Cat mites are so small, you often can't see them with the naked eye. You can recognize the havoc a mite infestation wreaks on your cat's skin. Your vet will diagnose the type of mite making your cat's life miserable via skin scrapings, and then prescribe the appropriate treatment.
Probably the most common mite infestation in felines, ear mites feed on a cat's ear wax. Formally known as otodectic mange, symptoms of ear mites include inflammation, a dark exudate coming from the ear, constant ear scratching or head shaking, and a bad smell emanating from the ear canal. That discharge coming out of the ear consists of a blend of wax, blood and actual mites.
While you can purchase ear mite remedies over the counter, it's always best to consult a vet if you suspect your cat has ear mites. It's quite possible that your cat's ear irritation is due to a bacterial or yeast infection, so treating for ear mites does no good and your cat continues to suffer. If ear mites are the culprit, your vet can give your cat an injection or use a single application medication that eradicates the mites and their eggs.
Cheyletiellosis in Cats
Cheyletiellosis in cats is known colloquially as "walking dandruff," and that's a pretty good description of signs of this mite infestation. You aren't actually seeing skin flakes, or dandruff, walking on your cat. What you are seeing are the mites moving around your cat's skin. This is a mite that also can infest you and your family. Along with moving dandruff, other signs of cheyletiellosis include hair loss and scaly and crusty skin, especially on the animal's back. Some cats itch intensely, while others scratch very little or not at all.
Your veterinarian might prescribe the topical flea, tick and heartworm preventive selamectin, marketed under the brand name Revolution, to get rid of the Cheyletiella mites. Because the mite is so contagious, every animal in the house requires treatment. Other possible treatments include prescribe lime sulfur dips several times weekly until the mites are eliminated. Throw out the pet bedding and replace it, or wash it in hot water with bleach.
Scabies in Cats
Sarcoptic mange in cats, or scabies, is also known as notoedric mange. This type of mange usually starts with crusting around the ears, then progresses down the face. If not treated, the cat's whole body can turn into a crusty, oozing mess. Since this mite is quite contagious, all cats in the household require treatment, even if asymptomatic. Your vet can prescribe selamectin or moxidectin, marketed under the brand name Advantage Multi, to get rid of these mites, or she can inject your pet with dewormer and miticide ivermectin. A series of lime sulfur dips also can do the trick.
Feline Demodectic Mange
Most cats have a few demodectic mange mites in residence, with no issues. However, if the cat has a compromised immune system, the mites could multiply and the animal could develop demodectic mange. This type of mange is far less common in felines than in canines. Symptoms include hair loss, either in one or two locations or over the entire body. Severely affected cats may develop lesions in the areas of hair loss. Treatment generally consists of lime sulfur dips done every other day, until skin scrapings reveal no trace of mites.
- Merck Manual Pet Health Edition: Mite Infestation (Mange, Acariasis, Scabies) of Cats
- PetMD: Skin Mite Dermatitis
- ASPCA: Ear Mites
- Veterinary Partner: Ear Mites FAQ
- Veterinary Partner: Demodectic Mange in Cats
- Veterinary Partner: Notoedric Mange
- PetPlace: Cheyletiellosis in Cats (Walking Dandruff Mite)
- Photo Credit Frenk Kaufmann/Hemera/Getty Images
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