Mange in Dogs: Demodectic and Sarcoptic Mange in Canines

If you follow the news about dogs, including stories about neglected, abused or stray animals, you have probably seen the sad photos of dogs in horrible condition, including dogs which seem to have no hair, and have crusty thickened patches all over their bodies.

These dogs with severe cases of mange are commonly described as having skin like stone.

Even though this is a horrible and painful condition, with the proper treatment and care, even the most severe cases can be treated and cured.

But for animals which are left untreated, mange can lead to a terrible and painful death due to the skin developing open wounds which can get infected.

The fact is, mange isn’t that uncommon and can affect dogs which live under perfect care and in clean and healthy conditions as well.

Mange in dogs is the most common cause of itchy skin in dogs after fleas.

What is Mange?

Mange is a skin disease which is caused by different types of mites. The word Mange comes from the French “mangue” which means eat or itch.

Mange is caused by different types of mites which can infect most animal kinds and humans too.

The most obvious first symptom of mange in dogs is itchy skin. This is caused by the multitude of mites which enter and live in the skin of the dogs.

Just like we do, dogs too have mites which naturally live on their skin and in the hair follicles. The problem is when these mites start spreading uncontrollably and multiplying when mange becomes a problem.

Once the mites get out of control, the dog’s body can lose its natural defenses against them. This is especially common among dogs with weak immune systems, such as puppies, or older dogs.

There are two most common types of mange in dogs – sarcoptic (scabies) and demodectic (demodicosis) mange, but there are other rarer types of mange like the one caused by cheyletiellosis mites or another caused by ear mites. Feline scabies can also affect dogs and cause notoedric mange.

It is essential that the mange type is diagnosed properly so that the suitable treatment can be prescribed.

Canine scabies (sarcoptic mange) is highly contagious and the most common type of mange in dogs. It can infect people, but thankfully these mites cannot complete their lifecycles on human skin, so the infections are short-lived on people.

Demodex (demodectic mange) is rarer and is usually passed on from the mother to the puppies.

What causes mange in dogs?

There is no one underlying reason for mange in dogs. It can happen to some dogs more than to others, and it also depends on the type of mites causing the mange.

Sarcoptic and cheyletiella mites are highly contagious. They can easily spread from one dog to another, and you may not even realize which one of the dogs is spreading the mites and has the sarcoptic mange.

This mange can spread by shared bedding, brushes, and toys and between the dogs themselves.

Unfortunately, the sarcoptic and cheyletiella mites can survive off of the host for several days, so dogs can get contaminated even without direct communication between each other.

The rarer demodectic mange is not related to contamination because almost all dogs have this mite living on their skin.

All types of mange happen when the dog’s immune system is weakened or for some other reason is not able to handle the growing mite population on the skin.

Mange commonly affects young puppies, old dogs as well as neglected dogs or those with compromised immune systems due to health problems, mistreatment or stress.

Some breeds are found to be more susceptible to mange than others, which can be due to genetic factors. These breeds are Beagles, Afghan Hounds, Bulldogs, Collies, Chihuahuas, Pugs, Dachshunds, Shar-Pei’s, Terriers and Shih Tzus.

It is not the mites that cause the visible signs of mange in dogs, but rather the dogs are weak and cannot handle the infestation and overpopulation of mites on their bodies, and as a result of the scratching, and biting their hair starts to fall off, their skin develops scabby lesions and crusts, and bald patches and wrinkled skin develop.

Sarcoptic Mange (Canine scabies)

This is the most common type of mange in dogs. It is caused by a round shaped mite with eight legs called Sarcoptes scabei. It is a highly contagious form of mange.

The parasite can be transmitted from one dog to another directly or indirectly, and can even spread to non-canine hosts.

The female mite lays its eggs in the skin, and in about three weeks, these eggs hatch and the young start feeding on the dog’s skin. This causes the incessant itchiness and the scratching which leads to the hair falling off in patches or completely. It can also cause the crusty red sores which are very typical of dogs with sarcoptic mange.

The cycle repeats itself every three weeks as the mites continue reproducing.

It is a treatable condition but is highly contagious for other dogs, animals, and even humans.

Thankfully, this mite cannot live and complete its lifecycle on human skin, so even if you get infected it will be short-lived.

Still, if you have more than one dog at home, it is recommended to keep the affected dog under quarantine, until the mange is being treated.

The most common places where dogs can get infected with mange are animal shelters, kennels, groomers, dog parks and at the vets.

Worse of all, the mites can survive off the animal for several days and infect another dog days after that.

The first symptom of the infection will star becoming evident after 2 to 6 weeks after the exposure to the mites.

