Does My Cat Have Mange?

CatChannel veterinary expert Arnold Plotnick, DVM, explains feline contagious skin diseases.

Q: I found and took in a Birman cat a couple of months ago who has mange. I know that I need to take him to the veterinarian, but I’d like to be more informed before I visit one. What are some affordable remedies or medications for cat mange?

A: There are two types of mange in cats.

  1. Notoedric mange (also known as feline scabies) is an uncommon but contagious skin disease of cats and kittens. The mite that causes it can also infest other animals, including humans. It is an extremely itchy disease, affecting mainly the face, ears and neck. If not addressed promptly, the skin lesions spread to cover the entire body. The affected skin takes on a thick, crusty, scabby appearance. Cats will scratch the affected areas until they become red, raw and inflamed. Diagnosis is achieved by doing skin scrapings of the crusty areas and observing live mites and eggs under the microscope. Scabies is commonly treated with a drug called ivermectin or selamectin. If a secondary bacterial skin infection has developed, antibiotics may be warranted.
  2. Demodectic mange is a skin disorder that affects both cats and dogs. In cats, demodectic mange is caused by mange mites of the species Demodex cati, or Demodex gatoi. Demodectic mange is much more common in dogs than in cats. All ages and breeds are susceptible; however, Burmese and Siamese cats are at increased risk. Two forms of the disease are possible: the localized form, and the generalized form. The localized form is more common, with symptoms such as hair loss, scaly skin and itching usually limited to the eyelids, head, neck and ears. The generalized form looks similar, but involves the body and legs as well. Cats with generalized demodicosis usually have some sort of underlying immunosuppressive disease, such as feline leukemia virus infection, feline immunodeficiency virus infection or diabetes. In some cases, demodicosis develops after a cat has been on immunosuppressive drugs, such as corticosteroids. A diagnosis is achieved upon microscopic detection of Demodex mites in skin scrapings. Treatment requires medicated baths or dips using lime sulfur. The drug ivermectin, given orally, has been used successfully, as well. All cats in the household should be treated, as the mite is contagious among cats. Antibiotics are occasionally necessary if a secondary bacterial skin infection is present.

Mange in cats is fairly uncommon. If you haven’t taken him to the vet yet, and you’re calling his skin condition “mange” simply because it looks similar to mange in dogs, the chances are that your cat does not have mange. Ringworm, a skin fungus, would be more likely, as would some type of allergic dermatitis. You definitely need to take him to the vet, however, to get a diagnosis and start treatment.

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Cats · Health and Care