Cheyletiellosis in Cats (Walking Dandruff Mite)
Cheyletiellosis is an itchy, scaling skin disease of cats 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.
Cheyletiellosis is a contagious and a zoonotic disease which means it can be spread to and from other cats, dogs or humans. Cats can acquire the infection from other pets or humans. The mite is transmitted by close contact with infested animals. Since the mite can live for a few days off the host, it is also possible to become infected through environmental contamination. Eggs are also shed into the environment, which is believed to also be an important cause of reinfestation.
This disease is very contagious making it more prevalent in shelters, humane societies, boarding facilities and grooming establishments where there are lots of pets. Poor sanitation, poor nutrition and overcrowding can lead to infestation.
Kittens seem to be more susceptible than older animals, but infestation of adults is also seen. Long-haired cats appear to be predisposed.
What to Watch For
Diagnosis of Walking Dandruff Mite in Cats
A medical history may reveal a scaly, itchy skin problem on one or more of the animals in the home, often after a recent addition of a new pet. These mites can temporarily infest people, so you may experience an itchy rash on arms, belly, back and chest.
Your veterinarian will do 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.
Other diagnostic tests may include:
Treatment of Walking Dandruff Mite in Cats
Although commonly used flea sprays, shampoos and powders may give temporary relief, more aggressive treatment is needed for long term success of walking dandruff mites. Because this disease is contagious, all pets in the home should be treated.
The Prognosis is good with effective therapy and treatment of all pets in the home.
Home Care and Prevention
Treating the home environment may be necessary to prevent re-infestation. Wash all bedding and discard brushes and combs. Vacuum carpets and upholstery thoroughly and repeatedly and spray the house with a flea premise spray.
Although prevention is difficult, there are some steps you can take to lessen the occurrence. Avoid the cat while infested since these mites are highly contagious. Be sure to have any new animals evaluated by a veterinarian before they are admitted to your home. Cheyletiellosis can be contagious to people so anyone handling the pet should thoroughly wash their hands and use appropriate caution.