Mange In Dogs: Causes, Symptoms And Treatment

Skin parasites? No problem 🦟

Have you noticed your dog itching like crazy or spotted some missing patches of fur? If so, it’s possible your dog has mange.

While this irritating skin disease might sound bad, mange in dogs is actually pretty easy to treat.

The Dodo reached out to Dr. Michelle Burch, a veterinarian from Safe Hounds Pet Insurance, and Dr. Courtnye Jackson, a veterinarian and owner of The Pets Digest, to find out more about mange in dogs.

What is mange in dogs?

‘Mange’ is the general term used for a skin disease in dogs caused by parasitic mites. These mites can cause hair loss, itching and skin infections.

“There are two different mange mites: Demodex canis, which causes demodectic mange, and Sarcoptes scabiei, which causes sarcoptic mange,” Dr. Jackson told The Dodo.

Sarcoptic mange in dogs

Sarcoptic mange occurs in dogs when they’re infected with the Sarcoptes scabiei mite.

According to Dr. Burch, transmission from one dog to another is possible if the dogs are living in the same environment or use the same kennel, comb, brush or collar. Dogs can also pass mange on to humans.

“The mites are very good at traveling from dog to dog through physical contact or objects like dog beds,” Dr. Jackson said. “Dogs can also infect other animals, including humans, and vice versa since it is a zoonotic infection.” A zoonotic infection just means an infection that can be transferred between species (so from animal to humans or vice versa).

So, what does the Sarcoptes scabiei mite look like?

“The mite cannot be seen with the naked eye and must be diagnosed with microscopic visualization or response to treatment,” Dr. Burch told The Dodo. “Sarcoptes scabiei is a tiny, circular, white mite with four pairs of legs.”

Symptoms of sarcoptic mange

Common symptoms of sarcoptic mange in dogs include:

  • Extreme itchiness
  • Raised rashes
  • Thickened skin
  • Scaly or crusty skin
  • Fur loss

Severe symptoms of sarcoptic mange in dogs include:

  • Severe weight loss
  • Enlarged lymph nodes

“The itching can sometimes become so intense for a dog that it will become depressed, lethargic or lose its appetite,” Dr. Burch said.

Demodectic mange in dogs

Demodectic mange is also caused by a mite, Demodex canis, but unlike the sarcoptic mite, it’s not zoonotic and naturally lives on the dog’s body.

These mites will live in the hair follicles, sebaceous glands or the outer layer of the skin. “All dogs will typically always have one to two mites on their body,” Dr. Burch said. “When the mites proliferate excessively is when demodectic mange occurs.”According to Dr. Jackson, these mites begin to replicate quickly in dogs who have immature or compromised immune systems or in dogs who are particularly stressed out.

“Dogs who develop demodectic mange as a juvenile typically have underlying genetic or immunological disorders,” Dr. Burch said. “Adult dogs who develop demodectic mange will have an underlying immunological disease or are currently taking medications that suppress the immune system.”

Symptoms of demodectic mange

Common symptoms of demodectic mange in dogs include:

  • Mild itchiness
  • Patches of fur loss
  • Scaly skin

Fur loss occurs because the mites live in the hair follicle, which can damage the fur and cause it to fall out. “Most owners notice one or two patches of fur missing on the body or around the eyes or muzzle,” Dr. Jackson said. “The alopecia can be localized to one area in early cases or spread over the body in dogs that have had mange for a longer period of time.”

Severe symptoms of demodectic mange include:

  • Reddening of the skin
  • Darkening pigmentation of the skin
  • Thickening of the skin

How to treat mange in dogs

When it comes to treating mange in dogs, the initial step is to diagnose the type of mite causing the issue. “Diagnosis is made by performing a skin scrape both [on the surface] and deep,” Dr. Burch said. “The scrapes are then examined under a microscope by your veterinarian.”

Sarcoptic mange in dogs treatment

Before you even begin treating your dog for sarcoptic mange, it’s important to take the proper precautions since it’s highly contagious (and can jump from your pup to you!).

“When treating a dog with sarcoptic mange, gloves should always be worn and the dog placed in a comfortable place where they are not able to spread the mites,” Dr. Jackson said.

Sarcoptic mange is typically treated with Revolution flea, tick and heartworm preventative. “Revolution is applied every 14 days for three treatments,” Dr. Burch suggested. “Additional treatment options include ivermectin (an anti-parasite medication), milbemycin (another anti-parasite medication) and lime sulfur dips.”

Note: Treatments should be cleared with your veterinarian beforehand.

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Since sarcoptic mange is highly contagious, Dr. Burch also recommends treating all animals in the household with Revolution.

Additionally, any kennels, crates, combs, brushes or collars must be disinfected to prevent spread. “I recommend using fipronil spray on these items every five to seven days during treatment,” Dr. Burch said.

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Demodectic mange in dogs treatment

Demodectic mange is most often treated with off-label flea and tick preventatives Bravecto or Nexgard. “Bravecto is administered once a month, and Nexgard is administered every two weeks,” Dr. Burch said.

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“Skin scrapes are performed every 30 days after starting treatment to monitor response,” Dr. Burch said. “After two negative skin scrapes (no mites seen), the preventative can be discontinued at the shortened interval dosing and dosed per the label.”

While mange in dogs can be uncomfortable for your pup, it isn’t untreatable. Check in with your vet if you suspect that your dog has mange in order to get her feeling as good as new.

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