Dog Mange – Prevention, Symptoms, and Treatment

Dog mange (Canine mange) can cause panic among dog owners. If your dog suffers from mange, extreme itch, sores, and hair loss are some of the symptoms you’ll notice. The onset of symptoms depends on the stage and severity of the disease.

While people still panic at the mention of dog mange because it was hard to treat in the past, canine mange can be successfully treated today. 

But, let’s take this step by step. We’ll begin by telling you what Dog mange is, then proceed to the symptoms, transmission, treatment, prevention, and a whole range of other info on canine mange. Keep reading!

What Is Dog Mange?

Canine Mange is a parasitic skin disease in dogs caused by microscopic mites. The name is coined from the French term mangeue, which means eat or itch. 

A dog suffering from Mange
Photo Credit: welovecuddly

The mange-causing parasitic mites live at the skin’s surface or in the oil glands and the hair follicles of your dog’s skin.

It’s worth noting that, while many healthy dogs have natural mite populations, they can suppress them and prevent them from becoming problematic. This is also true with dog mange. 

In fact, dogs that will be affected by mange already show the signs of the disease during puppyhood. Adult dogs that develop mange usually have an underlying condition that compromises their immune system. 

Also, stray, abused, or neglected dogs who receive poor care and nutrition are at a greater risk of getting mange. 

Types of Canine Mange

It is important to indicate, right from the start, that dog mange presents in two different types: 

  1. Sarcoptic Mange, also known as canine scabies.
  2. Demodectic Mange, also known as Demodex or red mange.

Because the two types of canine mange have different causes, presentation, diagnosis, symptoms, and treatment, it would be hard to discuss both under a common umbrella of canine mange, which is why we will discuss each separately here on out. 

Sarcoptic Mange

Sarcoptic mange is the canine mange variant caused by the parasitic mite scientifically known as Sarcoptes scabiei. This mite has a spider-like presentation and burrows itself just beneath the surface of your dog’s skin.

Pictures of Sarcoptic Mange from Microscope.
Photo Credit: minrowse1

Once in your dog’s skin, the mites lay eggs that hatch to larvae within 3-10 days. In that time, the mites spread in the skin while growing into adult mites and reproducing. 

As adult mites, Sarcoptes scabiei will survive in your dog’s skin for 3-4 weeks, but that gives them time to leave younger mites to continue spreading mange on your dog’s skin.

Sarcoptic Mange Transmission

Because Sarcoptic mange is highly contagious, dogs can catch it through one of these modes:

  • Direct contact with other infected dogs.
  • Sharing beddings of infected dogs
  • Contact with infected urban foxes (rare mode of transmission).

It’s also important to note that Sarcoptic mange is zoonotic, which means it can be passed from dogs to humans

Symptoms of Sarcoptic Mange

The mites that cause Sarcoptic mange prefer hairless skin and will first attack areas under the armpit, belly, and inside ears. Once established, Sarcoptic mange will present with the following symptoms in your dog:

  • Intense itching, that causes your dog to scratch and chew its skin consistently.
  • Loss of hair following consistent scratching and skin chewing. This usually appears first on the belly and legs before other parts of the dog’s body.
  • Red and inflamed skin due to the action of the mites and consistent scratching.
  • Open skin sores from consistent scratching and advanced disease. 
  • In the later stages of the disease, thickened and darkened skin.
  • Crusty skin due to the formation of scabs.
  • Bacteria and yeast infections and secondary skin infections due to the presence of open sores.
  • In some extreme cases, the swelling of the lymph nodes.
  • Emaciation in extreme cases

Though these symptoms are common, the presentation of the disease on the dog’s skin can vary from dog to dog.

Sarcoptic Mange Diagnosis

So how is Sarcoptic mange diagnosed? 

The diagnosis of Sarcoptic mange is usually done by skin scraping. The skin is then examined under the microscope for the presence of mites. 

However, testing canine mange by skin scrapping is elusive because the mites may not present at the scrapped part of the skin. Also, a few mites are enough to cause and spread the disease.

Some vets may carry out blood tests, but these are equally unreliable. As a result, many veterinarians treat dogs for mange based on the presence of an itch that does not turn a positive test for other skin diseases like scabies or allergies. A skin condition that fails to respond to other treatments is often also treated for mange.

In addition, Mange that is not diagnosed through skin scraping is often treated by considering the clinical symptoms discussed earlier.

Sarcoptic Mange Treatment

Unlike in the past, where treating mange was difficult, Sarcoptic mange is easily treatable today. Treatment options for mange vary from topical to oral options and, often, a combination of both.

