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Mange in cats

Black and brown cat

Mange is cats is very contagious and should be treated quickly.

© Pixabay

Mange in cats is quite a contagious health condition. Your cat might have feline mange if she is losing fur and has black or brown scabby spots around her ears.

By Dawn Parrish

Updated on the 23/03/2021, 14:31

While mange is rarely life threatening, it can cause extreme itchiness for your cat, which can lead to severe self-trauma and cause an impact on your cat’s welfare. As a result, it’s important to get your cat swift treatment for mange, or even better, regularly apply mange preventative treatment.

What is mange in cats?

Although this is one of the more common health issues to affect canines, it’s not frequently seen in cats. Several varied species of mite cause this skin disease. In general, your cat has some mange mites that live routinely on the hair follicles and cat’s skin. However, other mites are considered to be pathogenic parasites, which will cause severe skin infections if they breed.

There are two main types of mange mites that are parasites: Notoedres and Cheyletiella are common types that infest the skin of the cat. This often results in a very itchy skin condition that causes intense irritation. Otodectes mites can also be discovered in the ear area.

Can cats get mange?

Mange mites on felines are very contagious and can easily pass from one cat to another. A cat will generally scratch at her skin as it is so irritating. This can break the surface of the skin which then result in a scab. 

Causes of mange in cats

Most mange parasite mites burrow into the cat’s skin to feed. This in itself causes intense itching but by sucking the blood, they can also cause an allergic reaction in some cats. While mange is the collective name for all of these parasites, a cat may be irritated by one of these species:

  • Notoedric mange – or feline scabies (different from canine scabies) 
  • Cheyletiella mange – also nicknamed “walking dandruff”
  • Otodectic mange – affecting mainly the ear
  • Demodectic mange – found commonly on the skin and usually only causes issues if the immune system is poor

Symptoms of mange in cats

First of all, it’s usually quite easy to spot if your cat has mange, however other conditions can also look similar to mange.

She will have patchy-looking skin with scabs on the skin underneath and possible ridges on her head fur. Other symptoms of mange are weight loss and brown marks on the ears and the nose. Your cat may have a black or brown discharge from her ear which looks like coffee grounds. She will probably have patchy fur with scabs on her neck or head. Certainly, she will itch and scratch her body, could lose her appetite and can also be dehydrated.

Diagnosis of mange in cats

A microscopic skin examination, including hair plucks and skin scrapings can identify the problem. Her overall health will also be checked to ensure she isn’t dehydrated or lost weight. If mites are discovered, treatment is usually simple, but can require several months of medication.

Treatment of mange

Once diagnosed, don’t panic because mange mites can very easily be eradicated with medications. A course of treatment usually requires anti-parasitic medication (such as an injection or spot-on pipette), as well as an antibacterial shampoo to control secondary infections of the traumatised skin.  It can take up to six to eight weeks to totally eradicate the mite problem.

How to treat mange in feral cats?

Treating mange in feral cats is difficult as it’s important for a cat to get the correct dose of treatment. As a result, placing treatment in food means that a cat may only eat a small mouthful and receive a fraction of a dose. Underdosing can lead to drug resistance in the mite population and cause more of a problem then there was originally.

The best method of treating mange in feral cats is to trap, treat and release. That way the cat can be weighed, and an accurate dose can be given.

Is mange contagious to humans?

While mites which cause mange in cats much prefer feasting on cats, they can also bite humans too. If you think you might have been bitten by mites and have sore or itchy skin, consult your doctor to investigate your skin condition.

Prognosis

Certainly, if mange in felines is spotted, diagnosed and treated in a timely manner, the prognosis is quite good. However, a lack of timely treatment can cause your cat to suffer. Remember that some allergies have similar symptoms to cat mange, especially “flea allergic dermatitis” which is one of the most common feline skin conditions. If your cat is suffering from hair loss, get a medical appraisal to eliminate mange. You also need to rule out other possibilities.

As mange in cats is caused by a parasite, it is imperative to ensure that the environment the cat lives in, is clean. Dispose of, or wash all bedding in hot water. Vacuum carpets and the cat’s bed. Likewise, it’s a good idea to vacuum the sofa, rugs and any other upholstery. Continue with this ongoing cleaning regime while the cat is being treated for mites and also for a while afterwards. You can also purchase mite house spray which can eradicate mites in your house.

Finally, remember that mange is contagious and could result in other animals or even you becoming bitten by the mites. So, it’s important to get on top of the problem sooner rather than later.

Reviewed by Dr Jo de Klerk, BVetMed (Hons) MScTAH MRCVS