Sarcoptic mange, also known as canine scabies, is caused by an 8-legged mite called Sarcoptes scabiei, var. canis and is highly contagious. Although sarcoptic mites prefer dogs, they are zoonotic, which means that they can infect humans. The life cycle of sarcoptic mites is about 17-21 days spent on their host. Female mites burrow into the skin to lay eggs. Once the eggs hatch within 3 weeks, the young mites feed on the host’s skin.
Dogs will usually show signs about 10 days to 8 weeks after being infected. Early-stage mange starts out as an itch around the ear flaps and elbows. The first signs of sarcoptic mange often appear on the chest, belly, ears, elbows, and legs. Left untreated, it can quickly spread.
Not all dogs show signs, but the common signs include:
- Intense itching
- Hair loss
- Crusty, scaly areas on the skin
- Bloody and inflamed lesions can result from self-mutilation and scratching
- Secondary skin infections and skin thickening
- Weight loss (extreme cases)
Demodectic mange, also known as “red mange,” is caused by the Demodex canis mite. All dogs, and humans for that matter, have small numbers of host-specific demodectic mites that live in the hair follicles and sebaceous glands. These mites are considered a normal part of the skin flora. Demodectic mange occurs when the number of mites becomes larger than normal and overwhelms the immune system, resulting in inflammation and hair loss.
Both puppies and adult dogs can develop demodectic mange. In puppies, demodectic mange may be caused by an inherited immune system insufficiency, which may be specific to their breed. In adult dogs, demodectic mange is often a result of an underlying disease, such as diabetes, which can suppress immune function. Demodectic mange is typically not contagious to other dogs or humans.
Signs of Demodectic Mange
In puppies, localized areas of hair loss (with no other signs) often on the head or limbs can occur. This juvenile onset localized condition often resolves on its own, without any specific treatment needed.
However, generalized demodectic mange can be a very severe disease with dramatic changes seen on the dog’s skin and coat, including:
Red and inflamed skin
Secondary skin infections
Crusts and scales on skin
Darkening and/or thickening of the skin
With secondary infection, skin often becomes itchy
Treating Mange in Dogs
Mange can look similar to other skin conditions in dogs, and the treatment and control for each type of mange is different. That’s why it is so important to have your pet properly diagnosed by a veterinarian. Mange is diagnosed by scraping the dog’s skin and observing the sample under a microscope for mites.
Both sarcoptic and demodectic mange require properly cleaning the skin and controlling the mites in order to clear up the infestation.
This can be done in a number of ways:
- Topical or Oral Treatments: Discuss medicated treatment with your veterinarian. Your vet will recommend different treatments based on the type of mange they diagnose. In severe cases, dogs may need antibiotics to treat a secondary bacterial infection.
- Maintain Good Hygiene: Sarcoptic mange can be extremely contagious, so maintain good handwashing techniques and ensure your pet’s bedding and water and food bowls are washed regularly.
How to Help Prevent Mange in Dogs
Take these steps to help prevent your dog from getting mange:
- Keep your dog and yourself away from any animal that you know or suspect has sarcoptic mange.
- Keep up to date with your dog’s parasite control.
Demodectic mange may be caused by a suppressed immune system and not be influenced by environmental factors, so your veterinarian may wish to perform additional tests to determine an underlying cause.