On a day that was like any other day, I went out to my cat room, to comb everyone and check everyone over – my special time, just me and the cats.
One of my girls sat on the grooming table while I combed thru her heavy silk coat. As I began to comb around her face and ears with a smaller tooth comb, something caught in the teeth, and my usually patient girl winced. I realized that in the comb was what appeared to be a scab, and horrified, I began to check her over in earnest. What I found were round red places, raised like an insect bite. “What the heck???” In her ears were black specks, and a black waxy substance – telltale signs of ear mites.
The Beginning - Ear Mites
"What is it?", my husband asked me.
“Oh - it’s just ear mites.” I said, relieved.
The vet prescribed some cleaner for her ears, and Revolution to clear up the ear mites. Thinking I had dodged a crisis - of, God forbid, the “f” word (f-u-n-g-u-s) - I was happy with the innocuous ear mites - an easy fix, I thought.
The Plot Thickens
In the weeks that followed, more strange things began happening. I found more crusty places on more of the girls – behind their ears, down their backs. I became more and more convinced it was fungus and not ear mites, as I felt that NOTHING short of fungus could be reeking havoc with their skin like this was.
Fortunately it was late fall - no one was in season, and no one was bred.
I pulled back from the shows for a while, probably costing us a breed win, but I had no choice. I told all my friends that I was covered up at work and couldn’t show right now. I scrubbed, and sprayed, and used gallons of Clorox and every veterinary disinfectant I could think of - only to find new places with scabs each time I combed a kitty.
At The Vet
At the vet, we cultured and cultured again. All the fungal tests were negative. Our local veterinary school called it “non specific dermatitis”.
“They don’t know what it is do they?”, I said to my vet.
“No they don’t”, he admitted. We treated them for fungus anyway. I gave them Ketaconazole, bathed them in fungal shampoos, waited, and prayed.
Their skin got better, the places healed, and I began to hope.
But while bathing one of my blacks, I found the coat to be sprinkled with “dandruff” - white specks everywhere. I also found crusts and red places. As I searched frantically on my computer, I found the article on PandEcats.com called The Mite Fight, which described the dandruff and other symptoms we had to a "T".
Doing more research on the Cheyletiella mite on the web, I found more information, including some misdiagnoses stories about people treating for ringworm - all the while they had mites.
As I prepared to initiate the treatments described in the article, I realized that I had been sort of inadvertently treating them - just not enough to cure them. Remember my girl with the ear mites? Looking for an inexpensive alternative for the ear mites, had purchased the .027 Ivomec and used it as ear drops weekly to “prevent ear mites”. In reality, I was “semi-treating” the fur/skin mites - just not enough. But it explained why I thought the Ketaconazole was “kinda working”.
The Successful Treatment
By trial and error I discovered that the one-percent Ivermectin is the best choice. I used the formula in the “Mite Flight” article, weighed everyone carefully, and started the shots. I also found that the best protocol for us was to use the Ivermectin injection bi-weekly, and on the opposite weeks, to apply Revolution (which is Selemectin - Ivermectin’s close cousin). This coincides well with our bathing schedules, and allowed the action of two separate, yet related, drugs.
Luckily, my veterinarian and I also discovered that the concentration of Selemectin is the same formula in the “Extra Large Dog”, as in the “cat size”, there is just more of it. The XL dog contains 2 cc/ml and the normal small cat size is .25 cc/ml. Using one (1) tube of the XL dog, which I poured into a small medicine vial, and a small syringe with the needle removed, I found I could do 8 kittens or 4 cats, with one tube of Revolution. The small syringe also aides in placing the drops directly on the skin, as it is easy to maneuver through the kitties’ thick coats.
I used the Nizoral shampoo (1 percent Ketaconazole) for bathing, which helped to heal some of the angry red places on their skin, and a gentle baby shampoo for the others.
One other thing that I found - and I am glad that I read it had been an experience of others - applying the Revolution seems to send the mites running for the cats’ ears. As those that had skin places but clear ears - had “cruddy ears” after beginning treatment. We added the Tresaderm ear drops to sooth and heal their ears, which was a great help. I can happily report that I think this crisis is behind us.
Did my veterinarian ever SEE the mites in all of his exams?? No (which is normal in skin mites–I understand they are rarely visible, even in scrapings), but fortunately he is a wonderful listener, and is always willing to help me in my proactive efforts with their healthcare. “Well we know it’s NOT fungus”, he said, “so it can’t hurt to try this.” So that is what we did.
Where did the mites come from?? I have NO IDEA. In all of my years of breeding and showing - and as careful as I have been, it had never happened before. Perhaps from a cat show, perhaps from a neighbor’s dog or cat who ran thru our backyard, perhaps from anywhere!! I only know that they were here, and I have the battle scars to prove it (yes, they do bite humans - they are like chigger bites), and I hope I NEVER see them again!!
As a precaution, I have continued the Revolution treatments monthly for all the cattery. As it prevents fleas, heartworm, and MITES - it seemed the reasonable thing to do. We continue to treat the outside of our home and cattery (which is the sun room) with a flea treatment (which also kills mites).
Although it is only based on my experience, I firmly believe that the ear and fur mites are somehow related. I know that this started in their ears, like “ordinary ear mites”, but there is nothing ordinary about what happens next. As I treated them, the mites seemed to return to the ears at their last stop before they disappeared.
I hope no one has ever had these but me. (But I know that is not true, because I have talked to many people during my “quest”.) Just in case someone is out there panicking - thinking they have “fungus” in their cattery - think about the MITE! If you are at a loss, do as my vet said -
“Try the treatment. It can’t hurt - and it just might help.”
Good luck to all!!! See you in the show ring!!