It is most likely the itchiest type of mange in canines.

Symptoms of sarcoptic mange

The first symptoms of sarcoptic mange start appearing as the females lay their eggs and as the young start hatching and feeding on the dog’s skin.

This usually occurs about 10 days to 2 weeks after contact with a dog with scabies.

Usually, the first symptoms of infection appear on the ears, elbows, chest, hocks and the belly of the dog.

If left untreated, the infection can easily spread, because the life cycle of these mites is only about 3 weeks.

The main symptoms of sarcoptic mange are:

  • Extremely itchy skin
  • Red skin and a rash
  • The formation of thick yellow crusts on the skin
  • Hair loss
  • Yeast and bacterial infections
  • Skin thickening (in advanced cases)
  • Inflammation of the lymph nodes (in advanced cases)

How is Sarcoptic Mange diagnosed?

After ruling out other underlying problems which could be causing the itchiness of the skin, such as allergies, bacterial infections, and chiggers, the vet will perform a physical examination of the dog in order to identify the exact microorganism causing the problem.

This is easily done with a few skin scrapings which the vet will examine under a microscope for any sign of eggs or mites in the skin cells.

Sometimes though no mites or eggs appear during the examination of the skin samples but yet the symptoms are clear enough to suggest sarcoptic mange.

Treatment for sarcoptic mange in dogs

Your vet may prescribe a shampoo to kill the mites as well as medication for the sarcoptic mange.

Some of the commonly used drugs to treat this condition include ivermectin, lime sulfur, selamectin and doramectin. In many cases, two or more are used, because some mites have developed immunity to one or more of them.

As soon as you get home from the vet, you should remove all dog beds, beddings, harnesses and collars and either throw them away or wash them in the washing machine.

Sarcoptic mange is highly contagious, so if you have other dogs at home, you should treat them all, so that the mites will not keep getting passed back and forth from one dog to another.

If your other dogs do not seem affected, keep the dog with mange in quarantine until the treatment is over.

Dogs suffering from non-seasonal sarcoptic mange are most likely to be treated with a scabicide which kills the mites.

In some cases, the animal will need to be dipped in a shampoo which kills off the mites.

Ongoing treatment is also necessary in order to kill off both the mites and any newly hatched ones as well, as most medicines will kill only the mites, but not the eggs.

The treatment should be performed under veterinary supervision.

Depending on the condition of your dog, it may need to be dipped once a week for as long as 6 weeks in order to ensure that any mites and eggs left are eliminated.

Your vet may also prescribe oral treatment for your dog.

If you get infected by the sarcoptic mite yourself, you can develop a purple colored rash on your arms, abdomen or chest. Typically, this will clear up as soon as the dog is treated and cured.

You need to keep the pup as comfortable and as well during the treatment, because a healthy immune system will handle the mites much better than a weakened one.

You need to ensure that the dog has a comfortable and warm place to sleep with independent bedding and that it gets high-quality meals on a regular basis.

Don’t make the dog feel ignored just because of the mange. After all, it is still part of the family, right?

Unfortunately, there is no known way to prevent canine scabies completely.

Demodectic Mange (Demodicosis)

Demodicosis is a much rarer form of mange in dogs than scabies. It is caused by the Demodex mite. Once the number of the Demodex mites inhabiting the skin and hair follicles of the dog increases rapidly, this can lead to lesions on the skin, alopecia (hair loss) and skin infections.

The Demodex mite is shaped like a cigar, has eight legs and is a normal part of the flora of the dog’s skin. It is present at all times, and in most cases is harmless. The Demodex mites are passed on to the puppies from their mothers.

Under normal circumstances, these mites inhabit the dog’s hair follicles without causing any problems. Dogs with normal immune systems are able to keep the number of the mites inhabiting their skin and hair under control.

The problem comes when the dog has a weakened immune system. It is then when the population of the Demodex mites can get out of control.

The dogs which are at higher risk of demodicosis are:

  • Puppies with an inherited weakened immune system – they are prone to the juvenile onset of Demodex which can be quite serious
  • Some young and healthy dogs can develop some patches of Demodex at some point of life which can easily be treated with localized treatment, or may even go away on their own
  • Senior, ill, stray or neglected dogs which have weaker immune systems can develop Demodex. Dogs with diabetes, cancer or other health conditions which can weaken the canine health system are more prone to this type of mange
  • Some dogs lack the ability to produce the immune factors which help eliminate the mites – this is believed to be a hereditary problem

Demodicosis is usually much less severe than scabies, and in many cases is a self-limiting condition which the dog itself can manage by limiting the reproduction and repairing the damage caused by the mites.

It is a less aggressive type of mange, which is more common among puppies and young dogs.

