Mange in Cats

Leigh Burkett, DVM
Written by:
Published: November 23, 2021
Mange in Cats

What Is Mange in Cats?

If your cat has skin or ear symptoms, they should be seen by your regular veterinarian within a few days, unless there are other symptoms such as lethargy, failure to eat or drink, excessive eating or drinking, or extreme discomfort. These cases warrant an examination as soon as possible (within 24 hours). This may require a visit to a veterinary emergency clinic.

Mange is a general term that refers to an infestation of parasitic mites. In cats, mange can be caused by: 

  • Ear mites: (Otodectes cyanotis) are common parasites that cause a generally mild parasitic infection in cats. They are highly contagious and can be found on other parts of your cat’s body besides their ears. 

  • Cheyletiella mites: This is also called walking dandruff. Cheyletiella mites are highly contagious and can infect other animals and humans. They feed on skin dander and secretions.

  • Demodex mites: Three types of microscopic mites can infect a cat’s skin, hair follicles, or ear canals, depending on the type. One species of Demodex mites (Demodex gatoi) is contagious to other cats, but not to dogs.

  • Scabies mites: Feline scabies is not common and is caused by two types of mites: Notoedres cati (feline scabies) and Sarcoptes scabiei (canine scabies). Both species of mites are highly contagious. 

  • Chiggers: Only the larvae of these mites are parasitic and feed on a cat for less than a week before they fall off. Chiggers belong to the Trombiculidae family. Chiggers are not contagious from other animals.

  • Fur mites: Lynx acarus radovskyi are rare and seen in more tropical regions like Hawaii or the Florida Keys. They live on the shafts of a cat’s hair, typically near the hind end. Fur mites are not highly contagious between cats.

Symptoms of Mange in Cats

All types of mange in cats share some the common symptom of itching or scratching, and most also share the symptoms of sores/crusty skin and hair loss.

Here are some more specific symptoms based on the type of mange:

Ear Mites

  • Scratching the ears, head, and neck 

  • Frequent headshaking

  • Dry, crumbly black or red-brown discharge in the ear canal 

If ear mites spread to other areas of the body, you may see:

  • Crusting and scaling of the skin on the neck, rump, and tail

  • Generalized itching and scratching

Walking Dandruff

  • Excessive skin scaling and dandruff, generally along the back

  • Itching

  • Overgrooming

  • Hair loss

  • Crusty sores

  • Demodex Mites

  • Depending on the species of Demodex mite, you may see:

  • Itching/overgrooming

  • Hair loss

  • Scaly or crusty skin or sores

  • Debris/irritation in the ear

  • Headshaking

  • Redness

Feline Scabies

  • Crusty, itchy edges of the ears

  • Intense itching

  • Flaking skin

  • Hair loss

  • Inflammation

Chiggers

  • Itching

  • Redness

  • Crusty skin or lesions

  • Hair loss

Fur Mites

  • Rarely, dull, dry, rust-colored, or salt-and-pepper coat

  • Itchiness, also very rare 

  • Hair loss, especially the rear half of the body

Causes of Mange in Cats

The different types of mange in cats are caused by different species of mites:

Ear mites: Otodectes cyanotis

Walking dandruff: Cheyletiella mites

Demodex: Demodex gatoi, Demodex cati, or a rare, unnamed species of Demodex

Feline scabies: Notoedres cati (feline scabies) and Sarcoptes scabiei (canine scabies) 

Chiggers: Larval mites in the Trombiculidae family

Fur mites: Lynx acarus radovskyi
 

How Vets Diagnose Mange in Cats

The main way for veterinarians to diagnose a type of mange is by using a microscope to examine a sample taken from your cat:

  • Ear mites: Your vet may be able to spot ear mites with an otoscope while examining your cat’s ears. If your vet can’t see mites through the otoscope, they may swab the ear(s) and examine the debris under a microscope to confirm.

  • Walking dandruff: Your vet will examine your cat’s fur debris, skin flakes, skin scrapings, or plucked hairs under a microscope to diagnose walking dandruff. These mites may also be detected through a stool test.

  • Demodex: Demodex gatoi can be diagnosed by skin scrapings, fecal tests, or a positive response to treatment. Demodex cati can be found with deep skin scrapings or through an ear swab under a microscope.

  • Feline scabies: This can be determined by examining skin scrapings under a microscope or through a response to treatment. 

  • Chiggers: Your vet will be able to see small orange specks in your cat’s fur, and they can confirm the diagnosis with skin scrapings under a microscope. 

  • Fur mites: These can be found by examining your cat’s hair under a microscope, as the mites live on the hair shafts.

Treatment for Mange in Cats

These are the various treatments for different types of mange in cats:

Ear Mites

FDA-approved eardrops, such as Acarexx®, MilbeMite®, or Otomite Plus® are used to treat ear mites in cats.

Walking Dandruff

While there is no product that’s licensed specifically to treat walking dandruff in cats, it can be treated with flea and tick medications. All of the other pets in your home must also be treated.

Demodex

You can use the same treatment for all species of Demodex mites: weekly 2% lime sulfur dips over several weeks, or two or more applications of Bravecto® or Revolution Plus®. Treat all other exposed cats as well.

Feline Scabies

Ivermectin injections are the long-standing treatment for feline scabies. And while not approved to treat scabies in cats (because the condition is rare), these flea medications are effective: 

Chiggers

Although not specifically approved for chiggers, most flea and tick control products will get rid of them.

Fur Mites

Most routine flea and tick products can treat fur mites, and you should treat the other pets in your household as well.
 

Recovery and Management of Mange in Cats

In any case of mange in cats, you will need to keep your cat on regular flea and tick medication to prevent future outbreaks. 

Ear Mites: Recovery should be seen in 7-10 days. Keep using Advantage Multi®, Revolution®, or Bravecto® as advised by your veterinarian.

Walking Dandruff: Use flea preventative regularly to prevent this from reoccurring.

Demodex: Your cat may still itch for several weeks after eliminating the mites. Keep your cat on Bravecto® or Revolution Plus®. Any underlying diseases that could be suppressing your cat’s immune system also need to be dealt with.

Feline Scabies: Use Bravecto®, Revolution Plus®, Revolution® or Advantage Multi® on a routine basis to keep it from reoccurring. You should see a response in a few weeks.

Chiggers: This should resolve within a few weeks, and continuing to use flea and tick products should prevent future infestations.

Fur Mites: Keep your pet on flea and tick preventatives.

 

Featured Image: iStock.com/Alikaj2582


 


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