Sarcoptic Mange in Dogs

Help for Sarcoptic mange mites in dogs, commonly known as canine scabies.

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  1. What is Sarcoptic Mange?
  2. What Causes Sarcoptic Mange?
  3. Diagnosing Sarcoptic Mange
  4. Help for Sarcoptic Mange
  5. More Information on Sarcoptic Mange

What is Sarcoptic Mange?

Sarcoptic mange, often referred to as canine scabies is caused by parasitic mites known as Sarcoptes scabiei. While sarcoptic mange can affect cats, it is not common, and the condition is more frequent in dogs. Unlike demodectic mange which occurs in pets with weakened immune systems, the mites causing sarcoptic mange can invade the skin of any healthy pet causing a number of skin problems.

These unwanted mites burrow into the surface areas of the skin of your pet where the lay their eggs and live out their short life span of 3-4 weeks. This movement and presence of foreign bodies on the skin causes itchiness, skin inflammation and skin allergies which causes your pet great discomfort. As a result pets become severely itchy and the constant scratching that follows results in hair loss and damage to the skin.

As mites prefer to live on areas of the body with the least hair, the first areas to be affected are usually the elbows, ears, armpits, chest, and belly. However, as the infestation gets worse, it can spread over the entire body. In addition to hair-loss, your pet may also develop painful lesions that ooze and scab and secondary infections and quickly develop if the condition is not treated.

This type of mite predominantly lives on dogs, although it can affect other animals such as cats and may even affect humans. While these mites cannot live on humans for very long, they can cause itchiness and a rash that lasts for about three weeks. If however, the affected pet remains untreated, it can continue to infect the people it comes in contact with.

What Causes Sarcoptic Mange?

Sarcoptic mange is highly contagious and can be easily spread between one infected pet to another. The mites involved can also survive off its host and live in the environment for several days, in cool moist areas. As a result, your pet can contract mites by simply coming into contact with an infected area.

Diagnosing Sarcoptic Mange

Sarcoptic mange is a serious skin conditions that should not be left to get out of control. If you suspect your pet may have sarcoptic mange then we suggest a trip to the vet where a diagnosis can be made and other conditions ruled out. The problem with diagnosing sarcoptic mange is that skin scrapings aren’t always accurate, and in general, they only detect mange in 20% of infected dogs. Diagnosis is therefore often made on history, symptoms and response to scabies treatment.

Help for Sarcoptic Mange

Treating your infected pet for sarcoptic mange is often not enough to get rid of all the mites and prevent re-infection. As the mites can survive in the environment for a number of days all pet bedding, brushes, and collars, as well as carpeting and upholstered surfaces should be sprayed with a suitable insecticide.

Conventional treatments of sarcoptic mange usually take the form of chemical based lotions, dips and shampoos. While dips were the most common treatment in the past, they pose a number of problems. They are generally not suitable for young dogs, need to be used with great caution around the face area and may pose health risks and side effects for both the pets being treated as well as people treating them.

Other topical products often used for treating mange include amitraz, ivermectin, selamectin and common flea-prevention products. It must be noted that many of these treatments contain harsh chemicals that may cause side-effects for your pet.

Ivermectin for example, should never be used in Collies or Shetland sheep dogs as some herding dogs have a sensitive reaction to this drug which could be fatal. In some cases, antibiotics are prescribed to treat secondary yeast or bacterial infections caused by the sarcoptic mange.

More Information on Sarcoptic Mange

Tips for sarcoptic mange
  • Sarcoptic mange can survive for a number of days without a host. It is therefore essential to treat the environment of any infected pets. House-hold flea treatments or foggers are usually effective at killing adult mites, however, if used; make sure the family and pets are removed from the area until it is sufficiently aired.
  • Your pet’s skin will take some time to fully recover from a mite infestation. 
  • Never let skin conditions get out of control. Sarcoptic mange can get out of control quickly and if not treated swiftly it can spread all over your pet’s body and cause pain and severe discomfort. Always take your pet to the vet if you suspect a skin condition.
  • Avoid giving your pet harsh pharmaceutical drugs and chemicals if you can. These products can suppress the immune system and cause toxicity build up in your pet.
  • Remember to treat all pets in the house if one of them has being diagnosed with sarcoptic mange. Because the condition is so contagious, it can spread quickly to other pets and while the others may not be symptomatic they can be harboring the mites which will cause re-infection.
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