What are Skin Mite Dermatitis?
Mange is caused by the microscopic parasite known as the mite. These very small parasites live on the skin and in the hair follicles of felines, but do not usually feed on the animal’s blood like other external parasites. In fact, some mites are considered normal residents of many mammalian species and their host’s immune system keeps them in balance, preventing them from taking over. However, when the immune system drops due to illness, one of the five species of mites takes over and skin mite dermatitis is soon to develop.
Skin mite dermatitis in cats is known to both the veterinary world and the general public as mange. Cats are highly susceptible to several types of mange, including demodicosis, trombiculosis, cheyletiellosis, otodectic and notoedric mange. Each form of mange is highly contagious, causing dermatitis symptoms of skin inflammation, alopecia, and pruritus. Mange commonly affects the very old, very young or otherwise unhealthy groups of felines, but other cats could be carrying the mange parasite with no sign of mange.
Symptoms of Skin Mite Dermatitis in Cats
Skin mite dermatitis is extremely pruritic to the feline and will cause the cat to scratch the skin vigorously. Depending on the species of mite affecting the feline, skin mite dermatitis might affect the ears, head, neck, abdomen, foot pads or entire body of the cat. If a feline is infected with ear mites, symptoms of head shaking, pawing at the ears, bloody ears (due to scratching), swelling of the ears and ear infections will all be noted. Mite species-specific symptoms of skin mite dermatitis in cats includes:
- Feline Scabies: skin crusts and hair loss.
- Ear mites: The inner ear will appear dirty with dark debris that resembles coffee grounds.
- Walking Dandruff: dandruff-like skin crusts and small bumps along the skin.
- Feline Demodicosis: hair loss and fluid-filled sores.
- Trombiculosis: these mites can be viewed as orange ovals on the skin that are usually clustered together. Common symptoms include skin crusts, hair loss, skin bumps and redness.
Trombiculosis is a type of mange caused by the larval-stage parasite known as Trombiculidae. Trombiculidae are one of the few mites that will feed on the feline around the abdomen, feet pads, ears and head. A cat can contract this parasite by laying in the dirt.
Feline demodicosis is a type of mange caused by either the Demodex cati mite or the Demodex gatoi mite. The demodex mite is often a normal, non-hazardous skin mite of the feline but can cause problems in sick cats.
Cheyletiellosis (Walking Dandruff)
Cheyletiellosis is commonly called walking dandruff due to the mite’s dandruff-like appearance. Cheyletiellosis is caused by the Cheyletiella blakei mite, which is a common parasite in multi-cat households.
Otodectic Mange (Ear Mites)
Otodectic mange is caused by the Otodectes cynotis mite, but this mite is commonly known as the ear mite since it only infests a feline’s ear.
Notoedric Mange (Feline Scabies)
Notoedric mange is caused by the Notoedres cati mite. Although quite rare, feline scabies is a highly contagious disease that causes the skin to crust, favorable to the upper portions of the body.
Causes of Skin Mite Dermatitis in Cats
Skin mite dermatitis in cat is caused by an infestation of a species of mite that is host-specific to felines. Trombiculidae, Demodex cati, Demodex gatoi, Cheyletiella blakei, Otodectes cynotis, or the Notoedres cati mite can all cause skin mite dermatitis in cats. Unlike other external parasites that spend half of their life cycle in the environment, mites spend their entire lives on their host. The only exception is the Trombiculidae mite, as this mite does live in the environment, infecting felines at their larval life. However, all other mites are usually transmitted to one feline to another through direct contact. Nursing queens often transmit skin mites to their kittens, causing skin mite dermatitis as kittens have a weak immune system. Multi-cat household and cats living in breeding facilities, pet stores, or shelters are at a high risk for contracting a type of skin mite.
Diagnosis of Skin Mite Dermatitis in Cats
Skin mite dermatitis in cat can be identified through the symptoms on a physical exam. Mites that are affecting the cat’s skin can be identified through the process of a skin scraping. A skin scraping is a simple test of scraping the top layer of the skin, removing particles to view underneath the microscope. Ear mites will require a swab of the ear and microscopic view for identification.
Treatment of Skin Mite Dermatitis in Cats
Some cats recover from skin mite dermatitis without treatment, but severe cases and cats that are in poor health must receive medical treatment to recover. A common treatment veterinarians use is a lime sulfur dip that the cat is dipped into approximately 1-2 times per week over a month’s time. Mites that are localized in the ears will need to be cleaned out and treated with prescribed drops.
Recovery of Skin Mite Dermatitis in Cats
The recovery outlook for a cat suffering from whole-body skin mite dermatitis depends on her overall health. Follow your veterinarian’s treatment plan and bring the cat back into the clinic if symptoms worsen, or you do not see an improvement. Preventing re-infestation of mites can be a challenge, but the best preventative method is keeping your feline’s environment clean and keeping her away from potential carriers.
Skin Mite Dermatitis Questions and Advice from Veterinary Professionals
I just adopted a cat from a shelter who had a couple patches on her back that seemed to be missing fur. I took her home last week and throughout the week she's been scratching at the area and others (but only on her back) and the bald spots have gotten bigger. I don't see any kind of redness or irritation in the skin underneath the spots. Is it possible this is just stress because she's in a new environment? I haven't seen any kind of other irritation or signs of stress in her but she does seem to lick herself a lot. Thanks!
When adopting a new pet into your home you should take the usual precautions regarding ectoparasites and endoparasites. There may be something irritating Eve’s back, but most likely this is psychological; your Veterinarian would be able to tell you from looking at the skin and checking some of the bordering hairs to the bald patches. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM
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My cat is loosing his hair down both back legs and above tail some spots above stomach there aren't any scabs or soars he grooms and scratches some . He is an inside / outside cat he got into a fight with another cat about 2 months ago that caused him to go to vet so he got rabies shots at same time . Then I used Heartz flea and tick medicine down the back of his neck soon after he started loosing his hair as I told you . He eats regular and normal . As he does go outside he also eats mice then gets to full comes in and eats some food then throws it up he gets hairball medicine regularly .If u can tell me something or around about it .
The cause of the hair loss may be due to a hormonal condition like Cushing’s Disease, paraneoplastic alopecia or psychogenic alopecia. Psychogenic alopecia is quite common and is caused by excessive licking of the hind limbs and lower back; it is easy to diagnose by looking at the remaining hair under a microscope as the ends will be a distinctive shape. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM
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