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What You Need to Know About Mange
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What You Need to Know About Mange

Ben, Critter Culture Staff
Updated Oct 5, 2020

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Mange is an unpleasant skin condition caused by mites. Dogs can suffer from two primary forms of mange: sarcoptic mange, or scabies, and demodectic mange, or red mange. While the cause differs between the two types, mange is typically characterized by itching, skin inflammation, and hair loss. The good news is that both are treatable and preventable.

One is caused by scabies, which is also referred to as sarcoptic mange. Demodectic mange, or Demodex, is commonly known as red mange and is caused by canine scabies mite.

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Cause of Sarcoptic mange

Beagle dog female owner caress stroking her pet lying on the back on natural stroking dog on the floor and enjoying the warm home atmosphere. Solovyova / Getty Images

Sarcoptic mange is caused by the same mite that causes scabies in humans. A female mite burrows in the dog's skin to deposit their eggs. Once hatched after approximately 3 weeks, the mites will start to feed on the dog’s skin. Sarcoptic mange is highly contagious and can be transmitted both to other dogs and humans. Sarcoptic scabies will cause intense itching on people but will not be able to multiply on humans.

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Sarcoptic mange development

Cropped close up of a young woman checking ears of her spaniel

Signs of infection typically take approximately 10 days to appear but can take as long as 2 months to become visible. Once the skin disease sets in, it spreads rapidly. Early signs of a sarcoptic mange infection appear around the animal’s ears. If left untreated, the dog’s chest, leg joints, thighs, chest, and underbelly may start to exhibit signs of infection.

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Sarcoptic mange symptoms

This terrier dog is lying down and showing signs of skin disease on its neck. This can be a sign a dog has mange or parasites. Image taken in Ko Lanta, Krabi, Thailand. Placebo365 / Getty Images

Sarcoptic mange is quite easy to spot. Irritation from the mites will cause skin irritation and inflammation, and you will likely notice your dog constantly scratching themselves. A rash is common when the dog is infected with sarcoptic mange, and scratching will eventually lead to painful sores and hair loss. As the mite population grows, the dog’s skin will thicken, and inflammation of the lymph nodes is not uncommon.

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Diagnosis of Sarcoptic mange

Golden retriever at the vet

Diagnosis of sarcoptic mange requires veterinarian intervention. Vets will usually rely on visible signs to begin Sarcoptic mange treatment, but Your vet will probably take a few samples for microscopic testing by scraping infected areas of skin.

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Sarcoptic mange treatment options

Shampoo as directed by your vet Kanoke_46 / Getty Images

Sarcoptic mange treatment typically involves topical treatments such as shampoos and ointments to skill mites. You will need to wash your dog's bedding and clean your house thoroughly to eliminate any mites that might be lingering in the house. While waiting for your dog to recover from sarcoptic mange, isolate them from other pets or animals to prevent the spread of the disease.

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Causes of Demodectic mange

Dog lying on dog bed

Mites that cause Demodex scabies live in the hair follicles of dogs and generally go unnoticed. The presence of the Demodex mite only becomes a problem when the infestation is great enough to compromise your dog's immune system, or if your dog's immune system is too weak to keep the mite population in check.

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Demodectic mange development

Happy dog feeding her puppies

Unlike Sarcoptic mange, Demodex mites are usually harmless. These mites form part of normal skin bacteria and are passed on from a mother to her puppies at birth.

While puppies may carry Demodex, not all will necessarily develop symptoms. If the Demodex does not disappear on its own, expert diagnosis and treatment will be required. Pet owners should ideally treat the mother if they notice she has Demodex and spay females to prevent the transfer of scabies.

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Demodectic mange symptoms

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Symptoms become visible as the dog starts to lose hair in small patches. Skin becomes red and susceptible to further infections. Signs of a serious mite infestation include scaly and swollen skin. Like Sarcoptic mange infections, hair loss may come as a result of inflamed skin and constant scratching.

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Diagnosis of Demodectic mange

Happy Female Veterinarian Examining Bulldo Tashi-Delek / Getty Imagesg

As with Sarcoptic mange, your vet will take skin samples from your dog for further testing. Samples will be placed under a microscope to determine whether the infection is Demodectic or Sarcoptic mange. Demodectic mites are more easily discoverable under a microscope than their Sarcoptic counterparts, but your vet may also ask about the history of the dog to determine whether the condition was present from birth. They will also enquire as to whether the mother had any mange symptoms.

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Demodectic mange treatment

owner giving a pill to a dog.

If mange does not resolve on its own, your vet may prescribe a topical treatment or oral medication. Because this type of mange is not contagious, you do not need to worry about isolating your dog from other animals or disinfecting their bedding. Young dogs have a good chance of recovering from this condition, but older dogs may need lifelong treatment.

Mange can be mistaken for skin allergies and vice versa. The best course of action is to get expert advice if you suspect either of these conditions.

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