Feline Demodicosis Explained

Feline demodicosis, also recognized as red mange, is a skin disease of cats that is created by three species of mites; Demodex cati, Demodex gatoi and another species of Demodex which does not currently have a name. These three species of mites are responsible for creating the lesions and hair-loss appearance when a cat is affected by mange. Although, feline demodicosis appears to be more common in the Siamese and Burmese breed of cats, it is relatively rare in the feline world.

What Causes Feline Demodicosis?

It is currently unknown whether there is any genetic predilection of feline demodicosis. But it is known that, in most cases of feline demodicosis, an underlying condition is present which attributes to the development of demodicosis. Associated underlying conditions include:

  • Feline leukemia virus (FeLV)
  • Diabetes
  • Feline immunodeficiency virus (FIV)
  • Lupus

These conditions are thought to be contributing factors of demodicosis because the majority of cats infected with demodicosis also have one of these conditions. Sometimes treatment with steroids is given for these conditions. And it is also thought that continuous steroid usage increases the likelihood of developing demodicosis.

What Are the Symptoms of Feline Demodicosis?

Feline demodicosis presents symptoms that typically do not go unnoticed. Because it affects the physical appearance of your cat, it is likely that you will catch the infection before it goes very far. Some of the symptoms to look for include:

  • Red bumps, resembling the appearance of a rash or allergic reaction
  • Large areas of hair loss in the head and neck area
  • Sores that are crusty or seep
  • Hair loss over the entire body

How Is Feline Demodicosis Diagnosed?

Demodicosis can be accurately diagnosed when samples of skin scrapings are taken. The mites can be detected when looking under a microscope. However, mites are typically present on all cats so the particular species of mite which causes demodicosis has to be detected in order for a diagnosis to be made. When skin samples are taken, they will usually be taken from various parts of the body to ensure a proper examination of the parasite.

Additionally, there may also be a fecal sample taken from your cat. Because cats groom themselves repetitiously, the parasite will inevitably end up in their stool. The mites from the fecal sample can also help to make an accurate diagnosis.

How Is Feline Demodicosis Treated?

Treatment of demodicosis involves treating any underlying condition which might have contributed to the development of the condition and a treatment regime for the condition itself. The treatment process is usually conducted as follows:

  • Thorough scraping of your cat with a fine tooth comb, removing as many of the mites as possible.
  • Sulfur dip, repeated every five to seven days over a six week period. Elizabethan collar needed until the coat is dry so that the remnants of the sulfur dip are not ingested.
  • Amitraz, a topical ointment, may be applied daily, but is not recommended for long term use.
  • Ivermectin, an oral medication, can be used to treat certain strains of mite species.

Because of the effectiveness of the sulfur dip in treating feline demodicosis, medications are not always needed and only administered on a circumstantial basis.