
retina receives light, processes it, and passes it on to the brain. If the
cells are damaged, it can’t send anything on. In a cat with retinal disease,
the retinal cells are damaged and the eye is no longer able to properly
transmit information regarding the light it receives. The visual image may be
blurred, and part or all of the visual field may be...
Severe itching is caused by female mites tunneling a few millimeters under
the skin to lay their eggs. Mite eggs hatch in 5 to 10 days. The immature mites
develop into adults and begin to lay eggs of their own. The whole cycle takes
three to four weeks. The diagnosis is confirmed by skin scrapings, or, in
difficult cases, by skin biopsy.
Head mange is highly contagious. It is transmitted primarily by direct
animal-to-animal contact. Dogs and even people can be infested, but only for
short periods. Infestation in people produces an itchy skin
condition that resolves spontaneously in two to six weeks, if all mites have
been eliminated from the cat.
The Notoedres mite will reproduce only on cats. It is highly susceptible to
drying and cannot live more than a few days off the host.
Treatment: Clip scabies-affected areas on longhaired cats and bathe the
entire animal in warm water and soap to loosen crusts. Kittens may be dipped or
shampooed but must be dried quickly to prevent chilling. Kill the head mites by
dipping the cat in a 2.5 percent lime sulfur dip weekly. Continue for two weeks
beyond apparent cure. Lime sulfur dips are safe for use on pregnant queens and
kittens over 6 weeks of age. Other cats on the premises should be dipped once a
week for three to four weeks, since they may harbor the mite and act as a
reservoir for reinfestation.
An alternative to dips is selamectin (Revolution), with doses given a month
apart. Ivermectin is also used by some veterinarians.