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Mange in cats is actually an uncommon condition. If you’ve happened to notice your cat scratching incessantly but do not seem to have fleas, your cat may have mange. A case of mange on your hands is not a comforting thought, but there is really nothing to worry about especially if you catch it early. With the right treatment, mange can be easily resolved.
Photo by Ferenc Horvath on Unsplash
Mange refers to a skin disease caused by the proliferation of mites. While it’s one of the most common conditions that affect dogs, mange is actually quite rare in cats. Mange mites are less than 1mm in size and cannot be seen with the naked eye. They are parasitic and can cause mild to severe skin infections if they proliferate.
It is actually not unusual to find some mange mites living in your cat’s skin and hair. However, if your cat is undernourished or has an immune system that is compromised, the mites will be able to increase in number and cause an unpleasant case of mange.
There are a number of mite species. Common mite species are the Demodex Cati also known as ‘black mange’ and Scabies Sarcoptes, which is known as ‘red mange’. While some mites are more contagious than others, all mites will cause skin issues if there is an infestation.
As mentioned above, mange is caused by tiny mites that proliferate and burrow into your cat’s skin. Mites can be transmitted to your cat if it has been in contact with other infected animals. Your cat may also ‘catch’ mites if it touches an object that has been contaminated with these microscopic bugs.
The following are the different types of mange caused by different mite species:
Sarcoptic mange is caused by the Sarcoptes scabiei mite. This mite is extremely contagious, easily spreading to other animals through contact. It can also spread to humans.
Symptoms of sarcoptic mange include frantic scratching which causes hair loss. Your cat’s skin will also become crusty and flaky and this may lead to secondary bacterial infections.
Demodectic mange is caused by the Demodex canis mite. These mites do not usually bother your cat unless its immune system is somehow compromised. In fact, it is quite normal to find these mites living on a healthy cat’s skin.
Symptoms of demodectic mange include oily, crusty skin and skin inflammation. You will also notice patch hair loss around your cat’s neck, chin, face and eyelids.
Cheyletiellosis is caused by the Cheyletiella blakei mite. They are also known as ‘walking dandruff’ because these mites look like dandruff - small, white flakes on your cat’s skin that can move.
Walking dandruff can be transmitted to other animals as well as to humans. These mites will cause your cat to suffer from intense itching. It will also develop small, red bumps on its skin.
Notoedric mange, which is also known as feline scabies, is caused by the Notoedres cati mite. These mites are spread from cat to cat when the animals come into contact.
Cats who have feline scabies will experience severe itching. Hair loss will start from the face and neck area and spreads to the rest of its body if it is not given the appropriate treatment.
Otodectic mange is caused by the Otodectes cynotis mite. These mites love your cat’s ears and are also known as ear mites. They will infest the external ear of your kitty.
Cats who have ear mites will suffer from itching in the ears. To relieve the itching, your cat will rub its ears and shake its head. If left untreated, ear mites will cause ear canal infection.
Signs of mange usually occur about a week after your cat has been exposed to the mites that cause it. These symptoms will get worse if it is not properly treated. Signs and symptoms of mange include:
If you suspect that your cat has mange, the best course of action is to head to the vet immediately. This is also because the signs and symptoms of mange are similar to many other skin conditions.
Your vet may take some skin scrapings to be analyzed under a microscope to determine if there are indeed mites present. However, when mites have burrowed deep under the skin, skin scrapings might be inconclusive. If this is so, your vet may conduct a full physical examination on your cat and rely on the other signs and symptoms that you cat is exhibiting.
Once an accurate diagnosis is made, proper treatment will ensure a quick and smooth recovery for your cat.
The treatment prescribed for mange will depend on the type of mite on your cat as well as how severe the mange is based on the symptoms that your cat develops.
The treatment regimen can range from topical creams, medicated dips and shampoos, to injectable drugs. Your vet may also prescribe soothing sprays to help with the itching. If your cat has an infection from all the scratching, antibiotics are most probably needed.
While treatment is usually not complicated, cats may find it rather unsettling. Most felines do not like water and giving your cat a bath with medicated shampoo is easier said than done.
Besides this, your vet may also recommend that you isolate your cat if it has contagious mites. This is because the mites can easily spread from animal to animal.
Do make sure to consult your vet before giving your cat over the counter medications or products. Some products may not work and others may not be safe for you kitty. Check with your vet to see if the products you use are safe for cats to ensure that other health issues do not arise.
Photo by Tucker Good on Unsplash
As the saying goes, prevention is better than cure. Here are a few things you can do to prevent mange in cats.
Sarcoptic mange caused by Sarcoptes scabiei can spread to humans. This mite causes scabies in humans.
Fortunately, scabies is a condition that is easily treated with topical creams. The chances of humans contracting scabies from their feline pet is also quite low. Nonetheless, if you feel itchy and can see ‘track marks’ on your skin caused by the mites, head to the doctor immediately as it can easily spread from one person to another.
Mange can seem like a scary disease but luckily, with the proper treatment and care, your cat will be all better in no time. If you suspect a mite infestation, head to the vet. Your vet will be able to prescribe the most effective treatment as well as give you advice on how to keep it from spreading to other animals and family members.
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