  • Topical Sarcoptic Mange Treatments

Topical Sarcoptic mange treatments are in two categories: 

  1. Dips: where you immerse your dog in solutions with medicines like Lime Sulfur or Amitraz.
  2. Topical creams: applied to the dog’s skin every 14 to 30 days or as directed by the veterinarian. Topical meds for Sarcoptic mange include:
    • Selamectin
    • Moxidectin 
    • Imidacloprid
    • Fipronil
  • Oral sarcoptic mange treatments

Oral treatments for Sarcoptic mange come in pills, syrups, or flavored chews. Some of the oral options for Sarcoptic mange treatment include: 

  • Milbemycin (Interceptor® & Sentinel®)
  • Afoxolaner (NexGard®)
  • Fluralaner (Bravecto®)
  • Sarolaner (Simparica®)

These mange medications are used ‘off label,’ meaning they are not initially approved for mange treatment but for other diseases.

Often, mange in dogs is treated with a combination of both topical and oral meds. Combining oral and topical meds ensures a more effective and definitive treatment.

  • Other Sarcoptic Mange Treatment

Your dog’s vet may also prescribe oral or topical steroids to control of skin inflammation. In addition, antibiotics can be given to counter secondary infections.

It’s always important to work with a vet when treating a dog for Sarcoptic mange. A professional vet is best suited in advising you on the most appropriate treatment for your dog.

Also, ensure you treat your dog regularly, follow the vet’s instructions, and complete the entire dose. If other pets are in the house, they should also be treated.

With proper treatment, canine mange can clear in a month.

Demodectic Mange

Demodectic mange is the more common variant of canine mange caused by the Demodex canis parasitic mites. These mites live in your dog’s hair follicles. Observed under a microscope, Demodex mites look like a cigar and have eight legs.

Because Demodectic mange and the resulting infections cause your dog’s skin to become very red and inflamed, it is often called ‘red mange.’

According to the Veterinary Centers of America (VCA), all dogs have a bit of Demodex mites on their skin. However, these mites cause no harm if the dog has a robust immune system.  

In dogs with an underdeveloped immune system, especially between 12 and 18 months of age, Demodex mites can increase rapidly to cause disease. Also, adult dogs who have the disease usually have a compromised immune system, which declines with age.

Demodectic Mange Transmission

Generally, Demodectic mange is not passed through direct contact between dogs unless a dog with a weak immune system is exposed to another with the mites. Also, Demodectic mange cannot be passed to other animals and humans. Instead, infected dogs transmit the Demodex mites to their puppies in the first days after birth. 

As long as a dog has a strong immune system, the disease will not develop, and the mites remain dormant.

Symptoms of Demodectic Mange

Unlike Sarcoptic mange, Demodectic mange does not cause extreme itching, only a mild itch. However, the itch can still cause hair loss in patches

Hair loss appears first around the eyes. The pattern of hair loss is often used to differentiate variation in Demodectic mange disease.

Depending on the type, Demodectic mange can also present in;

  • Red, scaling skin (localized or generalized).
  • Skin inflammation.
  • Crusts
  • Secondary infections.

Types of Demodectic Mange

As alluded to earlier, the pattern of hair loss in Demodectic mange is used to define the type of demodectic mange a dog is suffering from. 

There are usually 3 variations of demodectic mange:

  1. Localized Demodectic Mange

Localized Demodectic mange presents in scaly bald patches on the face. It is typically common in puppies.

  1. Generalized Demodectic Mange

Generalized Demodectic mange has more scaly bald patches on the dog’s body. Because of this, your dog is more prone to opportunistic secondary infections that cause extreme itchiness. The infections may also cause your dog to smell.

Demodectic mange is most common in dogs younger than 18 months who have an immature immune system. If adult dogs have Generalized Demodectic mange, it is a sign that they have an underlying condition suppressing their immune system. 

In both cases, dogs can recover when their immune system is restored/renewed.

  1. Demodectic Pododermatitis

This Demodectic mange variant affects the dog’s paws and can be hard to diagnose and treat. It is often accompanied by bacterial infections that often run deep into the foot tissues.

Demodectic Mange Diagnosis

So how is Demodectic mange diagnosed? 

As with Sarcoptic mange, Demodectic mange is diagnosed by taking skin scrapings and examining them under a microscope to detect the Demodex mites

If your dog’s skin shows larger than usual numbers of Demodex mites, then the vet confirms the positive diagnosis for Demodectic mange.

Some veterinarians may also carry out a skin biopsy. This is mainly done for dogs with chronic skin infections that have failed to respond to prescribed treatment. 

Demodectic Mange Treatment

Treatment for Demodectic mange depends on the type of variant that your dog is suffering from:

  • Localized Demodectic mange is usually treated with topical mediations.
  • Generalized Demodectic mange usually requires more aggressive treatment with dips and cleansing shampoos, combined with oral drugs.