The puppies affected by demodectic mange will have itchy and red skin and patches without hair.

Thankfully, the Demodex mites cannot live and survive off of the animal, so they will be born, live and die in the hair follicles and will not fall off the animal or spread to others.

This type of mange can appear on any puppy, no matter how well you take care of it and how clean your home is.

In very rare cases, the Demodex mites can infest the skin or hair of humans, but this can be eliminated through medications and topical treatment.

Dogs which have had difficult cases of Demodex mange should not be bred, and most vets will recommend that they are neutered or spayed to prevent the passing on of the mutated gene which causes the problem with dealing with these mites.

Adult-onset demodicosis usually occurs in dogs which have another condition which is causing the compromising of their immune system.

Such illnesses include cancer, systematic fungal disease, hypothyroidism, adrenal gland problems as well as some prescribed cortisone medications.

These cases can be cured only after the underlying illness causing the problem is resolved successfully.

Symptoms of Demodectic Mange

The most common symptoms of demodectic mange include:

  • Hair loss
  • Bold patches with raised spots
  • Alopecia
  • Redness
  • Sores
  • Scaling
  • Lesions or scabbing
  • Itching

Demodectic mange can be either localized or generalized. While localized demodectic mange is confined to a particular area of the body, the generalized demodectic mange will spread throughout the dog’s body.

The generalized type causes a higher volume of hair loss and extremely irritated skin as well as scaling, crusts, and swelling. It can also cause the footpads to become swollen, fever and the contraction of bacterial infections.

There is a demodectic pododermatitis type of this mange which affects only the dog’s paws.

How is Demodectic Mange diagnosed?

Your vet will perform a physical examination of the dog, including taking skin scrapings and inspecting the samples under a microscope. The vet may also pluck some hairs to search for the mites and their eggs in the hair follicles.

As mentioned previously, the vet will look for underlying health conditions which can be causing the weakening of the immune system in adult dogs, and look for ways to treat them in order to help treat the demodectic mange as well.

Treatment for demodectic mange in dogs

While in many cases, localized demodectic mange will resolve itself and go away without treatment, an insecticide may be prescribed as a topical treatment for the affected area to speed up the recovery process.

Even generalized demodectic mange can go away by itself, but it is usually treated with oral medications and with dips for the dog.

In case, the mange has caused an infection of the skin, antibiotics will be prescribed as part of the treatment as well.

Some dogs may need treatment for generalized demodicosis for life. Overall, the younger the dog is – the better the chances of it being cured completely.

Since stress and poor health are the main cause for dogs becoming vulnerable to demodectic mange, your vet will prescribe a healthy diet, regular checkups, and keeping up with the worm, heartworm, and flea prevention.

Also, spaying female dogs can help reduce the stress that the heat cycle and the sex hormones put on the pup’s body.

The easiest way to treat demodectic mange in dogs is with isoxazoline tick and flea medicine. The dosing depends on the brand your vet prescribes, but typically it is one chewable tablet administered every 2 to 6 weeks.

Ivermectin has been found to be very effective in treating demodectic mange but it needs to be given on a daily basis until the dog is cured and the infection is under control.

Please be warned, that although such information can be found online – treating your dog with motor oil can be toxic and deadly to dogs – so do not attempt to apply it on their skin or feed it to them!

The follow-up care for dogs with demodectic mange includes regular skin scrapings to check the progress of the treatment.

Regular medication may be necessary in some long-term cases of demodectic mange in dogs.

With year around treatment for ticks and fleas with a product effective for mites, you can make sure that your dog doesn’t get this problem again.

Cheyletiellosis Mange

This is one of the rarest types of mange in dogs, caused by the C.yasguri mites that move beneath the keratin layer of the dog’s skin and pushes up the scales of the skin as it moves.

It leaves a pattern which is the reason why it is often called the “walking dandruff mange”. You may be seeing yellow and flaky dandruff on the hair and skin of your dog, but these can actually be the mites themselves if your dog is infected with cheyletiellosis mange.

The symptoms of this type of mange in dogs include:

  • An unkempt coat
  • Small red bumps
  • Hair loss
  • Visible mites moving on the surface of the skin

Cheyletiellosis mange is extremely contagious and can be passed from one animal to another as well as from the dog to the humans as well.

It is usually treated with topical treatments including Amitraz or Lime-Sulphur dip.

The dips need to be repeated from 6 to 8 weeks to ensure that the mites are killed off.

Ivermectin can also be prescribed as an oral or injectable medicament for cheyletiellosis mange in dogs.

It is essential to wash or throw away all of the beddings, harnesses, collars, and other materials which your dog has been in contact in order to prevent future exposure to those nasty mites.

