Dogs develop a parasitic infection called mange when certain types of mites embed themselves in the canine’s skin or hair follicles. These infestations involve two different types of mites, with one class being extremely contagious. These mites are microscopic, so you won’t be able to see them crawling around on your pup’s body or fur.
Humans also become infected with two different but closely related types of mites, although instead of being called mange, the two afflictions are called scabies and demodicosis.
There are other types of skin conditions dogs suffer from. One of them is mange, the canine form of mite infestation, causing a dog’s skin to become very itchy and uncomfortable. As the number of mites increases, the symptoms become more severe, and spotty patches of hairless skin begin to appear. If you’ve witnessed your furry friend itching constantly and aggressively, it could have mange.
Fortunately, this canine affliction is very treatable, and your vet can cure your dog with specific prescribed medicines and protocols. You can prevent your dog from a mite infection by keeping it healthy, which will either prevent mange or help your pet recover quickly and head off a reoccurrence of the infection.
Different Types of Mange in Dogs
You won’t usually see any symptoms of mange until the mites have lived on your pup’s skin for two to six weeks. The most contagious type, called sarcoptic mites, move quickly from one dog to the next. The sarcoptic mite is also the most common cause of mange, and dogs pick it up from exposure to an infected canine or another animal. Wildlife, such as foxes running through your yard, can leave behind mites that end up infecting your dog.
You might have heard of canine scabies, which is the same infection by another name. Besides infected animals, your dog can also catch sarcoptic mange from contaminated bedding and pass it on to you. Your pup can also pick up mites at the groomer’s, dog park, vet clinic, or a kennel. Dogs living at animal shelters often pick up mite infestations.
All of these locations put dogs in very close proximity with one another, leading to high exposure to infected canines and likely infection for your pup.
The other type of mites, call demodectic or Demodex, do not spread from one dog to the next. Although demodectic mange isn’t contagious, it does get passed from mother to puppy in the first few days of the dog’s life. Demodectic mange usually stays under control on healthy dogs with robust immune systems. However, a dog that is ill, malnourished, or otherwise compromised can have a mite population that’s grown out of control.
In sarcoptic mange, the mites burrow into the dog’s skin, and in demodectic mange, they live in your dog’s hair follicles or the roots of its fur.
Once your vet examines your dog and rules out bacterial infections, chiggers, food allergies, and any other likely problems, they will perform a physical exam and inspect your dog to look for evidence of mites.
Symptoms of Sarcoptic Mange
You won’t be able to see sarcoptic mites due to their microscopic size, but you will witness the severe itching they inflict on your furry friend.
The Sarcoptes scabiei var. canis mite burrows into your pooch’s skin, living in and feeding off of your pet. Females lay eggs under the skin’s surface, and the mites’ feces cause an allergic reaction and intense itching. In the early stages of sarcoptic mange on a dog, itchy patches develop on its elbows and ear flaps. As the infection grows, your dog will constantly scratch, causing red, irritated areas.
As the mites move to the dog’s stomach, legs, and armpits, they will likely itch and scratch even more. The canine’s skin will become reddened, thicker, and develop crusted areas, possibly with open sores. Over time, the dog could develop infections, odorous wounds, and patchy hair loss, mainly due to scratching prompted by the sarcoptic mange.
Due to the highly contagious nature of sarcoptic mange, vets advise that owners quarantine their dog while it undergoes treatment to eliminate the mites.
Symptoms of Demodectic Mange
This version of the infection also goes by red mange or demodicosis. Dogs develop demodectic mange from the overpopulation of demodectic mites, also called Demodex spp. These mites inhabit the oil glands in a puppy’s skin and live in the follicles of its hair. As the Demodex population increases, the dog’s hair follicles become irritated, and the hair starts to fall out.
In the early stages, demodectic mange in dogs has fairly subtle symptoms. The hair loss starts to show in small patches, followed by slight itching. As it progresses, puppies with an overgrowth of Demodex develop red, scaly bald spots on their head, front legs, and by their lips.
If the infection becomes more widespread, dogs start to develop bumpy, oily skin, more itchiness, more patchy bald spots, skin discoloration, and smelly bacterial skin infections. In healthy puppies, the immune system will fight off the infection and resolve the infestation on its own. If demodectic mange becomes a problem, it’s probably because the puppy has a weakened immune system.
A vet will diagnose demodectic mange by taking deep skin scrapings from the dog and examining them under a microscope. The vet confirms the diagnosis if larger than usual numbers of Demodex mites turn up in the skin scrapings.
How Do Vets Treat Mange?
