Mange is a nasty disease caused by infestation of several species of mites on your dog’s skin. These mites can make your dogs’ hair fall out and their skin red and extremely itchy. It’s actually normal to find a few mites on the skin and hair of pet dogs, and they are often passed between mothers to their puppies. But if these mites spread uncontrollably and if parasitical mites invade your dog’s skin, then your dogs could get mange.
Primarily, mange-causing mites are transmitted through physical contact between dogs, but they can also be transferred even without physical contact. Dogs can get them from dirty bedding or toys, and from used grooming tools like brushes, combs and scissors.
If your dog is scratching and you observe dandruff, dry skin or bald spots, this might mean they have mange and you need to act on it as soon as possible. If it goes untreated, mange might cause damage in hair follicles (which causes permanent baldness), permanent skin thickening or scarring – or worse – your dog might become resistant to treatment.
Forms of Mange
Mange can have three forms: they can be localized, generalized or limited to the feet.
- Localized mange only occurs in one area, usually on the face or the ear, trunk or legs. Puppies less than 18 months are more prone to localized demodectic mange, which can be mild and clear up on its own.
- Generalized mange occurs in different parts of the dog’s body, like the elbow, ear, stomach, up to the feet. It is more serious and pervasive, and sometimes can be related to hereditary skin issues. It is also can be a result of other medical issues like allergies, heartworm infections, hypothyroid disease and cancer.
- Mange limited to the feet, also known as pododermatitis, is a localized infection on the dog’s paws. Its commonly found in dogs with a bulldog genetic background.
Types of Mange
There are two major types of mange dogs can experience -demodectic and sarcoptic.
Demodectic mange is commonly caused by the Demodexcanis mites, which are also referred to as “red mange” or “demodex.” These types of mites are naturally harmless, but they cause mange in puppies or dogs with poor or compromised immune systems. This type of mange may either be localized or generalized.It tends to cause sores, hair loss causing bald spots, and scabbing.
Sarcoptic mange is also called canine scabies. It is caused by the Sarcoptesscabiei mites, which will burrow into the skin and cause intense itchiness and irritation. The scratching by the dog because of this irritation will cause hair to fall out, reddened skin, scabs and sores. This is also highly contagious skin disease – it can be passed to humans. When passed to humans, it can cause itchy red bumps on skin, like those of mosquito bites, and can last for several weeks.
Mange is diagnosed by veterinarians by scraping the skin for mites. They will use a dull tool, like the back of a scalpel blade, to scrape your pet’s skin. If they find many mites then the diagnosis will be an infection. Your veterinarian may even make a presumptive diagnosis of mange if all the symptoms are present, even if the vet does not find extensive mites by scraping (invasive mites can be microscopic).
Plucking off hairs or scraping off skin samples can also help the vet to identify what type of mites are responsible for the infection and to determine what type of mange your dog has. They will look at it in the microscope to identify the type of mites.
The vet will also check if your dog has food allergies, chiggers or bacterial infections in the hair follicle because these can cause similar symptoms but require a different diagnosis. Performing urine tests for metabolic system disorders, fecal exams for worms, x-rays for tumors and blood tests for heartworm infection or organ function can help in diagnosing if the mange is associated due to other serious diseases.
Whatever type of mange a dog has, the usual symptom is itchiness. A mangy dog will always scratch, sometimes uncontrollably, and might become more frantic as mite infestation worsens. If that happens, it will eventually interfere with their normal, everyday habits like eating and sleeping.
Because of the intense scratching, many would lose their fur and have red skin rashes spreading all over the body. Those red rashes may become infected, producing oozing white or yellowish crusts. Also, these rashes cause hair loss in the affected areas.
Mange also causes bad odor in dogs. Their infection can turn into a worse complication called seborrhea, a condition in which bacteria and yeast are feeding on sebum that has overgrown. This seborrhea will create a musty, unpleasant smell.
- Demodectic mange
This type of mange may either be localized, generalized or occurring on the paws. Localized demodectic mange is mild, with lesions occurring only in patches especially on the face, trunk, legs and elbows. Hair loss are also patchy, and there is mild to moderate itching. In generalized demodectic cases, these symptoms are more widespread and severe. Dogs could experience redness of skin, alopecia and appearance of scales and lesions.
- Sarcoptic mange
Sarcoptic mange is characterized by extreme itchiness, redness of skin, sores and scabs. It affects the more thinner skin found in ears, elbows, armpits, chest, belly and groin – so look at these parts more closely when looking for signs of sarcoptic mange. In advanced sarcoptic mange cases, wart-like red bumps appear on the skin due to chronic skin inflammation.
Treatment for mange, as with other disorders, depends on the diagnosis and severity of the condition. About 90% of localized mange in healthy puppies will resolve itself and get better within two months without needing any treatment. However, it’s better to prevent infections by keeping your dog and their shelter clean. You can also use antibiotic shampoo to prevent manage if you suspect potential exposure.
Generally, mild mange in grown dogs can be successfully treated with insecticide shampoos and on-spot treatments. Your vet may also prescribe some oral medications suitable for your dog’s condition.
- Demodectic mange
Mild, localized demodectic mange can be resolved with by keeping the dog clean with insecticidal shampoos and proper diet. The dog just needs to strengthen his immune system to be more resistant to infections. If the mange is severe, your vet might prescribe antibiotics to kill the mites, and medicated dips like Amitraz, lime-sulfur, selamectin and other forms of dips that act as insecticides. Demodectic mange is usually treated with weekly dips for six weeks, or until the symptoms subside.
- Sarcoptic mange
Sarcoptic mange is harder to treat than demodectic mange. A vet may prescribe medicated dips like those stated above, as well as oral drugs, or spot-on treatments.Your dog will most likely need a specialized shampoo that has benzoyl peroxide to open up pores before using insecticide dips. The medicated dips should be repeated weekly for at least six weeks or more.In some cases, a scabicidal shampoo may be prescribed under veterinary supervision so that the mites would be entirely eliminated from the dog’s body.
For treating any type of mange, it is important to follow the instructions of the vet carefully and be mindful of precautions, as some dips can be toxic if not handled properly. For instance, Amitraz (triazapentadiene) is harmful for pregnant and nursing dogs, for puppies younger than four months and some breeds like Chihuahuas.
To prevent infections and complications caused by mange, make a healthy environment for your dog. Feed them well, bathe them regularly, and keep their beddings and surroundings clean. Keep your pets away from scratchy neighbors’ dogs,because they might have contagious mange. If your dog has already been treated from a previous mange condition, you have to take your dog periodically to the vet to ensure that the pesky mites were completely eradicated.