Three Common Questions about Mites in Cats

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Mites are tiny parasitic bugs that live on the skin and can usually only be seen under a microscope. There are many different species of mites, and they are usually species-specific, meaning that a particular type of mite only lives on one species of animal. The most common type of mites found on cats are known as Cheyletiella. Like most mites, they cause a condition called mange, which leads to itchiness of flakiness of the skin.

Mite infestations in cats often go untreated for longer than necessary because owners aren't aware that mites are to blame for their cats' symptoms.  The answers to these common questions about mites will help you better understand these creatures, how they can affect your cat, and how to treat an infestation.

How can you tell the difference between a mite infestation and dry skin?

Some cats do develop dry skin, especially in the winter when they sit in front of heating vents, letting the dry air flow over their skin. However, most cases of dry and itchy skin in cats do have an underlying cause such as fleas or mites. Fleas are brown and about the size of a pinhead. If you don't spot any of them on your cat, you should seriously consider the possibility that your cat's symptoms are being caused by mites.

In addition to dry, itchy skin, mites can also lead to hair loss. Sometimes your cat may develop dandruff that appears to move if you watch closely. The movement is caused by the tiny mites moving around under the flakes of skin.

How can mite infestations be diagnosed and treated?

If you have any inkling that your cat might have mites, take him or her to the vet. Your vet will examine a skin sample under the microscope to see whether mites are to blame. You might find out that your cat just has dry skin, but you're better safe than sorry, since an untreated mite infestation can cause serious skin lesions and infections.

If your cat is found to have mites, your vet will prescribe a topical insecticide to be applied to your cat's skin. You will also be instructed how to clean your home to eliminate any mites that are lingering in your carpet and furniture. This step is vital to prevent re-infestation of your cat.

Can you prevent a cat from getting mites?

You can reduce your cat's risk of contracting mites by avoiding bringing other animals into the home. Strays, especially, should never be brought into the home before being examined by a vet, since they may spread mites and other dangerous diseases to your cat. If you have to take your cat to a kennel or boarding facility, ask your vet about a repelling agent you can apply to reduce the risk of your pet picking up mites, fleas and other pests.

Mites are tiny, but they are certainly irritating for your cat. The good news is that the mites that infect cats do not infect humans. As long as you have your cat treated promptly by vets in Markham, he or she will be healthy and happy again in just a few short days.