Treating your dog for mites involves a few steps, starting with a visit to your veterinarian. The doctor will diagnose and confirm what type of mange your pup has and discuss the best course of treatment, which differs depending on the type of mite. You might find over-the-counter products tempting as remedies to treat your dog’s mange, or at least stop the itching, but these treatments won’t help your pup over the long haul.
Your vet might want to do certain additional tests to rule out any other afflictions and confirm that your dog indeed has mites. The vet may recommend that you isolate your dog during treatment and bring any other of your pets with whom they’ve had contact to be evaluated for mites and treated. During this time, it’s wise to thoroughly clean your pet’s dog bed and areas that it frequents in your home.
A variety of mange treatments exist. Some types might not be completely effective since mites have developed a resistance to certain drugs. After evaluation, your vet may recommend that you do a medication dip once weekly for up to six weeks. This plan ensures that the medicine kills off all the eggs and any newly hatched mites. Your vet will prescribe a scabicidal dip, such as selamectin, doramectin, lime sulfur, or ivermectin.
Vets can also use a class of drugs called isoxazolines. Flea and tick treatment products designed for once-monthly use contain these drugs, and research has found that both types of mites can also be treated with these products in addition to their primary use to control ticks and fleas. Your vet may give you a topical treatment and an additional oral medication. You can expect your furry friend to start feeling better within just a few days.
Your vet can prescribe another medication to relieve your dog’s itch while the mites die off and an antibiotic if needed to clear up any bacterial skin infections.
Can You Prevent Mange?
The easiest way to prevent mange is to keep your dog away from any other infected pups and have your canine checked during regular visits to the vet. It’s helpful to wash your dog often and make sure that their living space is clean and hygienic. Mites love to live in less-than-clean environments.
Sarcoptic mange is not preventable, but you can increase your dog’s chances of avoiding it by helping your pooch keep a strong and healthy immune system. Maintaining a peaceful environment in your home and calmly interacting with your dogs can also help. Stress is a significant contributor to canine skin conditions, and preventing stress can help prevent mange.
If your vet prescribes one of the isoxazoline medications for a mange infection, your pup will experience protection from new infestations while on the medication.
Are Mites or Mange Contagious?
Demodectic mange gets passed from the mother dog to its pups when they’re young. Afterward, these mites cannot transmit from an infected pup to other dogs or humans. Although this form might not seem as severe, it can become out of control in puppies or adult dogs with weakened immune systems.
Sarcoptic mange, on the other hand, can spread to both dogs and humans (1). The condition is treatable but highly contagious. If your dog has sarcoptic mites, vets advise keeping it quarantined while undergoing treatment.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
1. How do you get rid of mange on a dog?
First, you need to take your dog to a vet to determine which type of mange has infected your pup. Your vet will give you the necessary medicine to kill the mite infestation and soothe your dog’s itching and other symptoms. Your vet might also prescribe an antibiotic if your pet has any bacterial skin infections. To keep your other animals from contracting the mites, keep your afflicted dog quarantined during its treatment, and thoroughly wash or replace all bedding, halters or harnesses, leashes, and clean the surrounding area that your dog typically occupies.
2. Is Mange contagious to humans?
Humans can pick up sarcoptic mange from dogs, especially if they have been in prolonged contact with an infected animal. If you become infected, expect a very itchy yet short-lived rash. The variety of sarcoptic mite that infects dogs cannot reproduce on humans, so the itching and irritated skin does not last for more than a few days.
Another variant of sarcoptic mite causes human scabies, and it’s passed from one human to the next. The variant that infects humans is highly contagious, as the canine variant. No over-the-counter medication exists for human scabies, so visit your doctor for a diagnosis and treatment medication.
3. Can humans get mange from a dog?
Humans cannot pick up Demodex from dogs, but they can experience skin irritation and other symptoms after being in close contact with a dog that has sarcoptic mange. However, the canine variety of sarcoptic mites cannot breed on humans and die after a few days. Any related itching or irritation should also resolve itself within a few days.
4. What are the symptoms of mange in dogs?
Dogs infected with sarcoptic mange typically have the following symptoms, which could develop over any time from 10-12 days to several weeks:
- Extreme itch
- Rash, redness
- Thick, yellow crusting
- Patchy hair loss
- Bacterial and yeast skin infections
- Thickened skin in advanced infections
- Inflamed lymph nodes in advanced cases
- Emaciation in extremely advanced cases
If a dog has symptoms of demodectic mange, the same or similar issues may appear but in less severe form. They include:
- Mild itchiness
- Patchy facial hair loss, usually starting around the eyes (localized)
- Patchy hair loss all over the body (generalized)
In an extreme case, such as a puppy or older dog with a weakened immune system, additional symptoms include:
- Oily, bump skin
- Increased hair loss
- Increased itching
- Bacterial or fungal skin infections