Cats can become infected by several different types of ectoparasitic mites that cause an infectious and normally itchy skin disorder commonly called “mange.” One of the more frequent forms of mites infesting domestic cats is the highly contagious Notoedres cati, which causes notoedric mange, also called “feline scabies.” Cheyletiella blakei and Otodectes cynotis are other external parasitic mites that can affect cats, which develop disease by contact with infected symptomatic or sometimes asymptomatic carrier cats.
Treating Mange in Cats
The most popular mange treatments are medicated dips and shampoos, other topical treatments, injectable drugs and/or or oral medication. The precise treatment protocol will be determined by the attending veterinarian and will depend upon which type of mite is the particular culprit. Medicated lime-sulfur dips need to be administered several times at 10 to 14 day intervals and usually are quite effective in cats. Amitraz is another medication that has been used in cats but it is not approved for this use and has been known to cause anorexia, depression and diarrhea in this species. Selamectin and ivermectin have also been used in cats, although they too are not approved for use in cats. Sudden death has been reported in some kittens treated with ivermectin.
If the parasite has caused secondary bacterial infections, antibiotic therapy is usually indicated. Anti-inflammatories and analgesics (pain medications) may be prescribed as well.
Old time remedies that are sometimes still used today in an attempt to treat mange usually fail miserably, and they can exacerbate damage to the cat’s skin. Some of these inappropriate remedies include rubbing motor oil or vegetable oil onto the cat’s skin, applying gasoline to the cat’s coat or repeatedly bathing the animal. None of these remedies kill or remove the mites, as they burrow and live in the deeper layers of skin. Motor oil and gasoline obviously can irritate the cat’s skin and, if ingested, can severely danger its health. Vegetable oil and repeated bathing are simply irritating and ineffective.
Because most mites are highly contagious to other cats (and often to dogs and to humans as well), other animals living in the household should also be treated even if they are asymptomatic, to prevent repeated reinfection.
If your cat is diagnosed with mites, you should follow the treatment plan prescribed by your veterinarian to the letter. A single missed dose or treatment can botch the entire treatment protocol and require therapy to start over from the beginning. The cat’s living environment should be treated as well. Owners of affected cats should pay attention to whether they develop any raised or itchy rashes, especially on their arms and trunk. If these symptoms develop, it is best to consult with a personal physician.