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What is sarcoptic mange in dogs?
Sarcoptic mange in dogs is extremely contagious and causes significant itching and skin lesions in affected animals. Dogs and foxes are common hosts for the parasite.
Dogs contract scabies by close contact with other infected dogs or wildlife. Humans and cats can become transiently infected with sarcoptic mange but are not ideal hosts for sarcoptic mites.
Scabies mites are microscopic and require skin scraping for diagnosis. The female mites will burrow into the skin and the larvae will feed on the skin, causing clinical signs.
Dogs with sarcoptic mange will suffer intense itching and may start to traumatize their skin leading to hair loss and pain.
Symptoms of Sarcoptic Mange in Dogs
Dogs affected by sarcoptic mange will become incredibly pruritic. This severe itching will lead to self-trauma by scratching and chewing at the skin. Hair loss, crusting, and ulceration develop from sarcoptic mange.
Damage to the natural skin barrier can lead to secondary fungal and bacterial infections causing a foul smell and even purulent discharge.
The dog’s skin will have pink to red skin, patchy alopecia, hair loss, and ulcerated lesions. All parts of the dog’s body may be affected by sarcoptic mange. Dogs that are very uncomfortable may be lethargic or disinterested in food.
If a generalized infection of mites occurs, dogs may develop enlarged lymph nodes or fever.
How to Diagnose Sarcoptic Mange in Dogs?
Sarcoptic mange causes a distinct appearance on the skin, leading to a high level of suspicion of the disease.
A definitive sarcoptic mange diagnosis is made by performing a skin scraping. This is when a veterinarian will use a scalpel to lightly scrape the top layer of the skin surface, exfoliating skin cells, and debris.
The scraping will then be evaluated under a microscope to look for evidence of mites or secondary skin infections. The sarcoptic mites burrow deeply into the skin, so scraping the skin too lightly may lead to a missed diagnosis of mite infestations.
Canine scabies infections that are challenging to diagnose may require PCR testing or skin biopsies.
Treatment for Sarcoptic Mange in Dogs
Scabies is unlikely to resolve without veterinary intervention and can negatively impact the quality of life, so treatment is always recommended. Medical treatment is geared at killing the scabies mite and treating any secondary bacterial infections or fungal infections.
Many products are applied topically when treating sarcoptic mange, but oral options are available as well.
Most treatments will extend for several weeks in duration depending on the severity of the infection.
The most common treatments for scabies include:
Imidacloprid/moxidectin (Advantage Multi)
Anti-fungals or oral medications like antibiotics may also be recommended for dogs with severe cases and secondary skin infections.
Recovery and Management of Sarcoptic Mange in dogs
Dogs with scabies mange will need to be treated for several weeks and rechecked often to gauge their progress.
Most affected dogs will recover fully after they start treatment and will go back to living normal lives.
Dogs usually begin feeling relief from mites rather quickly. With successful treatment, dogs will regrow their hair, and scabbing will resolve.
It is important to treat the home environment as scabies mites can live on furniture and bedding. Any cloth material should be washed and dried on extremely high heat or thrown away. Carpets and upholstered surfaces should be vacuumed and steam cleaned.
Chemical treatment of the home is not often recommended as the scabies mites die within 2-3 days of living off of the host.
It is important to know that sarcoptic mange is highly contagious and also be spread to other animals and potentially humans.
Due to being highly contagious, dogs with the disease should be kept away from other animals until their clinical signs have resolved and the disease is cleared.
Scabies will more commonly affect immunocompromised dogs or those that come from neglectful situations.
Humans with compromised immune systems should not come in contact with affected dogs. Luckily, if a human does become infected, the clinical signs are not as severe as those in dogs. The infection is usually transient and easily treated after consultation with a medical practitioner.
How to Cure Sarcoptic Mange in Dogs
Sarcoptic mange in dogs is an easily treatable disease once diagnosed. Following veterinary recommendations closely will allow the infection to be cleared over several weeks.
Cleaning the environment will allow control of the mites in the home and prevention of reinfection.
A Vet’s Advice:
Though sarcoptic mange is pretty uncommon, it is a disease that can cause serious discomfort in affected dogs. Prompt treatment is recommended to eliminate the life cycle of the mites and to bring comfort to dogs with the disease.
If you have any concerns that your dog has sarcoptic mange, seek veterinary advice as soon as possible.
Sarcoptic mange causes very distinct skin lesions that lead to incredible itchiness – to the point where infected dogs cannot be distracted from the intense itchiness.
Dogs will develop inflamed skin and hair loss.
Definitive diagnosis is made via skin scraping and identifying the scabiei mites under a microscope.
Sarcoptic mange is killed by a variety of topical and oral parasiticides.
The most common treatments include Revolution, Nexgard, and Bravecto. Weekly lime sulfur dips are used topically to kill the mites often alongside systemic treatment.
Scabies is a highly contagious disease that can be spread easily from dog to dog until treatment is administered.
Once a dog receives its first appropriate treatment it is no longer contagious after about 36 hours.
Humans can contract sarcoptic mange from dogs. This is especially true for immunocompromised individuals.
Luckily, the mite cannot complete its life cycle on humans and the infection is often self-limiting. Any person who believes they have contracted scabies should seek guidance from a medical professional. Treatment may be recommended.