Atlas of livestock parasites
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Demodex felis



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Feline Demodicosis

Feline demodicosis is an uncommon to rare skin disease caused by at least 2 species of demodectic mites. Demodex cati is thought to be a normal inhabitant of feline skin. It is a follicular mite, similar to but narrower than the canine mite, that can cause either localized or generalized demodicosis. One other species of Demodex (named D gatoi) is shorter, with a broad abdomen, and is found only in the stratum corneum. It causes a contagious, transmissible, superficial demodicosis that is frequently pruritic and can be generalized. In follicular localized demodicosis, there are one or several areas of focal alopecia most commonly on the head and neck. In generalized disease, alopecia, crusting, and potential secondary pyoderma of the whole body are seen. The generalized form is often associated with an underlying immunosuppressive or metabolic disease such as feline leukemia virus infection, feline immunodeficiency virus infection, diabetes mellitus, or neoplasia. In some cases, ceruminous otitis externa is the only clinical sign.


Diagnosis is made by superficial (D gatoi) and deep (D cati) skin scrapings, although mite numbers are often small, especially with D gatoi. Medical evaluation is indicated in cats with generalized disease. Dermatophyte cultures are essential, because dermatophytosis and demodicosis can be concomitant conditions. Prognosis of generalized demodicosis is unpredictable because of its potential relationship with systemic disease. Some cases spontaneously resolve. Weekly lime-sulfur dips (2%) are safe and usually effective; amitraz (0.0125–0.025%) has been used, but is not approved for use in cats and can cause anorexia, depression, and diarrhea. The use of antiparasitic macrocyclic lactones has been reported but their efficacy is unclear.



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