The cleansing shampoos usually have benzoyl peroxide, which helps open the hair follicles and flush out the mites.

Other meds used ‘off label’ for the treatment of Demodectic mange include:

  • Imidacloprid
  • Moxidectin
  • An injectable form of Doramectin
  • Ivermectins

Antibiotics are also prescribed if Demodectic mange has caused skin sores and infections. 

With proper treatment per the veterinarian’s instructions, Demodectic mange can be successfully treated. However, dogs with a compromised immune system may not respond to the treatment, and if they do, the disease recurs soon after.

Usually, generalized Demodectic mange takes longer to heal than the localized variant.

Canine Mange Prevention

Worried dog owners and those who find canine mange quite scary often ask the question: How do I prevent my dog from getting mange?

A dog being taken care by doctors.

The prevention of canine mange stays primarily in maintaining good canine health and a clean environment. 

Also, a healthy diet is paramount in ensuring your dog has a sound immune system. The state of your dog’s immune system is the primary determinant of whether your dog gets mange and how successfully the disease gets treated in the dog.

Because stress and hormonal imbalance can compromise a dog’s immune system, ensuring your dog lives in a peaceful environment and spaying or neutering your dog can help.

Ensure that all recommended vaccines and treatments are done to increase the chances of a more robust immune system in your dog. 

Especially with Sarcoptic mange, you should prevent your dog from coming into contact with infected dogs or sharing infected beddings. In extreme cases, the infected dog should be quarantined.

To avoid re-infection, infected dog beddings should be discarded or thoroughly disinfected with bleach. 

Also, all pets who have come into contact with an infected dog should be examined by a vet and treated accordingly.

Always consult your dog’s veterinarian for additional prevention measures and suitable treatment options.

How to Care for Dogs with Canine Mange

The treatment options are part of the care you should give to a dog with mange. Additionally, you should also follow these canine mange care tips to ensure your dog heals well:

  1. Keep your dog’s skin clean. Clipping the fur is advised.
  2. Feed your dog with a healthy and nutritious diet to facilitate the recovery of a robust immune system. Consider reducing filters such as grains and simple carbohydrates in your dog’s food. Instead, give a high-protein diet.
  3. Give your dog additional nutrients to boost his immunity. Consider especially supplements that promote healthy skin, such as those with fish oil.
  4. Always practice good grooming
  5. Remove any stressors in your dog’s life.
  6. Avoid public parks and pet training and boarding centers. Isolating your sick dog will keep the disease under control.
  7. Do not breed dogs that have previously suffered canine mange. Consider that Demodectic mange is thought to be hereditary as it is passed from mother to puppy.

Home Remedies for Canine Mange

Home remedies for canine diseases and conditions should always receive clearance from your dog’s vet before you proceed to use them with your furry friend. This is especially true with canine mange.

A dog in the arms of his owner

While scientifically tested proof for the effectiveness of home remedies for canine mange is lacking, some home remedies have been proposed to aid in soothing the skin and reducing the itch and inflammation. They include:

  • Chamomile
  • Valerian
  • Kava Kava
  • St. John’s Wort
  • Reiki massage to lower anxiety levels.
  • Acupuncture to release the feel-good hormones in your dog (cortisol and endorphins).

Once again, home remedies may not be enough to control and heal canine mange. So, always consult with your vet for proper diagnosis first and the appropriate medical treatment for your dog. 

If you know a reliable holistic veterinarian, working with them would be a great option as they have more hands-on experience with home remedies for the management and treatment of canine mange.

Canine Mange FAQS

To complete your knowledge of mange here’s a couple of questions dog owners often ask about canine mange.

Yes. Sarcoptic mange is a zoonotic disease and can be passed from dogs to humans. If you get mange from your dog, you will experience itching and skin rash. However, the parasitic mite that causes Sarcoptic mange mites cannot complete its life cycle on human skin and die after a few days. Nonetheless, you may need to see your doctor to report exposure to the mange parasite and use topical creams to ease the discomfort.

Children are especially susceptible to getting mange from dogs.

Because you can get Sarcoptic mange from dogs, it goes without saying that you can pass it from one dog to another. As such, you and any dogs in the home should be treated to ensure traces of the disease are entirely cleared and mange doesn’t recur.

Yes. Canine mange is curable. Both Sarcoptic and Demodectic mange can be successfully treated with topical and oral meds. However, successful treatment wholly depends on the soundness of your dog’s immune system. Dogs with a compromised immune system may suffer from mange longer or have it recur time and again after successful treatment.