Are Those Flakes Of Skin… Moving? A Guide To Walking Dandruff In Cats

Flakes of skin are yucky enough as it is. When you look at your cat and see what appear to be pieces of loose skin moving or wiggling, that can be downright creepy! If you're having this issue, rest assured that your cat is not possessed, and you're not dreaming. Rather, your cat is suffering from an infestation with a specific type of mite called Cheyletiella. The condition is often known as "walking dandruff" for obvious reasons. Here's a closer look.

What causes walking dandruff?

Cheyletiella mites are pretty common, and they can take up residence on dogs, cats, and rabbits. Your cat may have caught the mites when he came into contact with another infested animal. It's also possible that eggs from the mites were found on some used bedding, cat toys, or other items that you brought home for your cat. Cheyletiella mites are common in shelters, so if you recently adopted your pet, he may have caught the condition there.

The movement you're seeing really is pieces of dandruff. The mites make the skin itchy and flaky, and when they get under a piece of dandruff and shuffle about, it appears like the dandruff flakes are moving or shaking.

What should you do about the infestation?

Thankfully, walking dandruff is pretty easy to treat. Take your cat to the vet, who can confirm the diagnosis and then prescribe a pesticide to kill the mites. Your cat may need to be bathed in this pesticide, or it might be a powder you need to shake on your cat a few times over the coming weeks.

Until you are sure that your cat is mite-free, make sure he does not have contact with other pets. If you have multiple pets, your vet will likely recommend treating them all with the pesticides. Even if they are not showing obvious symptoms yet, they might be in the beginning stages of an infestation. Launder all of your cat's bedding and any other items he sleeps on in hot water to kill the mites.

Walking dandruff can make your cat itchy and uncomfortable. It can result in scabs, bloody skin patches, scars and hair loss if you don't treat it, so act quickly. Luckily, most cats are mite-free within a few weeks once you begin treatment, and the mites don't usually spread to or bite humans, so your own health is not in jeopardy.

For more information, contact local professionals like those found at Animal House Veterinary Hospital.