What is Notoedric Mange?
Notoedric mange is a zoonotic disease, which means that it can spread from animals to people. If you suspect your cat has notoedric mange, wear gloves when handling them and take them to the vet immediately. If left untreated, notoedric mange will spread throughout the cat’s body and may spread to yourself or your family.
Notoedric mange, commonly known as feline scabies, is a rare, extremely contagious condition caused by the Notoedres cati mite. The disease is characterized by severe itching and a crusty appearance of the skin, particularly around the head, ears, and neck. Notoedric mange is more commonly diagnosed in outdoor cats, especially those living in certain “hot spot” areas, such as southern California and the Florida Keys.
Symptoms of Notoedric Mange in Cats
Notoedric mange is tremendously painful for cats. Pets affected by the condition will scratch their skin incessantly and may cause sores. Seek immediate veterinary attention if you notice any of the following symptoms:
- Crusty scabs or sores around the head, ears, and neck
- Scabs spreading to the stomach, feet, or tail
- Excessive, severe itching and grooming
- Thick and/or yellow skin
- Enlarged lymph nodes
- Hair loss
- Signs of pain
Remember to be careful when handling an infected cat, as the disease can transmit to humans and other animals via touch. (The disease is not as severe or long-lasting in humans as in cats, but will cause incredible discomfort.) If you have several cats or other pets in your household, it may be a good idea to take them all to the vet to ensure the infection hasn’t spread.
Causes of Notoedric Mange in Cats
The primary cause of Notoedric mange is an infestation of Notoedres cati mites. Your cat may come across these mites organically through outdoor activity or by contact with an infected cat. Notoedres cati lay their eggs beneath the skin, which hatch within three to four days. The mites can sometimes reach adulthood in as little as twelve days. Symptoms begin to appear within a month. There are no breed, sex, or age predispositions for developing the condition.
Diagnosis of Notoedric Mange in Cats
Your vet will make a tentative diagnosis based on presentation of symptoms. Be sure to inform your vet of your cat’s recent outdoor activity, contact with other cats, and whether or not you have any other cats or children in your household. Your vet will make a definitive diagnosis by taking a skin scraping and examining it under a microscope. Notoedres cati usually show up very clearly on a slide.
Treatment of Notoedric Mange in Cats
Thankfully, a variety of treatment methods exist for notoedric mange. Your vet will be able to recommend the best course of treatment based on your cat’s specific needs.
The preferred course of treatment for most cases of notoedric mange is an injection of ivermectin, as it is a fast-acting and efficient antiparasitic agent. The injection will be administered weekly or biweekly for four weeks. Another antiquated (albeit effective) treatment method is the use of lime-sulfur dips once every seven days for eight weeks. However, lime-sulfur dips have fallen out of favor with both pet owners and vets, as cats tend to dislike bathing and the dips cause discoloration of the coat.
There are a few topical treatments – including selamectin and moxidectin – that manage the symptoms of notoedric mange. However, these medications are primarily used as flea treatments and have not been FDA approved for treating notoedric mange. This is largely due to the rarity of the condition and the cost of pursuing FDA approval. Your vet may also prescribe specially medicated shampoos to help manage the condition.
Recovery of Notoedric Mange in Cats
Recovery and prognosis are generally excellent following treatment. Always follow your vet’s post-treatment instructions carefully. Ensure that all cats in your household have been treated for Notoedric mange. Never use any shampoos or topical treatments made for human use unless explicitly instructed to do so by your vet. These may burn the skin or worsen the condition.
You will need to employ preventative measures to ensure your cat does not experience reinfection. You may want to limit your cat’s outdoor activity, particularly if you live in a “hot spot” area. If the other cats or pets in your household are free from infection, you will need to isolate the infected cat until treatment has concluded.
Your vet will schedule weekly or bi-weekly follow-up appointments to administer the ivermectin injections and monitor the condition. If you think the infection has spread to you or another person in your household, consult your primary care physician. Although extremely unlikely, contact your vet immediately if your cat’s condition does not seem to be improving following treatment.