To several owners this will come as a shock when it does occur, as most are unaware that cats can and do develop mange or scabies.
What is it?
Scabies in cats is also in known by another name; Notoedric mange. It is a highly contagious itchy skin disease that is caused by the infestation of a parasite referred to as Notoedres cati. This is a mange mite that is very similar to the mites that cause sarcoptic mange in dogs. It is extremely dangerous to the overall cat population as it is very easily spread by any type of direct contact with an infected cat. Unlike other types of parasites, however, if they fall off of your cat they will only survive for a few days.
That is the good news. The bad news is that they can live on your cat for their entire lifetime.
Although this parasite primarily affects cats, it can also be spread to dogs as well as to humans. In cats, it can cause severe itching that is referred to as purities. Once infected, if it is severe enough, your cat will become so distressed that they will basically self-mutilate their own skin by both chewing and scratching. This disease usually starts at the base of your cats ear where it rapidly spreads up the ear pinna, around the face area, and then down the neck.
However, it does not just stop there. In some cases, the lesions can spread all the way to your cats feet and anal areas as a result of normal grooming processes.
Life-cycle of these mites:
Scabies in cats has one very chilling fact that again most owners are not aware of; these mites can very easily spend their entire life on your cat. They are extremely tough and the female mite will burrow deep into your cats skin. As she burrows, however, she will stop and lay eggs several times, and then burrow even deeper where she lays even more eggs. These tunnels can be so large that they can end up being several centimeters in length until she finally stops. Once the female has finally laid all her eggs, she dies.
Within three to eight days, depending on the actual environment that your cat lives in, the eggs will begin to hatch into larvae. Once hatched, this larva has six legs which help them stay on your cats body. However, as they mature, into what is referred to as nymphs, they develop two more legs for a total of eight. With eight legs now they begin to mature into adults where they start to mate. Once they have mated, the process begins all over again and your cat, if not treated, becomes even more infected with these very dangerous mites.
Once this process has occurred, slightly thereafter, your cat will start to display several symptoms. As they intensify, so do the symptoms.
With scabies in cats, your pet will start to show slight symptoms at first, but as it intensifies, these symptoms may literally explode. The first signs that you will see that your cat has scabies will be a very gradual itching around your cats ears that will start to develop into a hair loss. As the mite infections grow in strength, so do the symptoms. This scratching and eventual hair loss will rapidly spread to your cats face, eyelids and then their neck area.
However, these mites also have your cats natural tendencies to help in the severity of the infections as well as how far it spreads. The tedious grooming habits of cats as well as the fact that they like to sleep curled up, allows for these mites to spread to other parts of your cats body. They will also migrate to your cats feet as well as their abdomen area when they groom or sleep. As the disease progress and grows, so does the problems. Your cats skin will become thickened, wrinkled, as well as covered by a very alarming grayish-yellowish crusting.
Because of the intense self-mutilation that your cat is now afflicting on itself, secondary infections will now be developing. If these infections become severe, scabies in cats can easily cause the surrounding lymph nodes to become enlarged and this becomes an entire new series of problems for your cat.
There is one extremely important fact that all owners should understand when treating scabies in cats. There are several very effective products on the market that can easily kill scabies in dogs, but they are not safe to use in your cat. This is so important, that it bears to be repeated, they are not safe under any circumstances to use on cats. Dogs are quite tolerant to some insecticides, but cats are extremely sensitive to them and they are very dangerous. The most effective mode of treatment for cats is to clip all of the long hair away from the infected areas and then bath them in a very gentle cleansing shampoo.
After the shampoo is complete, a two to three percent lime sulfur dip is utilized and will have to be applied to your cats entire body. In the most severe of cases, your cat will have to be sedated because of the pain that it will cause. This process, however, is anything but a one a done process; it will have to be done every seven days until it is resolved. In most cases, it will take between six and eight weeks until your cat is completely rid of these very strong mites.
However, there is still more bad news. If you live in a multi-cat household, all cats will need to be treated even if they are not showing any of the symptoms. If they are not, it will only be a matter of time until they are.
Steroids may be suggested as a treatment, but if they are you may want to question your veterinarian or even seek a second opinion. Steroids are effective in treating allergies in cats, but there is very little evidence that they help with the intense itching that is caused by this mite.
Scabies in cats have only one real method of prevention; keeping your cat away from other infected cats. Stray cats can be common carriers of this very powerful mite, and keeping your cat away from strays will help in the preventive steps. If you are bringing a new cat into your home, the first thing you should do is to have them examined by your own veterinarian first, to check for this as well as any other infections. At the first sign of infection with scabies, you need to get your cat checked and treated as soon as possible. The longer you wait, the worse it will get.
I am an avid lover of pets and my wife and I have had several pets throughout our years. We are especially fond of dogs, and we have a 12 year old Dalmatian (our 3rd) and a "mutt" that we rescued when someone threw him away to die in a vacant field.
He found us, nearly starved to death, and weighed about 2 pounds.
After severe bouts of mange and severe dehydration, and over 1,000.00 in veterinarian bills, we saved the little guys life, and he is one of the best, if not the best, dogs we have ever had and today is a muscular, fit, and firm 70 pound best friend.
After finishing my MBA, which at middle age was not easy, I decided to keep the research work ethics that I acquired, and devote about two hours each night in understanding the health benefits of supplementation for both humans and pets and how they might strengthen our, as well as our pets, immune system in a preemptive approach to health rather than a reactionary approach.
Both of my daughters are avid cat lovers, and asked me to help them with health concerns and challenges with their cats.
I am not a veterinarian nor claim to be, just a lover of pets that loves to research and pass on some knowledge that might be helpful, or at least stimulating to the thought process.
Several of the articles that I have written can be found on my website;
Liquid Vitamins & Minerals for Humans & Pets
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