Help, My Cat Has Scabies!

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Mild scabies can be difficult to diagnose. In cases of persistent itching, it’s important that your veterinarian delve into the causes and not just treat the itch. Patti M. writes:

When I rescued Bella almost a year ago, she had scabies. She stayed at my vet’s office until she was cured. I have had to take her back several times for cortisone shots because she scratches under her chin until she bleeds. She’s had several rounds of prednisone but the scabies never seems to be gone! She is so sweet and I feel so bad for her. Any Ideas?

Patti, let me begin by saying that we are not veterinarians and that this is something you should continue to address with the vet of your choice. However, you may want to seek out another opinion if your current vet hasn't offered a better solution than cortisone and prednisone. Ongoing use of those could do more harm than good.

Scabies (a type of mange) is caused by microscopic mites that should be easy enough to get rid of. Treatments may include oral drugs, topical solutions, injections, or dips. Treating the itching with cortisone & prednisone only treats the symptom and not the cause. The root cause of the itching, be it mites or something else, needs to be determined before a real treatment can be chosen and applied successfully. Most vets would do that by taking skin scrapings to see if there are mites present but even then they may be difficult to find. Some vets recommend treating for scabies just to see if conditions improve. Many common oral flea and tick treatments are effective at treating mites as well. Your vet will have to be persistent in trying to figure out what is actually making Bella itch. It could be scabies, an allergic reaction, or even feline acne.

I mention acne because it often manifests on the chins of felines. It is treatable but there is no cure. See this article for more on feline acne: http://kittyhelpdesk.com/help-desk/help-my-cat-has-acne .

If it is determined that Bella has scabies, you will need to thoroughly clean anything she’s come into contact with. The sarcoptes scabiei mite is highly contagious and can easily spread to humans. It usually doesn’t infest humans in the same way that it does other animals because we’re not the host they evolved to feed off of, but they can still cause considerable itching.

I feel certain that with the right veterinarian, you should be able to help Bella. Unfortunately, most vets don't dig into cases like this the way that they should. You really have to demand (kindly of course) that they do more than treat the itching symptom. I had a cat who developed a bad fish allergy and were it not for an older vet who knew his stuff, she might still be on anti-itch meds. Stick to your guns and keep asking what tests could help determine the actual cause of the itching. And if you think it's feline acne, follow through on the suggestions in the article I linked to above.

All our best to you and Bella!