Mange: Cause, Signs, and Symptoms

Mange is really nasty. So are descriptions and photos of what it does to an animal. If you have a weak stomach, skip this page.
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Cause Of Mange, And Types

Mange is caused by a tiny parasite, a "mite", which is a form of arachnid (related to spiders).

Fleas live on the outer surface of the skin. Fleas bite an animal and drink blood, but next to mange mites, fleas are a treat.

Mange mites dig into the skin and live beneath the surface. In addition to drinking the animal's blood, they provoke allergic reactions.

There are several different kinds of mange, each caused by a different species of mite. In addition to cats, just about any mammal can get mange, as can birds. The most common form of mange in dogs is Demodectic mange (red mange), but much rarer in cats. The most common form of mange in cats is Notoedric mange.

Forms of mange:

Since my web pages are dedicated to treatment of cats, I will assume Notoedric Mange. I will occasionally make reference to diagnosis and treatment of other animals and other forms of mange.

Mange is highly contagious. If one cat in your household gets mange, all cats should be treated. Mange mites from animals can be transferred to humans, but usually don't take hold there.

A cat with mange looks terrible, and feels even worse. Untreated, mange can kill.

Bandit's Symptoms

The first time I saw a cat with mange, I thought that he had been in a fight. The fur around the neck looked like it had been torn out, with large scabby patches in its place.

If you're brave enough to touch it, the fur on the neck feels thin, and the skin underneath feels crusty or scabby. Underneath the crust, the skin seems thickened or leathery, perhaps due to inflammation or scar tissue.

The skin may also feel loose - the animal is losing weight.

Actually, the cat might look even worse than this. The pictures on the right were taken after some kludgy home treatments intended to buy time. Although I don't claim that the pink lotion is a real cure, it certainly helped with the crustiness. You should have seen Bandit a week before this. Ugh!

The face and ears didn't look quite so alarming, but were obviously discolored by brown stuff that's probably oxidized blood.

Mange looks terrible. But it feels even worse.

The constant irritation of the mites digging into the skin causes the animal to scratch itself continuously. This often breaks the skin, causing more pain and bringing on infection.

The body attacks the invading mites and infections, using up precious resources. The animal becomes lethargic. Cats with advanced cases of mange often stop eating. They starve to death.

But there is some good news. The photos on the left, that show a normal cat, are after treatment. Mange can be cured, restoring the cat to complete normalacy.


Here are some of the symptoms of mange:

Note that fur on the ears is thin, with pink skin visible through.

Note dark colored "dirt" in the ear.

Note fluid discharge from the ear.

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