Walking dandruff in cats, also referred to as Cheyletiellosis, will actually look like dandruff but there is one caveat; this dandruff moves.
It can cause your cats skin to become both scaly as well as flaky, become extremely itchy, and in the most severe of cases it can cause redness which may lead to open sores.
What make this skin condition even more dangerous is that it is a zoonotic disease as well.
This means that it is highly contagious and it can be spread from your cat to other cats, dogs, as well as humans.
Walking dandruff in cats is much more common in kitten, long haired cats, and rescued cats.
However, it can also affect any cat that spends time in a shelter, any type of a boarding facility, or even a grooming business where there are a lot of cats.
Poor sanitation as well as over crowing in the most common denominator in your cat catching this very contagious disease.
The cause of walking dandruff in your cat is by infestation by the Cheyletiella mite which is found worldwide.
This mite comes in three different forms, but only one of the forms, Cheyletiella blakei, will affect your cat.
The other forms affect primarily dogs or rabbits.
The actual life cycle of this mite is quite short and will only last for about three weeks.
However, in this time frame your cat is infected in a couple of ways.
The first is by the female adult mite actually laying eggs on the host, which in this case, is your cat.
The eggs will than hatch into larvae, develop into nymphs, and then they grow into adults.
When the adult mite is transmitted, it is by a direct form of contact between animals.
Even though the other two forms attack dogs or rabbits, they can easily infect your cat via this transmission or infect a dog, another cat, or humans.
However, walking dandruff in cats can also be transmitted by the environment.
If the female mite drops off your cat, they can live for several days in the environment during their cycle.
It is in this manner that they can easily infect your cats bedding, their litter box, or even your furniture.
The symptoms of walking dandruff in cats will vary slightly depending on the actual severity of the infection.
In most all cases, once your cat is infected, these mites will cover their entire body.
They will basically dig under your cat’s scales in their skin, and the movements that you will be able to see are the mites actually moving under the scales.
Once you witness this, it is quite astonishing and frightening.
One of the first actual symptoms will be a slight hair loss in your cat that is very quickly followed by scaling skin, which resembles dandruff.
Some cats may experience just mild forms of itching, while in others in can become extreme.
In the extreme cases, it may also cause thickening of the skin, which in turn will turn it a flaming reddish color.
Although these symptoms can occur anywhere on your cats body, in the vast majority of cases, it will affect your cats back the hardest.
Walking dandruff in cats is fairly easy to diagnose by your veterinarian, but if your cat is showing all of the symptoms and you see signs that look like moving dandruff, you can also look yourself.
These mites are much larger than most all other forms of mites, and if you take a magnify glass and look closely at your cats skin, you will be able to actually see them.
A flea comb is considered the most reliable of all the tests, and your veterinarian will comb your cat very thoroughly and then place the comb under a microscope.
This is always done with a dark background, as they will show up as white specks that are actually moving.
It is for this reason this condition is referred to as walking dandruff.
Skin scraping will also be done; especially if the infestation is just starting or is very slight. Clear acetate tape may also be used as the mites will stick to the tape.
There are several forms of treatment for walking dandruff in cats, but there will be one thing in common with any treatment.
Once it has been identified as this form of mite infection, any of your other cats or dogs will also have to be treated.
The first form of treatment is with Ivermectin, which is extremely effective.
It may be given by injection or orally by your veterinarian, and will be used at least once a week for at least 4 to 5 weeks.
Revolution, Advantage, and Frontline all have topical drugs that can also be used and will be applied between your cat’s shoulders.
They are also very effective, but usually take slightly longer.
If the infection is severe, your cat may have to undergo sulfur dips.
If you have a long haired breed, they will have to have their hair trimmed prior to the dip so it can reach below the skin.
These dips are generally done weekly and may last between 6 and 8 weeks before it is totally effective.
Walking dandruff in cats will only be as effective as your prevention techniques once your cat has become infected.
You will need to thoroughly wash all of your cats bedding using Clorox bleach, and then you will have to discard any brushes or combs that you have.
It is not recommended that you try to clean them, just start fresh with new ones.
You should also thoroughly vacuum all areas of your home and then immediately discard the bag, as these mites can survive and may be spread by your next vacuum job.
Walking dandruff in cats looks much more sinister than it actually is. It can successfully be treated but it will take some time.
If your cat does become infected, it will be extremely important for you to thoroughly wash with antibacterial soap every time you handle your cat until the treatment is completed.
If you are bringing a new cat into your household, spend the extra money to have them thoroughly examined and tested by your veterinarian.
It may cost a little extra, but it can save a lot of money and aggravation in the long term.