Diagnosing Demodectic Mange in Cats

Demodectic mange in cats is a painful and uncomfortable condition. The demodex mite is a common canine parasite that may occasionally infect cats as well, although feline cases of demodectic mange are much less common than canine. The mite that causes mange in cats is of a different species than the mite that causes similar mange in dogs, and a mangy dog cannot infect a cat, or vice versa. Treating demodectic mange in your cat requires a proper diagnosis of the disease. In order to diagnose demodectic mange, be aware of the causes and symptoms of the disease so that you know when to have your cat examined by a veterinarian.

Symptoms of Demodectic Mange

The first step toward properly diagnosing and treating demodectic mange in your cat is to properly identify the symptoms of the condition. The demodex mite infests your cat's hair follicles and the surface of the skin, feeding on skin cells. The condition may be localized in a few small areas on your cat's body, typically around the face and head, or it may be generalized and widespread. These two types of mange present the same group of symptoms. The most common symptoms of demodectic mange in cats include the following:

  • Hair loss
  • Scaly skin
  • Excessive dander
  • Red, irritated patches of skin
  • Excessive scratching
  • Open sores or lesions

The generalized form the condition usually presents symptoms on the legs and abdomen in addition to the face and head. It is important to distinguish between the localized and the generalized forms of the disease, as generalized demodectic mange may be related to an immune system condition like feline immunodeficiency virus or feline leukemia.

In order to diagnose your pet's condition, keep an accurate log of his symptoms, including their severity and the date of onset, for presentation to a veterinarian. If your cat's condition worsens or does not improve in a few days, take him to a veterinarian for an examination and bring the symptoms log for further verification. This information will help your vet to make an accurate diagnosis of demodectic mange.

Veterinary Diagnosis of Demodectic Mange

A veterinarian will use the symptoms that you have logged as a basis for his diagnosis. Additionally, he may conduct a physical examination of your pet and a skin scraping. In a skin scraping test, the veterinarian will take a small sample of skin from an affected area in order to examine the skin under a microscope. Because mites are difficult or impossible to see with the naked eye, microscopic analysis is necessary to definitively confirm the presence of demodex mites and their eggs.

Once your veterinarian has diagnosed demodectic mange in your cat, you should consult with him for further advice about the appropriate treatment procedure given your cat and his condition. Properly diagnosing the condition is the first step toward a prompt and successful treatment.