All About Mange in Dogs – Disease Process and Treatment Guide
Is your dog experiencing intense itch, skin inflammation, and hair loss? There are plenty of skin conditions that may manifest with such symptoms. But did you consider having your dog checked for mange?
In this article, we’ll define what mange is, its types, causes, symptoms, and diagnosis. Then, we’ll look into treatment options according to the type of mange diagnosed by your dog’s veterinarian. Finally, we conclude with care tips to help your dog recover fast.
- Mange in Dogs Defined
- Types of Dog Mange
- Mange in Dogs Signs and Symptoms
- Dog Mange Diagnosis
- Demodectic Mange in Dogs Treatment
- Caring for your Dog with Mange
Mange in Dogs Defined
Mange is a skin condition characterized by a mite infestation. Different mite species cause profound skin irritation that often results in intense itching, redness, inflammation, and hair loss. Mange in dogs is a highly-contagious illness that can affect other dogs and even humans.
The condition can quickly escalate to a severe form once it isn’t diagnosed or treated promptly. The most striking visual example of mange is its severe form which is often seen in strays, abused, and neglected dogs. Such dogs already have hairless skins filled with thick, hard, and crusty patches and sores. Some of them may also appear emaciated.
Types of Dog Mange
Mange is often classified depending on the type of mite species that invaded the dog’s skin. There are two main types of dog mange: Sarcoptic and Demodectic.
1. Sarcoptic Mange
Sarcoptic mange is caused by the mite species Sarcoptes scabiei, variation canis. These round-shaped mites are parasitic and live, reproduce, and feed off the skin of its host dog. Sarcoptic mange is also known as canine scabies and is quite a common skin condition in dogs of any age and breed.
Adult Sarcoptes scabiei mites live on the invaded dog’s skin and hair follicles. Female mites then lay their eggs on the dog’s skin after mating. They burrow into the skin and deposit the eggs into the tunnel that she digs. These eggs will then hatch after 3-10 days, producing larvae that move around on the dog’s skin surface.
Then, the larvae will molt into its nymphal stage, then molt again into adults. The life cycle of Sarcoptes scabiei mites then repeats itself on the host dog.
Sarcoptes scabiei mites love to burrow in hairless skin areas. Hence, the condition typically starts from the ears, especially on the ear margins. It then progresses through the dog’s elbows and abdomen.
Sarcoptic mange is extremely itchy. This is primarily due to the mites’ motion, egg-laying, and feces generating an itchy allergic response in the dog’s skin. Small solid bumps will initially appear on the infected sites. They turn into thick-crusted sores as the dog attempts to alleviate the itchiness through scratching and biting.
A dog gets this skin condition through contact with another dog infested with the mites. The incubation period of sarcoptic mange ranges from 10 days to 8 weeks. This depends on how severely infected a dog is. Since the condition is so contagious, it can also be passed on to humans but with a lesser severity than dogs.
2. Demodectic Mange
Demodectic mange or demodicosis is caused by the Demodex canis mite specie. This specie consists of the cigar-shaped mites typically present on a dog’s skin and are part of the normal skin flora. Demodex canis is usually transmitted by the mother dog to her pups after she gives birth to them.
The mites causing demodectic mange are actually quietly living on a dog’s hair follicles and skin. They don’t typically cause problems in a healthy dog with a strong immune system. However, the problem starts when a dog becomes immunocompromised – the number of Demodex canis mites start to increase and ultimately cause skin inflammation and hair loss.
Apart from a poor immune system, other factors may lead to a puppy or dog developing demodectic mange. These include the following:
- Excessive stress
- Underlying medical conditions such as diabetes, cancer, hypothyroidism, or Cushing’s disease
- Some dog breeds such as Boston Terrier, Chihuahua, Pug, Dachshund, Dalmatian, Chow-Chow, Shar-Pei, Bulldog, German Shepherd, Westie, and Afghan Hound.
