Demodicosis (Red Mange) in Cats
Demodicosis (commonly called red mange or “demodex”) is a rare skin disease of cats. There are two species of mites responsible for feline demodicosis, Demodex cati and another species which is currently unnamed.
Since feline demodicosis is rare, there is limited information available on genetic or other predisposing factors. Of the reported cases, most cats had underlying diseases that required multiple doses of steroids. It is theorized that this resulted in a weakened immune system and the mites proliferated and resulted in clinical disease. It is thought that Burmese and Siamese cats may have a higher incidence of disease.
Demodex is part of the normal flora of the skin. It is currently suspected that this disease is not contagious among cats. Typically, demodicosis manifests with patches of hair loss and secondary bacterial infections of the skin (superficial and deep pyoderma). Signs of skin infections include red bumps (papules), pustules, draining nodules and ulcerated areas. Itchiness is not a consistent finding. Feet and face are commonly affected areas.
What to Watch For
Diagnosis of Demodex in Cats
Demodicosis is diagnosed by the presence of symptoms and by performing deep skin scrapings on affected areas. The mites can be seen with the aid of a microscope. The mites are present on all cats, so alone they do not constitute a diagnosis of mange.
Treatment of Demodex in Cats
It is recommended that all cats diagnosed with demodicosis undergo treatment. Spontaneous recovery, such as in canine juvenile demodicosis, is unlikely. In addition to treatment for demodicosis, treatment of secondary bacterial infections may be necessary.
Prior to using the dip, your cat may need to be clipped to increase penetration and efficacy of this treatment. Adverse effects of the dip are uncommon, if properly used. To avoid grooming and ingestion of the dip, an Elizabethan collar should be placed on the cat until the hair coat is dry.
Home Care and Prevention
Some cats will have a secondary bacterial infection and antibiotics may be required for several weeks (four weeks if the infection is superficial, eight to 10 weeks if the infection is deep).
After dipping, it is important that your cat does not get wet between dips to maximize efficacy of the treatment. Some owners will be able to dip their cat at home. Be aware that the dip has a sulfur base and therefore, has a potent odor of rotten eggs. It also has the ability to stain fabric, clothing, and carpet.
After dipping, light colored cats will retain a yellow tint until treatment is discontinued. Always use gloves and keep your cat in a confined area with an Elizabethan collar to prevent grooming and staining fabrics, carpet.
Since the mites normally live on the skin, prevention is difficult.