Cat Notoedric Mange
Veterinarian Reviewed on January 5, 2008 by Dr. Janice Huntingford
Notoedric mange is caused by parasitic mites, and is colloquially known as “feline scabies.” Cats infected by the mites usually develop hair loss because of the excessive scratching, particularly on the head and neck. The mites are transmitted through direct contact from cat to cat, and do not require a vector such as fleas. Outdoor cats are especially at risk, although it is possible to contract the infection from boarding facilities or veterinary practices. The infection can also be transmitted to other pets such as dogs and rabbits, and even to humans. As such, when one animal in the house is diagnosed with notoedric mange, it is sometimes necessary to treat all members of the household. If untreated, the condition will spread to the cat’s entire body, creating patches of bald skin that are in turn susceptible to secondary infections.
Symptoms and Diagnosis
The infection usually starts on the edge of the ears, and rapidly spreads to the face and neck. It can also appear on the lower abdomen and the feet. The affected skin becomes thickened, wrinkled, and crusty. The animal will excessively scratch the affected areas because of the intense itching, causing further skin irritation. Lymph nodes may become enlarged in severe cases where secondary infections are present.
The symptoms are usually characteristic enough for a diagnosis to be made. Skin scraping and direct observation of mites can be used to confirm the diagnosis.
Notoedric mange can be treated via lime sulphur baths or dips of Amitraz. It is recommended that long-haired cats be shaved or clipped first before bathing. The medicated baths should be done weekly, and the full course of treatment may last for 6 to 7 weeks. Recently a drug called ivermectin has been used with some success in treating notoedric mange. Ivermectin can be given via injection, which is advantageous because of the common aversion to baths in cats. Revolution, a brand of heartworm and flea control medicine, is also shown to have some effect against notoedric mange. However, use of both ivermectin and Revolution to treat notoedric mange is considered off-label use and should be done under close supervision of a veterinarian. It should also be noted that products used to treat dog scabies are generally not safe to use in cats, since cats are more sensitive to the dosage of insecticides than dogs.
Keeping cats indoors and good sanitary practices are usually effective to prevent notoedric mange. This infection is also considered regional, and is relatively rare outside of its range.
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Janice Huntingford, DVM, has been in veterinary practice for over 30 years and has founded two veterinary clinics since receiving her Doctor of Veterinary Medicine at the Ontario Veterinary College, University of Guelph. She has studied extensively in both conventional and holistic modalities. Ask Dr. Jan