Mange, a skin condition caused by mites, can be highly contagious among cats, and some types of mange parasites can even spread to dogs. Mange mites can bite and irritate humans, but they can't breed on humans. The condition is uncomfortable but treatable.
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What is feline mange?
Mange is a skin condition caused by mite parasites. The parasites bite the cat, and adult mites can also lay eggs under the skin and use the cat as their breeding ground. The cat's skin gets so irritated that it's often quite apparent when a cat is afflicted with the mites. Home remedies may sometimes help alleviate symptoms, but it's best to consult a veterinarian before attempting treatment at home, because home remedies won't cure your cat's mite condition.
Types of mites and mite conditions in cats
Many different species of mites can affect cats and cause mange:
- Ear mites: Ear mites burrow inside your cat's ears, usually inside the ear canal. Damage to the cat's eardrum is possible. Cat ear mites are Otodectes cynotis, and they can spread to dogs.
- Notoedres cati: They are typically found on the cat's ears or facial extremities. This mite causes the condition called notoedric mange.
- Demodex cati: This mite causes demodectic mange. They're normally found in the cat's hair follicles and they don't spread from cat to cat or to other species like humans or dogs. They can overgrow if a cat has a suppressed immune system. Demodex gatoi is a mite that cats CAN get from other cats. And unlike D. cati, it usually lives on the surface of the skin, not in the hair follicles.
- Cheyletiella: Also known as "walking dandruff," these mites are nonburrowing. They live on the skin and also feed on the hair of a cat.
- Chiggers: Larvae attach to the host cat and can cause trombiculosis mange.
- Sarcoptes: These mites are not as common with cats. They cause sarcoptic mange, or feline scabies. This is caused by Sarcoptes scabiei.
Symptoms of mange in cats
Mange can be diagnosed by your veterinarian, who will take skin scrapings from affected areas. Regardless of the type of mite, signs of mange include:
- Skin irritation, flaking, crusting, and scabbing
- Itching, which results in your cat biting and scratching excessively
- Hair loss and patchy coat
- In the case of ear mites, cats might shake their head and scratch their ears
- Secondary bacterial infection could develop
Four home treatments for mange in cats
There are some topical home treatment options for mange that might provide temporary relief. These should only be used if you're unable to get your cat to the veterinarian immediately. Your veterinarian can advise you on which option may be most effective at alleviating the intense itchiness. With all of these home remedies, there's the potential that they'll cause overgrooming and as a result, aggravation of any existing skin lesions. In addition to these options, brushing your cat's fur on a regular basis will remove scaly skin.
1. Herbal or hydrating shampoo
Simple shampoos made for cats can be used to lessen scaly skin and scabs. Natural ingredients, like oatmeal, can help relieve itching. Be sure to rinse well to avoid leaving any shampoo residue behind.
2. Castor oil and olive oil
Both of these oils are good options because they will help with skin irritation and smother the mites. Apply either castor or olive oil directly on affected areas without washing it off. Olive oil will soften the waxy buildup on a cat's skin that mites leave behind, making it easier to remove. Use it sparingly because cats will likely ingest much of the oil as they groom.
3. Apple cider vinegar
Dilute apple cider vinegar with equal parts warm water and apply it directly to the cat's skin for an external home remedy that will kill mites. Just as with the other options, this is not a cure for mange.
4. Lime sulfur dip
Lime sulfur diluted with water can be used to treat certain kind of mites, like ectoparasites. If not diluted properly, it can cause additional skin irritation. If ingested, it can cause systemic toxicity in cats. Though this product is available over-the-counter, for your cat's safety, it should be used with veterinary supervision.
Ivermectin for mange in cats
Ivermectin is a deworming medication that is sometimes used off label to treat mites and mange. It comes in tablet form, a topical liquid, and an injectable form a veterinarian administers. Injectable ivermectin can sometimes cause toxicity when given in the high doses necessary to treat mites. Discuss the best treatment for your cat with your veterinarian.
How to prevent cat mange
Talk to your veterinarian about preventative medications to reduce the risk that your cat will be susceptible to mite infestations. Feline Revolution works against ear mites and may also help with Cheyletiella ("walking dandruff"). Heartgard for cats is effective in preventing Demodex mites in cats. Keeping your cat indoors as much as possible and away from other cats who could pass along mange will also help to prevent the spread of the condition.
Cat mange, caused by mite infestations, is highly contagious but treatable. While topical home remedies can provide temporary relief for the intense itching, each has potential side effects. Home remedies won't cure a mite condition. Seek veterinary care in order to cure the mange and avoid potential secondary skin infections.