Symptoms of Demodectic Mange in Cats

Mange in cats is a highly contagious skin condition caused by parasitic mites. Sometimes, the mites multiply in large numbers thus causing inflammation of the skin. They burrow into the skin and live in the hair follicles and oil glands. They suck the pet’s blood and also cause allergic reactions. There are two types of mange, commonly known as demodectic mange and sarcoptic mange.

Demodectic Mange

Demodectic mange is also called red mange and is relatively rare in cats. It’s a painful, unsightly and uncomfortable condition and is caused by the Demodex mite. There are two types of Demodex mites known as the Demodex cati and the Demodex gatoi. D. cati live in the hair follicles and D. gatoi live in the outer layer of the skin. The latter cause an itchy skin condition which is highly contagious

Cats of all ages and breeds can contract demodectic mange though it’s more common in Siamese and Burmese pets. Outdoor cats are also at greater risk to this condition than indoor pets. Localized demodectic mange is restricted to the head and neck areas of the cat. Since generalized demodectic mange is widespread, it can also affect the legs and the body.

 Other Pets Susceptible to Demodectic Mange Include:

  • Older cats
  • Weak cats
  • Pregnant and lactating pets
  • Cats with compromised immune systems
  • Male, unneutered cats

Symptoms of Demodectic Mange

Some of the symptoms of demodectic mange are a reddish brown discoloration on and around the nose and around the edges of the ears. The skin on the ears is crusty or scaly and the insides of the ears appear black with oily looking dirt. This dirt is caused by the droppings of the mites and is often accompanied by discharge from the ears.

There are also prominent scabs and crusts on the head and neck areas, accompanied by inflammation and irritation. The skin is extremely itchy and lesions appear on the affected parts. In addition, there’s bloody discharge from skin lesions accompanied by a disagreeable odor. Other symptoms are hair loss that leads to bald patches on the skin. The fur gets extremely thin, so much so, that underlying skin can be seen without parting the fur. Cats suffering from demodectic mage also experience pain and discomfort. They’re often dehydrated, lethargic and suffer from loss of weight due to loss of appetite.


The vet can diagnose the type of mange infection present, by microscopic examination of a scraping from the affected area. Once the type of mite is identified, treatment can commence under supervision from the vet. For localized demodectic mange, application of a topical rotenone solution or an amitraz solution is effective as are Ivermectin tablets. Lime sulfur dips also effectively remove mites. For generalized demodectic mange, the underlying cause of the condition is treated to heal the demodectic lesions. Secondary bacterial infections are treated with the administration of antibiotics.

Demodectic mange is rare in cats. It’s also easy to identify and can be treated. However, if not treated, it can result in fatality. Treatment should be administered to all the cats in the household, even if a single pet is infected. Pets are also at risk of re-infection if the surroundings are left untreated. Hence, it’s essential to ensure that all the mites are removed with thorough disinfection of the home and outdoor areas.