Demodectic mange can develop in localized parts of a puppy’s body. It presents as 1-5 isolated areas with hair loss, skin redness, and scaling. Itchiness is typically mild or even absent in some puppies. Localized demodectic mange is often experienced by puppies less than a year old.
Meanwhile, generalized demodectic mange presents with widespread skin inflammation, redness, scaling, skin darkening, acne-like raised lumps, and scabs. The condition is often followed by a secondary bacterial infection. Generalized demodectic mange may occur both in young puppies (juvenile-onset) and in adult dogs (adult-onset).
Mange in Dogs Signs and Symptoms
Signs and symptoms of mange differ between sarcoptic and demodectic types. In this section, we’ll group the symptoms depending on the two main types of mange.
Sarcoptic Mange Signs and Symptoms
The hallmark sign of sarcoptic mange is ear margin crusts. However, not all dogs develop this symptom right away. The common initial signs and symptoms of sarcoptic mange in dogs include the following:
- Sudden onset of intense itching, typically concentrated on the ears, abdomen, and elbows
- Small solid bumps erupting on the infected skin areas
- Red and scaly skin on affected areas
As the condition progresses, your dog will experience other symptoms such as:
- A build-up of scaly and crusty skin layers
- Continued intense itching
- Severe skin thickening
- Hair loss
Itchiness is also prevalent in sarcoptic mange. Your dog won’t be able to resist scratching himself no matter how well he is on obedience training and positive reinforcement .
Secondary bacterial or fungal skin infections can also happen if mange is left untreated. The dog may experience weeping or oozing sores from these infections. Several dogs who get severe mange also become emaciated.
Demodectic Mange Signs and Symptoms
Hair loss is the most prevalent sign of demodectic mange. Other signs and symptoms include:
- Skin darkening
- Swollen and inflamed skin
- Raised lumps resembling acne
- Inflamed foot pads for dogs with generalized demodectic mange
Note that demodectic mange is characterized by mild or no itchiness at all. Also, you may see other symptoms that indicate underlying medical conditions and a poor immune system. These symptoms may include any of the following:
- Pyodemodicosis (secondary bacterial infections)
- Pus and inflammation at the skin’s deeper layers
- Fever and lethargy
- Lymph node enlargement
Based on the symptom groups, it’s clear that sarcoptic mange is more uncomfortable for dogs than demodectic mange. However, demodectic mange may signal deeper problems in a dog’s immune system, genetics, and overall health.
Dog Mange Diagnosis
Mites are too small to be seen by the naked eye. Hence, veterinarians rely on different diagnostic tests to check for their presence and confirm what kind of mites and mange your dog is suffering from.
1. Deep Skin Scrapings
Deep skin scrapings are the primary method used to detect mange in dogs. This test is used to detect both sarcoptic and demodectic mange. The vet will scrape your dog’s skin to get a sample and view it under the microscope to check for mites. The technique for deep skin scraping varies depending on whether sarcoptic or demodectic mange is suspected in the dog.
2. Blood, Urine, and Stool Tests
Your dog’s vet may order for blood, urine, and stool tests to rule out other conditions that may be causing your dog’s itchiness, lesions, and hair loss. Alternative conditions to be ruled out typically include metabolic problems, Malassezia dermatitis, or allergies.
Meanwhile, these tests may also be required if your dog has severe mange of any type. Your vet will delve deeper into possible secondary conditions, underlying causes of demodectic mange, or reasons why the dog is immunocompromised.
3. Therapeutic Trial
False-negative results are commonly seen even after a deep skin scraping examination for Sarcoptes scabiei mites. That’s because few to no mites may be seen in a single scraping test. Intense itching can be produced by only a few mites, so scraping your dog’s itchy skin areas may not always reveal the Sarcoptes scabiei mites.
If this is the case, your vet will often prescribe a therapeutic trial to see if your dog will respond to medications given for sarcoptic mange. Your dog will be evaluated during the medication trial, checking if the signs and symptoms improve within 2-4 weeks. If the dog’s condition improves, then your dog does have sarcoptic mange and may proceed with the entire therapy duration depending on his condition’s severity.
