Your pooch is scratching himself silly. His fur is falling out, he has sores all over his body and he is generally in poor shape. Does he have mange?
What exactly mange?
Often associated with strays or neglected dogs, mange is a type of skin disease caused my parasitic mites. Mange can affect humans too. Yup! But then it’s referred to as scabies. It’s not unlike the canine variety and just as unpleasant, but there is light at the end of the infested tunnel.
Symptoms of mange include:
In dogs, there are two types of mange; sarcoptic mange and demodectic mange.
Highly contagious, sarcoptic mange (also knowns as canine scabies) is a disease caused by the Sarcoptes scabiei mite which burrows deep into the skin and then proceeds to lay eggs. Once the eggs hatch about three weeks later, the young feed on the host’s skin. If that isn’t enough to make your skin crawl (literally), the itching is also caused by an allergic reaction to the mite’s feces.
Sarcoptic mange is usually caused by exposure to other infected dogs, so if you’ve put your dog in kennels, been to the dog park or other high canine populated areas, be on high alert.
While also a mite infestation, this one isn’t contagious. In fact, these guys are a normal part of the skin flora, passed on from mom to pup, and usually lie dormant in the hair follicles of a healthy animal. However, in dogs with a weakened immune system, such as neglected, stray or elderly dogs, they can run rampant, which will result in hair loss, crusty sores and red, scaling skin.
What to do if you suspect your dog has mange
If you suspect your dog has mange, you will need to take him to the vet for diagnosis and treatment. It is ill advised to try and treat it yourself at home.
Diagnosis will usually involve a skin scraping and identifying the mite under a microscope. However, sometimes, the result might be inconclusive because the mite has dug too deep for a skin scraping. Your vet will also most likely do blood and urine tests to rule out any other cause for the symptoms presented.
Treatment of mange in dogs
Your vet will determine the best course of treatment, but it will most likely involve frequent dipping in scabicidal shampoo to kill the infestation. Treatment may need to be repeated for up to six weeks to ensure total elimination of the mites. Topical or oral treatments might be recommended too.
For Sarcoptic mange, you will need to keep your pet quarantined during treatment and you will need to completely decontaminate your house and wear gloves when handling him as the disease is contagious for humans too.
Demodectic mange will often clear up on its own, especially in younger dogs but let the vet decide on the best course of action. Even if a cure isn’t possible, the condition can most likely be managed with ongoing treatment. Often, an immune booster will be suggested.
So while mange can look very scary, and can be awfully uncomfortable for your dog, with treatment in time and lots of TLC, your pooch should come through the other end with a full body of fur and a wagging tail.
If you have any questions or concerns with regards to your pets, it is advisable to consult a registered veterinarian. This article is intended as an educational tool and should not be used to diagnose or treat a sick animal.