Bites caused by walking dandruff – what is that?


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Our question this week was:

I've found that I have bites on me and was originally told they were fleas, so I treated my house and cats for fleas (fogging, baths, etc) and never found any on my cats either.

I still was getting the bites after the fact and now my doctor says its walking dandruff. Only one of my cats appears to have dandruff, but it doesn't appear to be "walking." What is the best way to determine if my cat has this? I've combed him and it just looks like normal dandruff. And if he does have walking dandruff, how come my second cat does not?

Rebekah Giordano


Hi – thanks for your email. Your situation sounds frustrating!

First – what is walking dandruff? Walking dandruff is also called "Cheyletiellosis". It is an itchy, scaling skin disease caused by infestation with Cheyletiella mites.

It is often called walking dandruff because when you examine an infested cat, you may see that the "dandruff" is moving. The movement is actually caused by the mites moving around under the scales. Although the mites inhabit the entire body, the scaling and itching often seem worse over the back. These mites can temporarily infest people, so you may experience an itchy rash on arms, belly, back and chest.

They are generally diagnosed with a physical exam, which will probably reveal the characteristic scaly skin along the cat's back. However, not all animals show this distribution of lesions. These mites are large compared to other mites and in cases of heavy infestation, you can see them on the skin with a magnifying glass.

I'm not sure why one cat may have them and the other cat may not but that can happen. One pet may be more susceptible for some reason.

An article that might be helpful to you is Cheyletiellosis in Cats (Walking Dandruff Mite).

Best of luck!

Dr. Debra

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debra-primovic Dr. Debra Primovic

Debra A. Primovic, BSN, DVM, Editor-in-Chief, is a graduate of the Ohio State University School of Nursing and the OSU College of Veterinary Medicine. Following her veterinary medical training, Dr. Primovic practiced in general small animal practices as well as veterinary emergency practices. She was staff veterinarian at the Animal Emergency Clinic of St. Louis, Missouri, one of the busiest emergency/critical care practices in the United States as well as MedVet Columbus, winner of the AAHA Hospital of the year in 2014. She also spends time in general practice at the Granville Veterinary Clinic. Dr. Primovic divides her time among veterinary emergency and general practice, editing, writing, and updating articles for, and editing and indexing for veterinary publications. She loves both dogs and cats but has had extraordinary cats in her life, all of which have died over the past couple years. Special cats in her life were Kali, Sammy, Pepper and Beanie.