Do cats get mange?

Mange is a skin disease caused by parasitic mites. This parasitic infestation that affects most mammals causes localized skin condition that commonly starts on the face, ears and neck. Untreated, mange will worsen and spread throughout the animal’s body. Cats can get mange although the occurrence is quite uncommon.

Cats can get several types of octoparasites. Fleas, ticks and lice feed on blood of the host. The infestation of these parasites though would be little jabs as compared to the knockout punch that is delivered by mange causing mites. Mange mites are not the same as ear mites that live on the surface of the cat’s ear canal. Mange mites are spider-like parasites that dig burrows to live underneath the cat’s skin. There are several species of mites, each causing a different kind of mange in cats. Some kinds of mange are highly contagious. One cat in a multi-cat household can easily transmit the disease to the other cats. A mangy cat would look terrible but the cat would even feel worse.

The most common mange that affects just about any mammal is the Demodectic mange or the red mange. This kind of mange that is more common in dogs is caused by Demodex cati. The causative mites of Demodectic mange are normal residents in the cat’s skin. Few mites of this kind on the cat’s skin would not bother the cat there is a bacterial infection that causes the inflammation of the skin. Demodex mange also occurs in cats that are immune-suppressed. A higher occurrence of this mange is seen in aging cats and in Burmese and Siamese cats. This kind of skin disease comes in two forms – localized and generalized. Symptoms of the localized form include severe itching that result to hair loss and scaly skin on the ears, eyelids, head and neck. Symptoms are the same in the generalized form but the hair loss and scaly skin would develop on the legs and all over the body.

Notoedric mange also called head mange and cat scabies is another type of cat mange. This mange is caused by the mite notoedres cati. Cats of all ages, breed and sex are affected by these mites that cause severe itching. This is a very contagious skin disease. An infected cat can transmit the disease to other animals and even to humans. Symptoms of this kind of mange are first seen on the face, ears and neck of the infected cat. The immense itch will make the cat scratch excessively until raw and inflamed spots develop. Untreated, the skin lesions would spread to other parts of the body until the cat’s body would have a crusty and scabby appearance.

Mange is fairly uncommon in cats. An allergic reaction can mimic the early symptoms of mange thus many pet owners would incorrectly call the skin condition of the pet as mange. The pet must be taken to a veterinary facility for diagnosis and correct treatment. The vet would take skin scrapings of the affected area to be examined under the microscope. Because mites burrow under the animal’s skin, the vet would look for symptoms of the mange rather than look for the actual presence of the causative mites. Most types of mange can be eliminated especially if treatment is administered early. Treatments for mange include tablets and injections, medicated shampoos, baths and dips. A combination of these treatments is often prescribed by the vet to speed up the eradication of the parasites. In severe cases of mange, it may be necessary to shave the pet so that the medication can be applied directly on the affected skin. Mange is a contagious skin disease thus it may be necessary to confine the affected pet.

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