Actually, there are three types of mange — sarcoptic, demodectic and cheyletiella — and they occur when microscopic mites invade a dog’s skin. The mites attack in large numbers and reproduce massively on a dog’s skin, writes Mange-in-dogs.com.
Mange can be generalized, meaning a dog’s entire body is infected, or localized, which means that the mites are concentrated in specific areas — usually areas of the body that have little to no hair, such as the ears, belly, elbows, armpits and feet.
Mange is a serious disease, which can lead to other health conditions and even death in some instances. Although infections can range in degrees of severity, it’s best to get a dog showing signs of the disease to the veterinarian as soon as possible.
What Are the Symptoms of Mange in Dogs?
Symptoms of mange can vary, but generally include the following:
Excessive Itching and Scratching
It can be difficult sometimes to tell the difference between a dog’s scratching because of mange or another condition, such as allergies. A dog occasionally scratching himself is normal, but if he’s doing so excessively, then he has a problem that a veterinarian needs to look at. Also, as a dog continues to scratch, the mites begin spreading to different body parts.
The itching appears to worsen in warm conditions, such as indoors, or near heating sources, such as a vent or stove, reports PetEducation.com.
Mites burrow under a dog’s skin or crawl around underneath the hair and, consequently, those areas experience hair loss.
Examine spots of baldness or thinning hair for signs of red blisters and sores, Mange-in-dogs.com recommends.
Sores and Crusty, Dry Skin
Sores, red pustules and yellow crust can develop on an infected dog’s skin. “Because of the severe itching and resultant scratching, the skin soon becomes traumatized and a variety of sores and infections can develop as a result,” writes PetEducation.com.
As the mites increase in a dog’s body, his odor will begin to change, reports Mange-in-dogs.com. It’s similar in scent to strong cheese or athlete’s foot.
How Is Mange in Dogs Diagnosed?
If you notice signs of the disease and take your dog to the vet, the doctor will need to perform a physical examination and what’s called a scraping. It’s what it sounds like: The veterinarian will scrape a dog’s skin and examine the sample under a microscope to look for mites.
However, this process is not always an accurate way to determine if a dog is suffering from mange. The vet may choose to treat the symptoms of mange to see if they disappear.
In addition to the scraping, your veterinarian may conduct blood work, because “certain mites can penetrate the blood,” writes Mange-in-dogs.com. “Because the blood of the dog suffering from mites may have altered, veterinarians will need samples for further analysis. Blood samples may also reveal what type of mites have infested your pet and how they can be flushed out. The types of antibiotics to use may also depend on the results of the blood sample.”
Whether a dog is positively infected with mange or whether it’s just a possibility, the dog needs to remain isolated from other animals. Mange is highly contagious and can easily spread, including to humans sometimes.
What Are the Types of Mange and How Are They Treated?
To make matters a little confusing, as mentioned above, there are three types of mange. Treatment can depend on which type of mange a dog has. Let’s take a look at the different varieties and how to approach each one.
Sarcoptic mange is caused by sarcoptic mites, or Sarcoptes scabiei. Also known as canine scabies, this condition can affect all ages and breeds of dogs, reports PetEducation.com, and can easily spread to other hosts, including cats, ferrets and humans.
The lifecycle of these mites is short — up to about 22 days in the right environment — but they can cause a lot of damage in that time. The female burrows into the skin “and lays eggs several times as she continues burrowing,” reports PetEducation.com. “These tunnels can actually reach the length of several centimeters. After she deposits the eggs, the female mite dies. In three to eight days, the eggs hatch into larvae, which have six legs.”
When the dog scratches herself, the tunnels break open and the mites die, although the itch persists because of the toxins in the skin, according to Mar Vista Animal Hospital.
There are several ways to treat scabies, including bathing the dog in a medicated shampoo and then applying a organophosphate dip. However, things are more complicated than just a typical bath in these situations.
“Dogs are usually dipped once every two weeks for two to three times,” reports PetEducation.com. “While effective, these dips are very unpleasant to apply for both the owner and the dog. Because the dip must come in contact with the mites and many mites live on the face and ears of dogs, great care must be exercised with applying these dips to these sensitive areas. The dips can be toxic to humans and are not suitable for very young, old or debilitated animals. In addition, there are some reported cases of resistance to these dips in some cases of sarcoptic mange.”
