I am sorry to be the bearer of bad news, autumn is approaching. But see it as a time to reflect and reminisce over the gorgeous summer we had, how our feline friends managed to enjoy those glorious days outside and explore the “wide world”. Exploring the fields, back gardens, catching the odd mouse or bird and meeting other feline friends or foes, exposes our felines to more parasites. Not only fleas and ticks, roundworms and tapeworms but also the aptly named mites – Trombicula autumnalis aka the Harvest mite.
The mites are commonly found in forests and grasslands, and increasingly in suburban environments too. They are related to spiders; hence the adult mite has 8 legs. The six-legged larval stage is the only stage that feeds on mammals (pets and humans) and birds. The larvae (“orange little dots”) will jump onto the feline when it is roaming through the vegetation and will attach onto the skin, especially in thinly haired areas. In cats, you will therefore, find them most commonly around the ears and between the toes, but can be found anywhere on the body. They will feed for 2-3 days and then fall off to complete the life cycle. The larvae live on the skin and during feeding pierce the skin and release enzymes. These enzymes are irritating to the skin and result in intense itching. The cat will start chewing or scratching itself, leading to self-inflicted wounds. These lesions can vary from crusted spots to areas of hair loss to raw moist bleeding areas.
Diagnosis is made mainly on a history of intense itch late summer/early autumn (however, we are seeing cases as early as July), the location and appearance of the lesions and visualisation of the orange larvae.
There are currently no products licensed for the treatment of harvest mites in cats. Some flea treatments on prescription will be effective in treating them. In most cases, the cat will not require any treatment once the mites are killed. However, some cats develop a hypersensitivity to bites from harvest mite larvae and they will benefit from additional glucocorticoid treatment
So, moral of the story – keep one step ahead of the parasites and keep your feline’s flea and worm treatment up to date. We offer a Pet Health Plan for as little as £10.99/month to help you just do that. Please contact the Oxford Cat Clinic from more info.