Helping Your Cat Deal with Mange & Ringworm Problems.

Mange, also known as Demodicosis or Demodectic mange, is an inflammation of the skin in cats caused by a variety of virtually invisible mites of the Demodex species. Demodex mites are frequently found on mammal skin and in the majority of cases are indicative of the cat's immune system being compromised OR of the cat producing excessive hormones or skin oils. In these instances, the Demodex population may flourish. When an excessive ratio of mites inhabit the cat's hair follicles, hair loss and skin lesions tend to be the result. The severity of this condition may depend on the strain of mite exploiting your cat's lowered resistance. Among all cat breeds, Burmese and Siamese cats appear to be among the most vulnerable.

 Recognizing Mange Symptoms in Cats. 

Skin disorders can cause your cat to become uncomfortable*

Mange symptoms typically include a visible loss of hair surrounding the cat's head, eyelids, neck and flanks. In addition, scaly lesions, scales and crusty patches may appear.

Because of the rarity of mite disorders, there is still relatively little known about them. However, the fact that one variety is contagious and another is associated with impaired immune systems is understood. The contagious Mange mite, known as Demodex gatoi, can transmit mange between cats in the same household. On the other hand, Demodex cati, threatens cats with immune disorders and metabolic syndrome issues, such as Diabetes.

Diagnosing Feline Mange Symptoms.  

Your veterinarian will use skin scrapings to diagnose Mange in your cat. She may also utilize hair samples to identify the specific mite species causing the condition. If your vet suspects a metabolic disorder as an underlying cause, she may also order other testing. 

Treating Mange in Cats.

In roughly ninety percent of feline demodectic mange cases, the condition spontaneously resolves itself as the cat's immune system improves. In more severe cases, your cat may require a long term treatment to alleviate symptoms.  

Post Diagnosis Treatment of Mange.

Your cat's long term treatment should include follow up care focusing on microscopic hair examination as well as ongoing skin scrapings. In chronic mange cases, a long term medication regimen may be required to keep your cat mange free. Your vet has an arsenal of steroids and drugs available to combat the condition. Enhancing your cat's immune system, shampooing with hydrogen peroxide or borax, nit-combing and keeping your home and more specifically your cat's food, litter box, sleeping and play areas as clean as possible, will all contribute to minimizing the risk of mange.

 Preventing Feline Mange Through Good Health Maintenance. 

By tending to your cat's overall health care, you may be able to keep the risk of mange at bay. A cat who is kept clean and fed nutritiously should have a lower risk of mange than cats who are not as well cared for. Should your cat show a proclivity for this condition, most breeders would discourage you from allowing your cat to breed. Some of the characteristics that make cats higher risk for mange may be passed on genetically.

Dealing With Ringworm in Cats.

Should you notice rough, scaly, circular patches with a red outline, bald patches or broken hairs on your cat, you're probably looking at ringworm. Most commonly seen on the cat's head, tail and limbs, it can affect any part of the cat's coat. These unsightly lesions may be anywhere in size from virtually undetectable to small, medium and large in scale. Some cats are irritated by these lesions and will scratch, while others remain oblivious. You may also notice that your cats claws have become malformed, flaky, crusted or unnaturally broken. In these cases, the infection may have infiltrated your cat's cuticles. In the most severe ringworm cases, secondary skin infections and inflammation of the hair follicles may occur. Outbreaks tend to make their appearance approximately 2 weeks after the cat's exposure to the disease. Note that up to 20% of cats with ringworm never show any symptoms.

How Do Cats Acquire Ringworm?

Unfortunately, ringworm is highly contagious. Cats become infected through the environment, i.e., infected grooming equipment, furniture, soil, carpets and bedding as well as through direct contact with other infected animals. Ringworm is not actually a worm, it is a series of spore borne, fungal diseases which tend to grow in rings on the skin, hence the name. These spores can attach to the cat's coat or be shed back into the environment. Worst of all, these spores remain infectious for up to 18 months.

How is Feline Ringworm Diagnosed?

1. Wood's Ultraviolet Lamp
One of the simplest ways to detect ringworm is by using a black light. However, as only 50% of ringworm strains are detectable via this method, it may not prove successful. Look for a fluorescent green glow around the infected hair shafts.

2. Microscopic Exam
Your vet may elect to conduct a microscopic exam of your cat's hairs and skin to determine if the microscopic fungal strands (hyphae) and spores responsible for ringworm are detectable. This exam is best done by an experienced mycologist, (a botanist specializing in fungi research and study.)

3. Fungal Culture
Considered one of the best methods available for diagnosing ringworm, samples are taken from the cat's coat and then placed in a special medium that enhances fungal growth. This allows the lab to precisely diagnose the fungal species. The culture takes about 10 days or more to yield results. If the cat tested is shown to have ringworm, all your cats and other furry pets should be tested accordingly, even those who appear to be unaffected.

4. Biopsy
Should the lesions appear atypical in nature, your veterinarian may suggest performing a biopsy.

Treating Feline Ringworm.

A positive ringworm diagnosis means both your household environment and your pets will need to be treated. Consider keeping all cats confined to one area during treatment to prevent continued contamination of your home. Always wear gloves when working with your pets, changing clothes immediately after handling. Wash everything in an anti-fungal rinse (Available through your market) to kill spores. Wash and sanitize your home with anti-fungal products accordingly until all pets and surfaces are deemed well in the clear.

*Image courtesy of Free Digital Images