Mange in Cats: Causes & Treatment
Every living organism from plants to human beings at one point or another will deal with some form of disease. Diseases are an indication that the body is losing health. All living beings, have other organisms living in them – including fungi, bacteria, viruses, or parasites. Some of these organisms are great while others, under certain circumstances, harm the bodies they live in. These harmful organisms can cause all kinds of disorders – some infectious and others that are not. Some diseases are chronic, while others only last a short while. Diseases attack different parts of the body, depending on the causing agent.
Mange is a skin disease that usually occurs in mammals. It is caused when a parasitic mite embeds itself into the skin or hair of the mammal. The parasite lives and feeds off the host, thereby causing it harm. What the parasite does is it takes the nutrients present in the host and uses it to nourish itself. This condition occurs in domestic animals, livestock, and wild animals and is sometimes transferable between and across species. In humans, however, mange is referred to as either scabies or demodicosis. In addition, the mites that cause mange in animals can produce itching in humans but will not be able to multiply and die quickly. The term ‘mange’ is with regards to furry animals, and there are two types: Demodectic and Sarcoptic. This article will take a critical look at mange, specifically in cats, and give some insight into the disorder.
Types of Mange
As mentioned in the introduction, mange generally occur as two distinct types: Demodectic and Sarcoptic. Each of these types has its own features, which are explained below.
Demodectic Mange: This is caused by long and thin mites that live in the hair follicles of animals and causes itchy skin. Demodex mites, the causing agents are quite common in domestic animals like cats and dogs. The mites are passed on from adults to their infants. They only become an issue when the animal has a weak immune system that is not able to control the mite population, thereby causing itchy skin in the animal. Demodectic mange comes in two types: localized and generalized. The localized form consists of fewer spots as compared to the generalized form making the latter harder to treat. Different species of Demodex mites attack different host animals. Demodex canis affects dogs whiles Demodex cati affects cats. Demodectic mange is also not transferable.
Sarcoptic Mange: This is caused by burrowing mites. These mites go deep into the skin of the host and cause very intense itching and hair loss. Sarcoptic mange is also known as canine scabies and the mites that cause it belongs to the Sarcoptidae family. The burrowing mites leave feces that trigger allergic reactions in the host animal and causes it to scratch and bite. This type of mange is highly contagious. Sarcoptic mange is treatable but can also get chronic. The mites also affect other species, including horses, sheep, and pigs.
Causes and Symptoms of Mange in Cats
Mange is not that common in cats and at the same time not so rare. The disease is no respecter of ages and can affect both adult cats and kittens alike. Mites are the leading cause of mange in cats. Cats that are not well fed or have a weak immune system are more prone to the intense form of the disease. It mostly affects a cat’s ears and face. The main symptom of mange in cats is the excessive scratching of the skin. Mange can generally be characterized by hair loss, inflammation, excess grooming, restlessness, and redness in the skin. There are different kinds of mites that cause mange in cats – these may come with their own specific symptoms.
- Notoedres cati: This is also known as feline scabies and is characterized by hair loss that begins in the face and neck and later spreads to the rest of the body. In some advanced cases, the skin thickens to form a grayish-yellow crust. In this case, sores and infections may be evident. The symptoms of the presence of Demodex mites are quite similar to that of Notoedres cati only that the former is less common. Treatment for both is also similar.
- Cheyletiella: Evidence of this is represented by the flakes present in the fur of the cat. They are like fleas just living on the surface of the animal. They look like dandruff flakes and move within the hair of the animal.
- Ear mites: These mites cause a reddish-brown/black crust or little black bumps that spread from the ear to other parts of the body. Ear mites cause the cat to scratch the back of its ear and shake its head excessively.
Treatment of Mange
Just like most other diseases, mange is treatable. Depending on the type, there will be a way to get rid of the nuisance permanently. There are some home remedies that will be able to get rid of mange in your cat. However, visiting the vet is recommended because of the knowledge they have about the disease. Vets are also better equipped to get to the root of the problem.
Some natural home remedies include bathing the cat. Here the first thing to be done is cleaning the cats sleeping or eating area and anything the mites may have been in contact with. Then with the use of mild soap and warm water, brush through the hair of the cat. To treat the itchy spots, use a spray or oil that has antibacterial or antifungal tendency to soothe the area. You can also purchase treatment solutions for treating different parts of the cat’s body like the ear.
