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Cat Mange (Feline Scabies)

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.

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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.

WebMD Veterinary Reference from "Cat Owner's Home Veterinary Handbook"

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