Mange is a skin disease caused by parasitic mites that targets mammals and is occasionally communicable to humans. When mange on dogs is found it is also often referred to as canine scabies or sarcoptic mange (sarcoptes scaboi) and its symptoms are severe itching, hair loss and the formation of scabs and lesions. Some mange mites found on your dogs skin are normal, in other words every dog has them.
Some however are not and these are the ones that cause the severe skin infections and need to be dealt with quickly and efficiently.
How do dogs get mange?
Mange is transferred from host to host very easily. For example all dogs raised by their mothers possess demodectic mange mite (demodex canis) which are transmitted from mother to puppy during the first few days of life via snuggling up. Most of these dogs and puppies live harmoniously with these mites all their lives never suffering any consequences, but some do not and these are the ones that develop one of the types of mange.
What are the types of mange?
There are three distinct types of sarcoptic mange as follows:-
Sarcoptic Mange – this is usually considered to be a common ailment in puppyhood. They are caused by a group of mites that proliferate in a couple of areas resulting in scaly bald patches usually on the puppies face. This creates a kind of polka dot appearance but should clear up on its own with no treatment. It is estimated that 90% of cases do so.
Generalized Demodectic Mange – this generally affects larger areas of a dog’s skin, sometimes even the whole body. It is often a very itchy and smelly skin disease as secondary infections are prone to setting in. This type of mange can also be a sign of underlying health problems such as a compromised immune system, hereditary problems, endocrine issues and other underlying medical issues. Treatment depends on the age of the dog at the time they develop this disease.
Demodectic Pododermatitis – this is the most resistant form of sarcoptic mange which is usually confined to the feet and often accompanied by bacterial infections. Diagnosing this form of mange can be difficult as deep biopsies are often required to locate the mites.
Is mange contagious to humans as well as dogs?
Sarcoptic mange can be passed from dogs to humans but demodectic mange cannot. When passed to humans sarcoptic mange will cause a red bumpy rash that looks similar to mosquito bites.
Are any dog breeds more prone to develop mange than others?
There are quite a few dog breeds that research has shown to be more prone to developing mange than others. These include:
- Old English Sheepdogs
- Afghan Hounds
- German Shepherds
- Doberman Pinschers
- English Bulldogs
- Great Danes
- Chow Chows
- Shar Peis
- Many terrier breeds including American Staffordshire’s, American Pit Bulls, English Bull Terriers, Miniature Bull Terriers, West Highland Terriers, Rat Terriers and Boston Terriers
Not only are certain breeds more prone to developing mange but certain types of dog are too. Puppies less than eighteen months old are more likely to get localized demodectic mange and older dogs with underlying medical conditions are more prone to mange in general. Old English Sheepdogs and Shar Peis are most likely to develop demodectic Pododermatitis and mange in general can be hereditary.
What are the general symptoms of mange?
The symptoms of mange all depend on the type of mange that your dog has. Demodectic mange tends to cause:
- Hair loss
- Bald spots
Secondary bacterial infections can make demodectic mange an itchy and uncomfortable disease.
Sarcoptic mange tends to cause:
- Intense itching
- Frantic scratching
- Hair loss
- Reddened skin
- Body sores
The most commonly affected areas of a dog are the ears, elbows, face and legs but this type of mange can rapidly spread to the entire body.
How to recognize if your dog has mange?
Knowing the general symptoms of mange may not automatically mean that you will recognize them if the issue arises. So here is some more detailed advice on how to recognize the signs:
Sarcoptic mange will cause your dog to scratch frantically, often and or prolonged periods. They may also, when the itching becomes unbearable begin to chew on their skin too. This frantic scratching and biting will lead to secondary infection that can be so severe that your dog will be distracted from participating in normal behaviour. This may mean your dog stops eating, drinking and is unable to rest.
Symptoms of secondary infection are white crusty surfaces which will form on top of your dog’s already irritated skin. This may lead to your dog losing weight, running a fever and having enlarged lymph nodes.
Common forms of mange usually result in one or two thin patches or bald patches in your dog’s hair. Usually these patches will not appear inflamed or irritated and will not cause serious itching. This is usually the kind of mange that appears on puppies and will clear up by itself.
However if the mange does not improve on its own or it starts to spread resulting in numerous patches of hair loss you should seek veterinary advice. Patches will usually be about one inch (2.5cm) in diameter and may become red, scaly and / or crusty. This can lead to increased scratching and secondary infection which in turn leads to the same consequences as those listed relating to sarcoptic mange.
Demodectic pododermatitic mange will appear in the form of swollen irritated feet and is usually worse around the nail beds of your dog’s paws. This particular type of mange is often accompanied by secondary infections and all the consequences that go with them. As with sarcoptic mange your dog will display frantic itching and possible chewing.
It is also important to recognize that the signs of mange do not necessarily equate to it being mange. Itchiness and hair loss could be allergies, hyperadrenocorticism (Cushing’s disease), diabetes, hyperthyroidism or parasite infection. You should never self-diagnose mange in your dog always consult a vet.
What do you do if you think your dog has mange?
