Demodex is a parasitic mite that causes a skin disease often referred to as mange. The microscopic Demodex mites live in the hair follicles and oil glands of your cat’s (or dog's) skin or at the skin surface. Cats are also host to a sarcoptic mite called Notoedres. The resulting disease is often referred to as scabies.
Although animals often harbor Demodex mites, most healthy animals are able to suppress the populations.
Demodex mites create patches of hair loss that may cause mild irritation and itching. Notedres mites create inflamed areas that are extremely irritated and itchy to the cat.
Diagnosis of mites is made through skin scrapings of the affected areas. Most common infestations are found on the head and neck and less commonly on the trunk and limbs.
First and foremost, maintaining your cat’s overall health is critical to creating immunity to mite infestations. A good diet and clean environment can greatly reduce the opportunity for your cat to develop mange. Because some mites are transmitted by other cats, areas where cats congregate can create greater risk for mite infestations.
Infestations can be treated. Consult your veterinarian for additional prevention strategies and treatment options.
Demodex mites pose no threat to humans. Certain scabies mites can cause temporary lesions in humans but this occurs infrequently.