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Mange and Scabies in Cats

ASPCA logoRarely diagnosed in cats but one of the most common conditions affecting dogs, mange is a skin disease caused by several species of tiny mites. Some mange mites are normal residents of a cat’s skin and hair follicles, while others are considered parasites. All mites can cause mild to severe skin infections if they proliferate.

What Causes Mange in Cats?

Feline sarcoptic mange (Sarcoptes scabei) is uncommon. Sometimes referred to as scabies, sarcoptic mange is caused by mites that are oval-shaped, light-colored and microscopic.

Notedric mange (Notredes cats) is also sometimes referred to as feline scabies, because the disease is similar to sarcoptic mange in dogs. These mites cause severe skin infections in cats, generally starting on the face and ears and spreading to the rest of the body, and are highly contagious.

Demodectic mange (caused by Demodex cati or Demodex gatoi) is not considered contagious, nor is it common in cats. The cigar-shaped mites are normal residents of a healthy cat’s skin and hair follicles. While there are still different theories about interspecies transmission of Demodex mites, there is no question that mites cannot be transmitted to cats from dogs-who are most often affected. Furthermore, disease only occurs when the mites are present in large numbers, which could be a sign of a compromised immune system.

What Are the General Symptoms of Mange in Cats?

Mange can cause restlessness, intense itching and frantic scratching, symptoms that generally appear one week after exposure. It also typically results in patchy hair loss and a moth-eaten appearance to the skin. The most commonly affected areas are a cat’s ears and face, but it can spread to the entire body.

When humans are in contact with animals who have mange, the mites can cause a rash of red bumps, similar to mosquito bites. Most cat mange mite infections in humans are self-limiting, as the mites cannot complete their life cycle off their original feline host, but the condition is extremely uncomfortable.

What Should I Do If My Cat Has Mange?

Take your cat to a veterinarian, who will perform skin scrapings and confirm the presence of mites with a microscope. It can be difficult to identify mange mites if they’re buried deep in the skin, so your vet may rely on clinical signs or your pet’s history to make a final diagnosis.

Are Certain Cats Prone to Mange?

Exceptionally malnourished cats or those with compromised immune systems are prone to mange, which often appears as a secondary condition to a more severe disorder.

How Is Mange Treated?

The first step in the treatment of mange is isolating your cat to prevent the condition from affecting other pets and humans. Your vet will prescribe medication to kill the mites. Depending on the type of mange and your cat, medication may be applied topically, by injection, or by shampoo and dip. You vet may also prescribe an antibacterial shampoo or anti-inflammatories and antibiotics to treat skin issues and ease inflammation. Although mites are quickly killed, results are usually seen after a month of treatment.

Please note, some insecticides, collars and dips that are labeled safe for dogs can be toxic to cats and some should not be repeated frequently, so check with your vet before beginning any treatment program for mange.

WebMD Veterinary Reference from the ASPCA

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