Cheyletiella dermatitis is commonly known as cat dandruff. Even though the itch caused by cheyletiella dermatitis is mild in nature, it compels the cat to scratch which can lead to substantial feline hair loss.
Out of the three common species of cheyletiella mites, Cheyletiella blakei affects cats the most. This external mite lives on the outer layers of the cat’s skin and can be observed as white specks moving around scales. This gives the disease, cheyletiella dermatitis, its nickname ‘walking dandruff’. The back of the cat is most involved, but the cheyletiella dermatitis may also appear around the head and neck.
Signs of cheyletiella dermatitis include formation of scales (dandruff), a large number of mites moving on the skin, mild irritation, crusts and small papules. A good combing using a flea comb will help in detecting the infestation. In some cases, a sample of skin scrapings may be needed for confirmation through microscopic examination. During self grooming, cats may ingest mites. As mites are passed undigested through stool, they can sometimes be seen in the feces also.
Like feline acne, cheyletiella dermatitis is one of the milder conditions of cat and dog skin problems, and the prognosis of treatment is very good. The lifecycle of the cheyletiella mite is not exactly known, but it is assumed that it completes one life cycle on one host only. Most infections are through contact with infected animals or through the environment.
Treatments of cheyletiella mite infection involve simple procedures like giving your cat a bath using medicated shampoos. It can also be treated with insecticidal dips, powders or sprays. Aggressive long term treatment involves drugs and topical creams that need to be used over a period of time ranging from a week to two months.
There is no big risk of environmental contamination from cheyletiella mites. It is advisable to keep your cat away from other pets during treatment to avoid transmission as the mites can live off the host for up to 14 days. Cleaning the environment with a good insecticide spray will actually help in prevention.
Cheyletiella mites are highly contagious and can infect humans, too. Anyone handling the cat must use caution. It is also advisable to make a strong effort at cleaning the home environment once your cat has been diagnosed with cheyletiella mite infection:
- Wash all beddings.
- Discard combs and brushes used to groom the cat.
- Vacuum carpets and furnishings thoroughly.
- Spray flea-control insecticides.