If you feel like you’re not up to this task yourself, don’t be afraid to ask if your veterinarian offers such a service, and if not, whether he can recommend someone who does.
Furthermore, your veterinarian will likely prescribe some medication for your dog to take. Follow your veterinarian’s instructions to the letter and remember to practice proper hygiene, including providing fresh, clean bedding for your dog, and washing whatever she comes in contact with to prevent the mites from spreading.
Demodectic mange, or demodicosis or red mange, is caused by the Demodex species of mite, of which there are three: Demodex canis, D. gatoi and D. injai, with D. canis being the common, reports Mar Vista Animal Hospital.
This disease is most common in puppies that are 3 to 9 months old.
Puppies pick up these mites from their mothers. For normal, healthy pups, the mites don’t present much of a problem. But for dogs with health concerns, such as a suppressed immune system, the mites can cause considerable damage.
Other causes of demodectic mange may include heredity, moving from one living area to another, environmental changes or alterations to hygienic practices, writes Mange-in-dogs.com.
Though not as serious as the sarcoptic variety, demodectic mange still requires diligent veterinary care. In these cases, the younger the dog, the better, because the chance increases of complete mite elimination. Adults that contract demodectic mites often have underlying health conditions, such as a suppressed immune system, cancer, liver disease or kidney disease, that require their own care.
Like sarcoptic mange, treating demodectic mange includes medication, clipping back a dog’s hair and medicated dips.
Mar Vista Animal Hospital also recommends these basic steps as precautions against demodectic mange, which include reducing a dog’s stress:
- Females should be spayed as soon as their mange is under control. “Coming into heat, hormone fluxes, and pregnancy are very stressful,” notes Mar Vista. “Also, predisposition to demodisosis is hereditary and should not be passed on.”
- Feed your dog high-quality dog food to prevent nutrition-related health issues.
- Keep your dog free from parasites. ”Worms are irritants that the pet need not deal with, and fleas may exacerbate the itchiness and skin infections,” says Mar Vista.
- Make sure your dog’s vaccinations are up to date.
- “Skin infections are usually present in these cases, and antibiotics will likely be necessary,” says Mar Vista. “It is very important that cortisone type medications such as prednisone not be used in these cases as they will tip the immune balance in favor of the mite.”
Cheyletiella mange, also known as “walking dandruff,” is similar to sarcoptic, but with two distinctive differences: Cheyletiella mites are visible to the naked eye and sarcoptic are not; and Cheyletiella mites don’t burrow under the skin. Instead, they crawl around the skin and hair.
There are three known species, Cheyletiella yasguri, C. blakei, and C. parasitivorax, all of which are extremely itchy and uncomfortable.
“Cheyletiella mites are referred to as the walking dandruff because of the flakes and the scales they produce,” reports Mange-in-dogs.com. “If you happen to look at them very closely, the flakes will appear to move from one place to another.”
That’s because the cheyletiella mites actually walk around on the animal’s surface and, therefore, dandruff flakes — often the result of dry, itchy skin caused by mange — appear to move.
Additionally, these mites can live for a few days without a host and, because they are on the skin’s surface, can transfer to bedding or other hosts, including people in some cases, and both adult dogs and puppies.
As with the other types of mange, it’s important to get dogs with signs of the disease to the veterinarian quickly for treatment, which depends on the severity of the case. Medications and dips will likely be prescribed, but preventive care in the first place can help immensely. A healthy immune system, hygienic environment and high-quality diet can all help a dog fight off illness and infestation.
How Can Dogs Stay Free of Mange?
Once a dog undergoes treatment for mange, it’s up to his pet parents to follow through on the vet’s instructions and keep up with re-scrapings, check-ups, dips and medications. Remember: Mites can be elusive. Sometimes a dog can appear normal, but in reality still has a lurking mite infestation.
In all cases—and it’s just a good idea anyway—practice good hygiene with your dogs. Keep them bathed, their bedding washed and their environment clean.
A healthy diet and strong immune system further preventively combat mange. Giving your dog a multivitamin with green tea and reishi will not only ensure he’s getting necessary nutrients, but will also help fight off infection and relieve his itchy skin.
Find A Vet HOW TO articles are intended for informational purposes only. You should always consult with your veterinarian about any health issues affecting your dog.