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Mange in Dogs

Mange can be quite dreadful for animal care-givers and their animals, especially for small domestic animals dogs, cats, goats and sheep. It is a disease that is usually characterized by intensive itching and may end up being a source of long-term discomfort for these animals if not attended to on time. Here we will give a background information on the disease, and discuss treatment and proper management of the disease.

Mange is a skin disease caused by certain insects called mites. There are different species of mites and some normally reside in the dog’s skin and hair follicles, while others are not normal residents.


Most dogs live with the normal-resident mites, never suffering any consequences, while for the mites that are not normally resident, it causes intensive adverse reactions for the dog. Generally, all mites can cause mild to severe skin infections if conditions are favorable for their increase in numbers.

Transmission of mange

The most common way by which mange is transmitted in dogs is when an uninfected animal is exposed to an infected animal. The mites quickly move from animal to animal. Therefore places like kennels, animal shelters, dog parks, groomers and veterinary clinics have a high risk of exposure for mange. This is because of the close proximity with animals that may be infected.

Types of mange

There are two types of mange infections in dogs

  • Sarcoptic mange
  • Demodectic mange

Sarcoptic mange is the one popularly called canine scabies and it is caused by oval-shaped, light-colored and microscopic mites called Sarcoptes scabiei. Sarcoptic mange is a highly contagious skin disease for another animals and human. It is generally transferred from one host to another which may be from dog to humans and vice versa (remember zoonotic diseases). The mites burrow through the skin causing intense itching and irritation. The scratching that results from mange is what causes the majority of the animal’s hair to fall out and causes sores to appear in extreme cases.


Demodectic mange is commonly seen in all dogs that are raised normally by their mothers. It is transferred from mother to pup through close proximity and cuddling during the first few days of life.  Demodectic mange may occur in three major ways;

  • As a localized infection when mites proliferate in restricted one or two small areas resulting in isolated scaly bald patches. This is quite common in puppies, and most cases would resolve without treatment.
  • As a generalized infection where it affects larger areas of skin or the dog’s entire body. This may cause secondary bacterial infections that cause severe itches and elicit foul smell from the dog’s body. This form of mange could also be a sign of a compromised immune system, endocrine problem or other underlying health issue. For some dog breeds, this disease is a hereditary problem making them highly susceptible to it.
  • As demodectic pododermatitis, which is a mange infection confined to the foot and accompanied by bacterial infections. This mange infection may be persistent over the lifetime of the dog.


Signs and symptoms of mange in dogs

Signs and symptoms of mange usually appear one week after exposure and they depend on which type of mite (or mange) is present. However, generally mange infection is characterized by intense scratching, restless and frantic itching, skin rash, reddened skin, bald spot, crust formation or scabbing, sores in the affected area and loss of hair (alopecia).


Itching in demodectic mange may be due to complications with secondary bacterial infection of the dog’s skin. The most commonly affected areas are a dog’s ears, elbows, face and legs, but it can rapidly spread to the entire body.

Symptoms of mange in humans

Humans cannot get demodectic mange from dogs, only sarcoptic mange. When passed to humans, sarcoptic mange causes a rash of red bumps, similar to mosquito bites. These symptoms include alopecia, a redness of the skin (erythema), and the appearance of scales and lesions.


Treatment of mange

A qualified veterinarian should be consulted to perform a physical examination on the animal, examine the dog’s skin scrapings and try to confirm the presence of mange mites. Plucking hairs may also help identify the mite responsible for the condition. The vet may also rely on clinical signs or your pet’s history to make a final diagnosis.

The first step in the treatment of sarcoptic mange is to isolate your dog to prevent the condition from spreading to other pets and humans. Depending on the type of mange and the breed of your dog, medication may be given oral or by injection as antiparasites, anti-inflammatory and anti-bacterial drugs. Also, a scabicide (a drug that kills mites) may be applied topically by medicated shampooing, bathing and dipping to kill the mites living on the skin. Results can be seen after a month of consistent treatment.  Please note that you should check with your vet before beginning any self-administered treatment program for mange because many skin treatments can be toxic to dogs and they should not be repeated frequently. We emphasize as usual that treatment be done under veterinary supervision.

Mite eggs will take time to hatch, and most treatments do not kill the eggs, only the living mites. Therefore, it is important that treatment continues until all of the adult mites and newly-hatched mites are killed. Depending on the extent of mange infection, the dog may need to be treated, dipped or bathed on a weekly basis for as long as six consecutive weeks.

How to prevent recurrence of Mange in your dog

If your dog has been diagnosed with sarcoptic mange, you’ll need to thoroughly clean and fumigate your environment. You will also have to replace the dog’s bedding and and treat other animals in contact with your dog (if you have multiple dogs in the same house). If you suspect a neighbor’s dog may be infected, keep your pets away from the animal and advice/suggest examination and treatment to the owner. Bring your dog to the vet periodically as recommended for constant examination to be sure that the mites have been completely eradicated. Also, you are advised to keep the dog isolated (quarantined) during treatment especially if it is usually in constant contact with other dogs.

Prevention of mange in humans

As we mentioned earlier, sarcoptic mange is highly contagious to humans and other animals and may cause a rash break-out on their arms, chest or abdomen. This usually clears up once the dog has been properly treated. Therefore it is recommended that dog-owners or animal care-givers limit contact with their infected dog(s) or isolate/quarantine an infected dog.


References: Pet MD Sarcoptic Mange, Web MD




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