Mange is the name you may hear most often, but it is the presence of either demodex or sarcoptic mites that are the actual disease process. Mites burrow into the skin of your cat and dig tunnels under the skin. This is what causes unrelenting itching. Although humans can be affected by mites, there is usually no medical treatment required unless they also have some type of immune deficiency.
Signs and Symptoms
1. Itching which begins around the ears and progresses to the face and neck. It can quickly spread over your cat’s entire body.
2. Self mutilation or Cat Fur-Mowing. The itching is so intense that your cat will scratch until they bleed and some cats have been known to also pull out their own hair.
3. Pustules on the skin. These are the mites burrowing under the skin.
4. Skin becomes crusty and thick
Diagnosis can be made by your veterinarian if you are unsure. Skin scrapings are done, but are not always accurate because a cat can scratch so intensely that they remove the mites. This can lead to secondary infection.
There is a simple test called the “Pinna-Pedal Reflex”. Almost all cats with scabies will respond positively to this test. The ear is scratched and one of the legs will immediately start to move, trying to scratch the area.
There is often a misdiagnosis of Cat Allergies or Cat Skin Disease or contact dermatitis. Prednisone may be prescribed, but it merely relieves the symptoms and does not cure the condition. The reason for this is the fact that the skin scrapings can be unreliable.
Most vets will want to rule out sarcoptic mites before they administer prednisone. There is one chemical that is very effective for this. Ivermectin which has been a popular deworming medicine for many years is also effective against mites. This is also the active ingredient in HeartGuard which is a Cat Heartworms preventative.
Chemicals that will work on dogs can be very lethal to cats. Do not give any of the “normal” treatments to your cat. Consult with your veterinarian before administering treatment to your pet.
Do not treat with used motor oil. This is a common “cure” in some parts of the USA. If your cat licks the oil, they will be ingesting toxins that are from your vehicle. It may cure the mange, but will most probably kill your cat. This is truly a case of the cure being worse than the illness.
Diet also plays an important part in treatment and prevention. A high protein diet may assist in preventing the disease. Omega fatty acids will also be beneficial in this, as well as in treating hot spots and other skin irritations. Caution is the first step. Visit your veterinarian if you are not totally confident of the proper course of treatment.