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Feline scabies is caused by a tiny mite called Notoedres cati. This mite affects cats very much like the Sarcoptic mange mite affects dogs; in fact, their life cycles and treatments are very similar. While many cat owners don't realize that cats get mange, as veterinarians we see and treat this on a regular basis. If your cat suffers from severe itching or hair loss on the head and neck you should consider having her examined for this mange mite.
What is the life cycle of Notoedres cati?
The mites spend their entire life on a cat. The female mite burrows into the skin and lays eggs several times as she continues burrowing. These tunnels can actually reach the length of several centimeters. After she deposits the eggs, the female mite dies. In 3-8 days the eggs hatch into larvae which have 6 legs. The larvae mature into nymphs which have 8 legs. The nymph then molts into an adult while it is still in the burrow. The adults mate, and the process continues. The entire life cycle requires 2-3 weeks.
Who gets feline scabies?
Notoedres can infect cats of all ages, breeds, and colors. It infects both males and females and often will infect an entire litter of kittens. Because this mite is transmitted directly from cat to cat it is more common in outdoor cats that come in contact with strays. The mite only lives a few days off of the cat, but transmission through grooming, boarding, and veterinary facilities is possible.
What are the symptoms?
The symptoms usually start with hair loss and itching on the ears and then spreads rapidly to the face, eyelids and neck. The mites can also spread to the feet and lower abdomen. This characteristic spread probably occurs from the cat's habit of grooming, and sleeping curled up in a ball. As the disease progresses the skin will become thickened, wrinkled and covered with grayish/yellow crusts. Because of the intense itching the infected cat will often scratch and irritate the skin causing secondary infections to develop. The surrounding lymph nodes may also become enlarged as the problem worsens.
How is feline scabies diagnosed?
The characteristic itching and hair loss pattern is often all that is needed to diagnose Notoedric mange in the cat. Skin scrapings can be performed to confirm the diagnosis. There are usually a large number of mites present on the skin and the resulting skin scrapings.
How is feline scabies treated?
While the Notoedres mite can be killed with many of the same products used to treat dogs with scabies most of them are NOT safe to use in a cat. Cats are much more sensitive to some of the insecticides that are safe to use in the dog. The current recommended treatment for cats is to clip all long hair and then bathe the cat with a gentle cleansing shampoo. After the shampoo a 2 to 3% lime sulfur dip (Lymdip) is applied to the entire surface of the cat. Some cats may require a sedative to be properly bathed and treated. This is repeated every seven days until the condition resolves and may require 6 to 8 weeks of treatment.
Some veterinarians have successfully used an Amitraz dip to cure this disease but this is an off-label use of this product and may make some cats sick. Recently ivermectin has also been used successfully, much as it has been for sarcoptic mange in dogs. Ivermectin is not approved for use in cats but under close veterinary care it may provide a viable form of treatment. If there are multiple cats in the household it is often recommended that all cats in the household be treated because they may be harboring the mites.
Unlike allergies, the intense scratching caused by Notoedres responds poorly to steroids.
How is notoedric mange prevented?
Prevention is best accomplished by preventing your cat from coming in contact with stray or infected cats. Indoor cats are much less likely to contract this disease. Avoid boarding or grooming your cats at locations that do not provide good sanitation and insist that all grooming tools be disinfected between use. At the first signs of infection seek prompt treatment and isolate the infected cat from other cats in the household.
Can I get Notoedres from my cat?
As with other mites in the Sarcoptes family, Notoedres can infect humans. The disease, though, is generally self-limiting, causing only temporary itching.
The information on this page was obtained from the site www.peteducation.com