The word “mange” can strike terror in pet parents’ hearts. After years of media references to “mangy mutts” and referring to the condition like it’s the plague, this skin condition has developed a truly awful reputation.
Mange isn’t the plague, but it’s definitely something that no pet parent wants their dog to get. If left untreated, it can cause hair loss, painful sores, and severe skin crusting. It’s a major risk to skin and coat health for dogs, but it is treatable, even in serious cases.
Read on to learn how to care for a dog with mange, from how to manage contagion to the right dog skin care techniques to apply.
What Is Mange?
Mange is a skin disease that develops when tiny mites burrow into the skin and make themselves at home. Two types of mange are particularly common in dogs, and each one is caused by a different kind of mite.
Demodectic mange, also called red mange or demodex, comes from the cigar-shaped Demodex canis mite. These mites are normal stowaways on a dog’s skin, but they're mostly harmless as long as a dog has a normal immune system,
However, when a dog’s immune system is weak, Demodex canis can grow out of control and cause mange. This is most common in younger dogs, dogs with inherited immune weaknesses, and dogs with immune-weakening conditions like cancer.
Some dogs with demodectic mange have localized symptoms — patches of hair loss and scaly, red skin — while others have symptoms over their entire body. Those symptoms include:
- Widespread hair loss
- Skin redness, swelling, scaling, and crusting
Demodectic mange is not contagious, since most dogs already have these mites living on their skin.
Also known as canine scabies, sarcoptic mange comes from the eight-legged, circular Sarcoptes scabiei mite. Female mites burrow into a dog’s skin and lay their eggs. In about three weeks, the eggs hatch and start feeding on a dog’s skin.
Symptoms of a sarcoptic mange infection include:
- Extreme itching, starting around the ears, chest, elbows, lower legs, and belly
- Redness and rashes
- Thick yellow crusts on the skin
- Hair loss
Sarcoptes scabiei is extremely contagious in dogs and can spread to people. The mite can’t reproduce on a human’s skin, but it will cause fairly intense itching before it dies off, and many people infected may need medical treatment.
The best way to prevent these mites from infecting human family members is to treat the dog quickly and completely.
Treating Mange in Dogs
Treating mange involves eliminating the mites and healing damaged skin. Therapies include:
Weekly dips with prescription treatments and anti-itch medicine for dogs, depending on the type of mange. These are most often prescribed, recommended, or used together.
A dog skin and coat supplement to ease discomfort and restore the skin
- Topical mite eradication treatments applied over several weeks
Select prescription flea and tick products can be used to treat both sarcoptic mange and demodectic mange even if the label itself only describes treatment for fleas and ticks. A veterinarian can help pet parents determine which are most appropriate and affordable for a dog's specific mange concerns.
To manage contagion, dogs with sarcoptic mange should also stay separated from other pets until the mites are gone.
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