If you think that your dog may have mange the first thing to do is to take them to the vet so they can physically examine your dog. Mange can often be difficult to identify especially if the mites are buried deep in the dogs skin. Your vet will more than likely take skin scrapings to analyze.
How is mange treated?
The treatment of mange will be dependent on the type of mange your dog has developed and its breed. Treatments may include:
- Oral treatment
- Topical treatment
- Shampoos / dips
Your dog may also be prescribed an antiparasitic treatment such as a cream to ease the itching, inflammation and any secondary skin infections your dog may have developed. Medications and managing physiological stress are essential when treating mange and some dogs may require more than one type of treatment.
Results are usually seen within a month of starting any treatment. It should be noted here that many skin treatments can toxic to your dog and should not be repeated too frequently. Always check with your vet before starting any treatment on your own and always follow the instructions given with any treatments prescribed.
Your vet may also recommend that you isolate your dog to prevent the spreading of mange from pet to pet or human to human. This is good advice if your dog is suffering from sarcoptic mange as this can be transferred to humans and dogs alike.
However if your dog has any of the forms of demodectic mange current thinking suggests that these forms cannot be passed to humans. It is also believed that though these mites can be passed from dog to dog it is highly unlikely the dog they are passed to will develop mange. It is more likely that the mites transferred will simply add to the dog’s natural mite’s population with no ill effects. Isolation is not even suggested in the most severe cases of mange.
Any treatment your dog is prescribed should be used alongside skin scrapes every two weeks. Only after two consecutive clear scrapes should your dog’s treatment be stopped. It is advisable to have another scrape a month after the all clear has been given.
Is mange curable?
Younger dogs and puppies regularly fully recover from mange with no treatment needed, as stated previously. Older dogs however often require long term therapy and treatment to control the disease. Dogs who have demodectic mange should not be bred from as this type of mange is thought to be hereditary.
Whilst mange is not curable you can prevent recurrence by taking a few simple preventative measures.
How do you prevent recurrence?
Here are a few simple measures to ensure mange does not reoccur:
- Thoroughly clean or replace all your dogs bedding and collar
- Treat any animals that your dog has been in contact with just to be on the safe side
- If you suspect a neighbor’s dog or dog yours comes in contact with has mange keep your dog away. You will be unable to tell which type of mange the dog has so could be opening up yours to becoming infected
- Take your dog to the vet periodically for skin scrapes to ensure the mange has been eradicated and is not recurring
- Include a high dosage of vitamin C and A, lethicin, zinc, vitamin E and B complex and garlic in your dogs diet. This will help to boost their immune system.
- Give your dog regular baths
- Brush and comb your dog regularly. This will help remove scaly skin, scabs and help with itching.
Can mange kill?
Mange in itself will not kill your dog but it is extremely painful and devastating for your dog. There is also a chance that dogs with already weakened immune systems may be weakened further, opening the doors to other health conditions that could be life threatening.
Are there any home remedies for mange?
There are many home remedies you could try when treating your dog for mange, here are just a few:
Hydrogen Peroxide and Borax
A mixture of 1% hydrogen peroxide mixed with borax powder and water can be an effective home cure for mange. Make sure the mixture is thoroughly dissolved before applying to your dog and leaving to dry on his / her skin.
This should be used once a week for two weeks. As borax can make your dog sick if ingested you should use an Elizabethan collar to prevent licking.
Honey can be applied directly to your dog’s skin but needs to be wiped off at night as it will attract ants who may bite your dog.
This is a remedy for dogs that have their ears affected by mange. Simply apply two tablespoons of pure yoghurt to the area of the ear infected. This will help with crusting and discharge caused by mange.
Directly applying a few drops of cooking oil to affected skin on your dog can address the problem of itching and irritation. It also alleviates waxy deposits and kills mites.
Apple Cider Vinegar
This can be a good remedy especially for those dogs who do not take kindly to having lotions and potions applied to their skin.
Simply add a tablespoon of unpasteurized apple cider vinegar to your dog’s meal and it will alleviate mange.
By using a mild soapy solution on your dog you can prevent the spread of mange mites whilst at the same time killing them. Ensure that the soap that you use is high in alkaline and it is this that creates the desired effects.
Slice a lemon with the peel on and boil it in water. When cool apply the solution to your dog and leave overnight.
Rub the solution off in the morning with a sponge. Not only will this solution treat your dog’s mange but it will also leave your dogs skin glossy.
Yellow Dock, Aloe Vera or Calendula tea
The application of tea containing any of these herbs will kill the parasites on your dog’s skin and heal the wounds rapidly. This solution can be applied several times a day.
This is an effective home remedy for mange in dogs and puppies
Lemon and garlic rinse
Add thirty to forty cloves of garlic with six or more lemon skins, a whole lemon and four liters of water. Bring the mixture to the boil and allow it to cool. Liberally apply the cooled mixture the skin of your dog for ten days once a day.
If you wish to treat your dog at home but do not want to make your own remedies you might also consider buying over the counter treatments. These are available in most pet stores or online. Treatments vary from dry skin and itch balms, spot on treatments, sprays and shampoos to homeopathic remedies. Before using any of the above home remedies or over the counter treatments or mange on dogs it is recommended that you consult your vet.