Sarcoptic Mange in Dogs: Skin Mites or Scabies Cause Intense Scratching and Hair Loss

March 9, 2019
As a dog owner with over 25 years of experience, I can attest that having a dog is one of the most wonderful things that has ever happened in my life. The companionship and joy they bring is incomparable.

Sarcoptic mange in dogs, sometimes called scabies, may begin with intense itching, irritated skin, and eventually hair loss which may first be noticed on the ears, armpits, and in the belly area. Symptoms also include red pustules, sores, and yellowish crusty skin. As the disease progresses, the skin may darken in color.

Due to the dog’s constant scratching, the skin becomes even more traumatized, allowing secondary bacterial infection to set in as well. The toxic effect of bacterial infection entering the bloodstream through open sores may cause the dog to be lethargic. Eventually death can result from sepsis.

Causes of Sarcoptic Mange

The sarcoptic mite is contracted from another animal and burrows into the skin of the dog. Female mites lay eggs in these burrows and then die. Intense itching caused by scabies is thought to be an allergic reaction to the mite, although allergy treatments do not typically relieve it.

Is Sarcoptic Mange Contagious?

Sarcoptic mange, unlike demodex mange, is highly contagious from one dog to another dog. It can be spread by direct contact but also by sharing bedding, collars, sleeping areas, and other things as well. Any dog can contract sarcoptic mange.

The Sarcoptes family is made up of species specific mites that prefer their own particular host but can infect another animal to a lesser degree. Humans can contract sarcopsis from dogs, characterized by itching and a rash, but it will be short lived as the mite cannot reproduce on a human host.

Diagnosing Sarcoptic Mange

A definite diagnosis may be difficult unless the sarcoptic mite can be identified through a skin scraping and microscopic examination, which happens in some cases. In other cases a skin biopsy may be done and if mites are still not found, treatment is usually started based on an evaluation of symptoms and diagnosis may be made according to response to that treatment.

Treatment of Sarcoptic Mange

Various treatments have been used in the battle against sarcoptic mange. In the past, dogs had their coats clipped and then received a series of dips in Paramite, Mitaban, or LymDip. High concentrations of ivermectin have been used off label for some cases but this treatment can be dangerous for many herding breeds such as Collies and Shelties.

Safer, more convenient, and usually effective are topicals such as Revolution, Frontline Plus, Frontline Top Spot, and Frontline Spray. Some veterinarians have used Interceptor at off label doses but expense may be an inhibiting factor here.

Secondary bacterial infections are often treated with antibiotics. It is recommended to also keep the dog’s bedding washed and treat sleeping areas with an insecticide. Due to the life cycle and the hardiness of the mite, treatment usually is continued for 4 weeks or more. All dogs exposed to the infected dog should also be treated.

Prognosis of Sarcoptic Mange

Although a few cases of sarcoptic mange can be resistant and difficult to cure, most cases respond to treatment.

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