What is mange?
This term describes a group of skin conditions caused by parasitic mites that affect cats. The forms include demodex manage (a non-contagious form caused by mites residing in the hair follicles and oil glands of the skin), notoedtric mange or feline scabies (a highly contagious form), sacrcoptic mange (caused by mites that burrow into the skin) and Cheyletiella or “walking dandruff” mange (caused by large mites visible on the skin). Mange in cats is less common than in dogs. Both sarcoptic and Cheyletiella mange can potentially be transmitted to people by direct contact. Elderly, immunocompromised, and infirm people are most at risk for infection.
How does my cat get mange?
In the first few days of life, the mother will transmit Demodectic mites to the kittens. They may not be noted unless there is an abnormality to the immune system. It is a condition most often associated with younger animals, but is also seen in adults usually in conjunction with an immunosuppressive disease, cancer and thyroid conditions, to name a few. For most of the other mites, a cat can transmit it to another cat. Cats who have access to the outdoors are at greater risk than those who live indoors.
How can I tell if my cat has mange?
Your cat will begin to intensely scratch and chew at herself. You may also notice small red bumps on your cat’s chest, abdomen, ears and elbows or crusty sores or bald patches. The type of skin rash depends on the type of mite infestation. Under the microscope, demodectic mites look like cigars. They cause a red, scaly rash that starts on the face or legs but can spread to all over the body. This type of mange is more prevalent in kittens than adult cats. Sarcoptic mites dig into the upper layers of a cat’s skin to lay their eggs and cause itchy, crusty, red bumps and sores. This type can be easily spread from one cat to another by direct contact. Cheyletiella mites are large and can be seen by the naked eye as they migrate across the skin. This type causes an irritating, itchy, scaly rash and can lead to secondary bacterial infections. Keep in mind that the degree of infection can range from mild to severe. Untreated, the condition can escalate to skin lesions, secondary bacterial infections and ulcerations. Your veterinarian can look for mange mites in skin scrapings from the affected areas. Several skin scrapings may be needed because some mites can be very hard to find and need to be examined under a microscope.
What can I do about mange?
Diagnosis is based upon clinical signs and physical examination. A superficial skin scraping may demonstrate the mites. In some cases, an actual skin biopsy may be needed. Once diagnosis is confirmed the aggressiveness of treatment depends upon the severity of the condition. In mild cases, local topical treatment may be sufficient. In more severe cases, medicated shampoos to open and clean out the follicles may be sufficient. In more generalized and severe cases, products to kill the mites will be required. These may be dips, topicals, oral medications, or injectable medications. Most treatments are effective in cats.
Is there anything I can do to prevent my cat from getting mange?
There are presciption flea and tick preventive topical medications that are effective against some mites. Work with your veterinarian to select the brand most appropriate for your cat. Also, regularly clean your cat’s bedding and vacuum your home to prevent re-infestation of mites in your home. Do your best to avoid exposure of your cat to another dog or cat who has mange. However, there is little that can be done to prevent demodex. In older pets, demodex is associated with disease conditions cancer, hormone abnormalities, the use of corticosteroids, and other immunosuppressive products. In younger pets, minimizing stress may be useful.
Are there certain breeds that get mange more often?
Burmese have been identified, but any cat of any breed or age can be affected. Cats living in close contact with affected dogs or cats may be at greater risk for contracting mange.