The smartest way of treating mange is definitely to pay a visit to the vet. The animal health professional may diagnose the disease by taking skin scrapings and examining them under a microscope. This will enable him or her to tell what kind of condition the animal has. They may prescribe some medicines like selamectin and ivermectin. Your vet may also prescribe antibiotics and anti-inflammatory drugs to ease the effects of the mites. These drugs may be administered in various ways such as orally, by injection or by dipping the animal into the medicine.
Factors that Contribute to the Development of Mange
By now, it is clear that mange is transferable. This means that a healthy animal can contract the disease from a sick one. In this case, exposure to sick animals becomes a factor in the development of mange. Keeping cats in a place where they are crowded will definitely increase the chances of mange spreading.
Weak immune systems is another factor that may predispose a cat to mange. Since some species of mange are usually found on cats, the key difference will be the strength of the cat’s body in fighting the disease. A cat that is not strong enough will therefore, lose that fight.
One more factor to be considered is cat hygiene. A cat that is in a filthy environment is more prone to catching the disease. The dirt can harbor the mites that cause mange making it very easy for the cat to be sick. Also, the cat gets recurring mange even after it has been treated.
Last but not least, since mange is genetic, cats bred from a generation of mange infected ancestors are more likely to get the disease. For example, Siamese and Burmese cats are more susceptible to mange. Also, some parts of the world where mites thrive make it easier for cats in that region. For example, the southern area of the United States has a population of mites making cats in that area prone to mange.
Misconceptions / Myths about Cat Mange
The first thing to absolutely disregard is the statement that cats have nine lives. Cats are not immune to disease. They only have one life which should be lived well and as much as possible void of illness. Since that is out of the way, another statement that is not true and should also be disregarded is that indoor cats cannot get mange. There is a notion that since a cat does not go outside, it will not get infected. First of all, the cat may not go outside, but the owner does. Other things come into the house as well. The parasites that cause mites can attach themselves to all types of things that may come into contact with the cat. Aside from this, the parasites are able to survive even in well-regulated environments to cause damage. So really, the outside is not the problem.
One other misconception about mange is that exercise does not help the cat. Well, the cat needs a great immune system to be able to fight off the effect of the mange causing parasite. Exercising keeps the cat at a healthy weight, making it fit to do so. There should be a balance between nutrition and exercise to create a holistic approach to preventing mange.
Preventive Measures for Mange in Cats
As the popular saying goes, “Prevention is better than cure,” and this is no different in the case of mange. Diseases can be very costly, and it will do you some good to make sure you are protecting your cat from giving you money issues. Also, you are at risk of getting infected if you do not put proper checks in place. Some of these preventive measures may help.
- Always maintain a clean environment for your cat: As this is the main factor in the generation of the disease, you might want to pay close attention to it. This will require regular cat grooming and cleaning of your cat’s space. There are products on the market that are tailor-made for cat grooming and may be useful.
- Regular vet visits: A vet is in the best position to know the health status of your cat and advice you on what to do. The vet basically makes an assessment of your cat and can give you updates on what will help your cat and what would not. Just like you take your car to a mechanic to service, take your cat to a vet to be assessed.
- Feed your cat a healthy diet: As mentioned, a cat with a weak immune system is more likely to be affected by the effects of the parasitic mites. As such, you should make sure you are feeding your cat food that will boost its immune system. If it becomes necessary that you include supplements, by all means, go ahead. It gives you an upper hand over the disease and will definitely save your cat and you too the trouble.
It is safe to say that no one wants a sick cat, and definitely not a mangy one. Cats are one of the most adorable creatures a person could have as a pet. They are great to be around and pose little to no risk to human beings. You would want to make sure your cat is able to live a happy and healthy life while it is with you. Diseases are surely uncomfortable for cats, and mange is no different. In that same vein, diseases can be treated, and mange is not an exception. A mange-free life increases the quality of life of your cat. Parasites feed off their host’s nutrients, and some mites use this technique to cause mange in cats. These parasitic mites, like other disease-causing organisms, have their remedies. It is better to take steps that prevent the illness from affecting your cat. When all else fails, and the cat gets sick anyway there are ways to treat it. Cat owners can decide to use home remedies to treat their cats. The home remedies include using antibacterial or antifungal products like shampoos or sprays for grooming the cat. These are not hard to find on the market. Ultimately, seeking the services of a vet is recommended. Always keep in mind that you will be a happy owner if you have a happy cat, so do take care of your cat. Everybody deserves a happy healthy life, including cats.
- CAT MANGE: THE FACTS – Purina