Many have either seen or heard something described as “mangy.” From a living creature to an old jacket, it can carry some profoundly negative connotations. Often, “mangy mutt” describes a dog who appears lost at sea, with what looks like stone skin.
Mange is skin diseases brought on by mites, affecting not only animals but also humans. It can be a serious condition accompanied by patchy, itchy, hairless, crusty, infected spots about the body.
Whether you have firsthand experience with it or are reading up on it now, millions of animals suffer this visibly unpleasant condition every year.
Before you stop and scream, “scabies!” Wait. There are a few things to understand about the disease.
It is a terrible and painful condition, yet no matter how bad it gets, more often than not, it’s treatable. There are two kinds of mange in dogs caused by different mites (Demodectic and Sarcoptic).
If there were a lesser of two mange evils, it would be Demodectic.
Also referred to as “red mange” or “Demodex,” unlike its parasitic counterpart, Sarcoptes scabei (aka Itch Mites or SCABIES!), Demodectic mange is not contagious.
Demodectic mites naturally occur (primarily harmless) in your dog’s hair follicles as well as in the oil glands and have since puppydom.
Mange starts when these microscopic cigar-shaped mites become overgrown; this usually happens in puppies and elder dogs and those who suffer from autoimmune issues, cancer, diabetes, and undiagnosed underlying conditions.
Demodex is a part of a dog’s skin flora (microbial balance) and is always chilling on hair follicles. If mange presents itself, it means they burrowed deep in the skin, and treatment is imperative before it becomes a danger to your dog’s overall health.
Because the further down they go into the skin, the more waste (bacteria and skin cells) build-up and is left behind like garbage. Now, your furry friend is taking on millions of mite waste, plus rotting mite corpses, yeast, and who knows what else.
Even before you start treating, this is what has been happening, clogging up follicles, feeding secondary infections, and just more itchy misery ensues.
Puppies with red mange will develop crusty bald spots around the lips, head, and possibly the front legs. Yet, there is a good chance a puppy’s immune response turns on and fights off the infection independently.
Here are some potential Demodectic mange symptoms/signs to look out for in your dog:
- Fur loss
- General fatigue
- Areas of eroding or missing skin
- Crusty particles on the skin, swelling, infections
- Red, peeling skin
As creepy crawlies go, scabies is as prevalent in language as in nature, second maybe only to cooties.
This eight-legged parasitic mite is known as Sarcoptes scabei, and it likes to burrow under the surface of the skin and lay eggs, which take about three weeks to hatch. It has no antennae or claws but does have suckers on the ends of its legs.
They are a highly contagious zoonotic disease, i.e., your pet can give them to you and other animals. However, it is good to note; they historically do not have much luck thriving on species beyond canines.
While they cannot fulfill their metamorphosis cycle on humans, they will most certainly cause a rash of itching as they die away.
Here are some symptoms that may present in your dog if it is suffering from scabies (note, some similarities to Demodectic, however, remember, these are entirely different mites):
- Hair or fur loss
- Hardening or thickening of the skin
- Extreme weight loss
- Possible inflammation of the lymph nodes
- Itching, red, scaly skin
- Thick yellow crusty spots on the skin
- Often starts at the ears, stomach, elbows; still, it can move to the entire body if untreated
- Yeast and bacterial infections
Where the symptoms can look and sound quite daunting, once you’re well-versed in the treatment of this particular mite, you’ll find it’s relatively simple to kill.
Professionally Diagnosing Mange
Once you take your dog to the vet, they will do a series of blood and urine tests to identify the mange and rule out other possible excessive itching or hair loss conditions.
Further skin scrapings and examinations of follicles will tell which type of mite may be present.
Treating Demodectic Mange
Luckily, most cases of demodectic mange go away without treatment, although acute patients might need more long-term care, medication, and regular scrapings.
There is also topical medication to attack more concentrated conditions; however, some dogs might require a more aggressive approach, be it injections, oral meds, shampoos, or dips.
Using a cleansing shampoo that contains benzoyl peroxide works to clean out those clogged hair follicles before a dip.
If awful itching persists, a lime sulfur dip can provide some relief but seek guidance from your veterinarian first. The concentrated sulfurated lime solution carries antimicrobial and antiparasitic properties. It has a pungent odor but is as simple as sponging the affected areas with the diluted formula.
It is good to remember that demodectic mange will most likely clear up when your dog’s immune system is strong enough to monitor mite populations.
And, also, it is essential to check all the boxes to ensure it is not a more serious underlying condition that needs attention.
Treating Sarcoptic Mange
Once your vet has diagnosed your dog with Sarcoptic mange, they will discuss the various treatments that might best work for your pet’s condition.
There is everything from baths to injections to oral medications, as well as a possible med cocktail.
Topical treatments are available containing active agents such as selamectin, moxidectin, fipronil, imidacloprid, etc. Solutions can be put on one or two locations when your dog is still dry. Medication is usually applied every 14-30 days, or however, your vet decides.
A vet might prescribe an amitraz and lime-sulfur dip with instructions on how to treat your dog correctly. The Sarcoptic mange may also require prescribed oral meds for a variety of issues that may arise.
To avoid reinfection, remove any bedding, or you can bleach it with about one-ounce bleach in one gallon of water. Call your vet if your dog is still scratching those impossible itches after four to five days once treatment has begun.
When it comes to Demodectic vs. Sarcoptic mange, while one carries the contagious, sore-inducing mite infamously known as scabies, however, if unchecked, both will wreak serious havoc on your dog’s health.
Thankfully, most cases are simple to treat; however, if the cause is underlying conditions weighing down the immune system, you must seek further treatment.
Winning the war on mange is about love and diligence. Donate to a rescued animal with mange here.
Learn about other ailments animals struggle with: