Diagonsing Sarcoptic Mange in Cats

Sarcoptic mange is a contagious parasitic infestation caused by the mite Sarcoptes scabiei. While cats of all ages may contract sarcoptic mange, younger animals are at the highest risk. Sarcoptic mange can cause a range of skin problems, and the infection can spread to dogs and humans.

Symptoms of Feline Sarcoptic Mange

Symptoms of feline sarcoptic mange include hair loss, crusty sores or lesions, itchiness and papules. Symptoms are thought to be at least partially the result of an allergic reaction to the mites themselves. For this reasons, symptoms may continue after treatment.

The incubation period, or length of time between the beginning of the infection and the appearance of symptoms) for sarcoptic mange infestation can be as long as three weeks. Without treatment, sarcoptic mange could cause chronic skin lesions. Increased pigmentation, thickening or wrinkling of the skin, ulceration and draining can occur. Sarcoptic mange infections also encourage excessive scratching, biting and chewing of the skin, which can encourage secondary bacterial infections.

Sarcoptic Mange Diagnosis

Your vet will diagnose sarcoptic mange based on three conditions. He will examine your cat's skin for papules, lesions, hair loss and crusty sores. He will want to know if your cat has been scratching, biting or chewing his skin excessively, as extreme itching is one of the primary symptoms of sarcoptic mange in cats.

Your vet will look at skin scrapings under a microscope. Mites may or may not appear in a skin sample. Your vet may diagnose sarcoptic mange even if he doesn't find any mites in the skin sample.

If your cat responds positively to sarcoptic mange treatment, then you and your vet can assume that the diagnosis was correct.

Treating Sarcoptic Mange

Sarcoptic mange treatment should last for at least three weeks, which is the length of the mite's life cycle. Other animals in the home should also be treated, as sarcoptic mange is very contagious, and treating all the home's pets can greatly reduce chances of reinfestation.

Your vet may recommend one or more of the following treatments for sarcoptic mange in cats:

  • A weekly bath with lime sulfur dip.
  • The drug ivermectin.
  • Revolution, a topical preventative and treatment for fleas and heartworms.
  • Regular vacuuming and frequent cleaning of the cat's bedding.
  • Antibiotics, in the case of a secondary bacterial infection.

If your vet suggests a lime sulfur dip, be aware that, while the dip won't harm you or your cat, it could damage porcelain or jewelry. Lime sulfur dip may stain your hair or skin, so wear gloves when applying it. If possible, use the dip outside and don't let your cat back in until he's completely dry. This way, the dip won't stain anything in your home.

The mites responsible for sarcoptic mange can't survive away from the host, so regular cleaning and vacuuming can help clear up the infestation. It can also help prevent re-infestation. Treat all of your pets, even if they don't show symptoms, because sarcoptic mange is contagious. Be careful when handling infected pets, as this type of mange can spread to humans also.