Notoedric Mange (Feline Scabies)

This is cat mange caused by the Notoedres mite which can infect both dogs and humans. This is a very rare type of mange, and some vets haven’t even seen a real case of it during their practice.

The treatment for feline scabies is similar to that for sarcoptic mange in dogs.

Ear mites mange

Another lesser-known type of mange is the ear mites mange. It affects the dog’s ear and is due to an infestation of otodectes cynotis mites.

They are very contagious and can easily be transferred from one animal to another. They are not contagious to humans though.

The treatment of this type of ear mite mange includes the removal of the build-up in the dog’s ear which acts as a barrier to the medication.

One of the most common treatments is Tresaderm which is placed inside the ear of the infected dog.

Can I get mange from my dog, and is it dangerous for my cat?

Many people who live with multiple pets worry about the mange infecting the other animals or the humans at home too.

Unfortunately, it is possible to get infected by scabies, but thankfully the sarcoptic mite cannot survive an entire lifecycle on human skin, so the infection will quickly resolve itself.

As for the kitties at home, you should definitely get them checked out if the dog is diagnosed with scabies.

The rarer notoedric mange is actually feline mange which though can infect dogs as well as humans.

So, it is a good idea to wash everything at home, including the pet’s beddings and collars. Also, disinfect the house, and keep the infected animal away from the others until the treatment is completed.

Natural treatments for mange in dogs

In case you prefer to rely on natural remedies rather than harsh chemicals to help your dog recover from mange, there are some home remedies which are quite commonly used.

One is Borax powder and 1% hydrogen peroxide which need to be mixed and used to wash the infected dog. You should be careful not to get any of it in the dog’s mouth because it can be toxic or harmful if ingested.

Another common home remedy for mange in dogs is apple cider vinegar. It should be mixed in a solution with borax to wash the dog or can be sprayed on the grooming brush and applied directly on the coat of the dog.

Since the main goal of the treatment of mange in dogs is to resolve the horrible itching of the skin, you can use a wide variety of soothing natural oils, herbs, and plants which can help reduce the inflammation of the skin and make life easier for Fido.

Some of the western herbs which can help calm the skin and alleviate the itching caused by mange in dogs include valerian, St. John’s wort, chamomile, and kava kava.

Other holistic methods include acupuncture and Reiki massages which can help calm down the distressed animals and help lower anxiety and itching.

Canine acupuncture is believed to help release hormones such as cortisol and endorphins which should make your pup feel happier naturally.

You can also bathe the dog in benzoyl peroxide shampoo which has an antibacterial effect.

Keep in mind though, that the natural remedies may help in some mild cases. In more severe cases of mange in dogs, it is essential that you go to the vet and give the dog the prescribed baths, dips, and medication.

There is a strong indication that mange is closely related to the dog’s diet.

In order to ensure that the dog is healthy and recovers faster, you should feed it a whole food diet without any artificial preservatives and additives, or other ingredients which can cause inflammation and a weakened immune system.

You can strengthen your pup’s immune system by feeding it fresh, local, and high-quality foods which will make the dog stronger and help the mange go away.

Of course, it is always advisable to speak to your vet before making drastic changes to the dog’s diet. Also, never make sudden drastic changes to the dog food. Try to slowly and gradually introduce the new food and remove the old one.

This will help the dog’s digestive system to get used to the new food, without negative consequences such as vomiting or diarrhea which will further weaken the dog.

Are there ways to prevent mange in dogs

Unfortunately, there is no prevention for some types of mange in dogs. But you can help prevent others by neutering or spaying the dog to stop it from passing the genetic condition causing the development of demodectic mange.

You can also help speed up the recovery from demodectic mange and prevent its reoccurrence by ensuring that the dog is eating high-quality food which will help boost the immune system and make it stronger.

You should stick to the flea, tick, worm, and heartworm prevention medication schedule closely, especially if your dog has already had mange.

When is it time to see the vet?

If your dog has been scratching 24/7 and seems to be going crazy from the itchiness, and you can’t see any fleas or ticks on it, it is advisable to go to the vet.

The earlier mange is diagnosed, the easier it is to treat.

Since the symptoms of mange are very close to those caused by food allergies, skin infections, and other conditions, it is essential that your vet rules out all other potential causes, and performs a skins scrape examination to find evidence of a mite infestation on the skin or hair follicles of the dog.

Although it may sound frightening and look bad, mange in dogs is a condition that is treatable and can be cured if proper and timely care is taken.

So, do not ignore that incessant itching and go over to speak to your vet about possible mange infections and the course of treatment that is most suitable for your pup!

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