Treatment for sarcoptic mange involves clipping your dog’s hair and treating his skin and body with a scabicide. This is a medication that kills the living adult mites. Oral medications, dips, sprays, and shampoos may be prescribed for your dog. Specific scabicide medications may include:
- Fipronil sprays
- Sarolaner chewable tablets
- Lime sulfur dip
- Spot-on medications such as selamectin and imidacloprid + moxidectin
Most scabicides don’t kill mites in their egg, larval, and nymph stages. Hence, using the scabicides regularly for the prescribed duration is important to thoroughly kill all generations of hatching mites. Many vets recommend consistent scabicides use for 30-60 days (1-2 months).
If the dog has persistent itching or secondary skin infections, antibiotics/antifungals may also be prescribed.
Demodectic Mange in Dogs Treatment
Most localized cases of demodectic mange resolve on their own without the need for treatment. In fact, the condition is a common ailment during puppyhood. However, generalized demodectic mange may need aggressive medical management for two reasons:
- To eradicate the Demodex canis mites
- To address secondary infections or underlying causes of immune suppression
Your dog’s hair needs to be shaved first to gain more access to his affected skin. Then, you can wash or dip your dog in medicated shampoos and solutions prescribed by your veterinarian. Some of these solutions include:
- Benzoyl peroxide shampoo
- Amitraz rinse
- Lime sulfur dips
- Spot-on products such as doramectin and moxidectin
Oral medications such as moxidectin, ivermectin, milbemycin oxime, and fluralaner may also be prescribed for your dog.
Any secondary skin infections will be treated with a course of antibiotics or antifungals as prescribed by your veterinarian. Underlying illnesses, if any, will also be addressed.
The estimated recovery time for generalized demodectic mange in dogs could be one month at the least up to several months for complicated cases. Treatment is deemed successful when the dog gets two negative scrapings within 30 days.
Caring for your Dog with Mange
Help your mange-afflicted dog heal faster by heeding these care tips:
1. Isolate your dog in a safe space if he has sarcoptic mange.
Sarcoptic mange is highly contagious. Hence, you should quarantine your dog away from family and other pets. This will avoid spreading the mite infestation to other animals and members of your family. Also, wash your hands frequently and use gloves when handling your dog. Side note: Isolation is not required for dogs with demodectic mange.
2. Frequently clean your dog’s space and beddings.
Wash your dog’s beddings as well as fabrics and surfaces he came into contact with. Do this regardless of the type of mange he has, but most especially if your pet has sarcoptic mange. It’s also a good idea to frequently wash your clothes, beddings, carpets, furniture, and curtains to help stop the spread of mites in your home.
3. Religiously follow your veterinarian’s treatment plan.
Mites can be hard to kill and some may even develop resistance to medications. Hence, it’s crucial to keep up with your vet’s recommended treatment plans. This is to completely eradicate all generations of mites in your dog. It’ll also prevent medication resistance and speed up your dog’s recovery.
4. Support your dog all the way!
Keep up your dog’s strength and boost his immune system through proper food, adequate hydration, and restful sleep. Your dog needs the right balance of protein, carbohydrates, and fats  to help heal his skin and boost his health as he recuperates.
Treat your dog gently, especially puppies with demodectic mange. They may still be delving into the world of puppy training  and might become overwhelmed with all the treatment options they’re undergoing.
Make your dog as comfortable as possible – extreme itchiness and fatigue can be stumbling blocks to your dog’s comfort levels. Shower him with lots of loving care to hasten his recovery and prevent stress and dog anxiety.
Mange in dogs can be worrisome and anxiety-inducing for you and your pet. But by understanding its many possible types, symptoms, diagnosis, and treatment plans, your dog will be on its way to full recovery in no time! Follow your veterinarian’s advice and give your dog all the prescribed treatment and care so that his mange – sarcoptic or demodectic – will be gone for good.
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