Sarcoptic Mange in Dogs

Sarcoptic mange is a contagious skin condition caused by mites. Unlike demodectic mange, it is contagious to humans. Recognizing the symptoms of sarcoptic mange in dogs will reduce the chances of the disease spreading to other pets.

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What Is Sarcoptic Mange in Dogs?

Sarcoptic mange in dogs, sometimes called scabies, is an itchy disease caused by sarcoptes scabiei mites. While rarely dangerous, it can cause extreme discomfort, and the disease is contagious to both humans and other dogs.

Signs & Symptoms of Sarcoptic Mange in Dogs

The signs and symptoms of sarcoptic mange in dogs are caused by the superficial burrowing of the scabies mite in your dog’s skin. These include:

  • Severe itchiness

  • Skin lesions

  • Thickening of the skin

  • Hair loss

  • Lethargy

  • Depression

  • Secondary skin infections

The defining symptom of sarcoptic mange in dogs is intense itchiness. As the condition progresses, the itchiness can lead to secondary signs like hair loss, dandruff, redness, small bumps, and scabs. These symptoms are usually found along the underside of the belly and on the elbows, ankles, and edges of the ears. In severe cases, these signs may spread to the rest of the body.

In addition to these signs, some dogs may also be lethargic, have enlarged lymph nodes, and experience secondary skin infections caused by biting, scratching, and chewing. Extreme discomfort can even lead to a loss of appetite, which can lead to weight loss.

What Causes Sarcoptic Mange in Dogs?

Dogs contract sarcoptic mange from infected dogs. Wild canids like coyotes and foxes can also carry the mites, increasing the chances of infection for dogs in areas with large populations of wild canids.

Common causes:

  • Direct contact with an infected dog

  • Direct contact with a wild canid

Not all infected dogs show signs of sarcoptic mange, which means it is not always possible to determine where your dog picked up the condition. Once sarcoptic mange is suspected, however, it is a good idea to keep your dog away from other dogs to reduce the risk of spreading the infection.

High-stress environments like kennels and shelters pose an increased risk for contracting diseases like scabies. Stress can lower a dog’s immune system, making them more susceptible to parasites like scabies. This, combined with the proximity of other dogs, provides a route of infection for the skin mite to infect its host.

Diagnosing Sarcoptic Mange in Dogs

Sarcoptic mange is diagnosed through a combination of clinical signs and diagnostic testing. Scabies is suspected any time a dog presents with extreme itchiness. Skin lesions, hair loss, and other symptoms may also prompt your veterinarian to collect a skin scraping to confirm the diagnosis.

Veterinarians look for mites, mite eggs, and mite fecal material on the skin scraping, which all confirms sarcoptic mange. However, evidence of mites is found only 10% to 50% of the time. When evidence of mite activity is not found but scabies is suspected, veterinarians often proceed with treatment and base their diagnosis upon a positive response to the treatment. Additional diagnostic testing may still be recommended to rule out any other possible conditions.

Differentiating sarcoptic mange from other types of mange, like demodectic mange, or other skin conditions, like flea allergy dermatitis, is essential for accurate treatment and management. Your veterinarian may recommend additional diagnostic tests to rule out these conditions.

Treating Your Dog for Sarcoptic Mange

Dogs with sarcoptic mange are treated with anti-parasite medications. Your veterinarian may recommend a topical therapy, like weekly lime sulfur dips (only rarely recommended), selamectin (Revolution), and fipronal (Frontline). Your veterinarian may also suggest a systemic treatment. Oral systemic treatments include selamectin (Revolution), imidacloprid-moxidectin (Advantage Multi ) and off-label use of ivermectin. It’s pretty uncommon for vets to prescribe oral selamectin or imidacloprid.However, some breeds, like collies, have sensitivities to ivermectin that must be taken into consideration.

Two of the newest treatments for scabies are Nexgard and Bravecto. Both of these oral medications are flea preventatives but have since been discovered to be very effective in treating mites.

Your dog may also require treatment for any secondary bacterial or yeast infections that have arisen as a result of a scabies infection. To prevent further self-inflicted damage from biting and chewing, your veterinarian may also suggest medicated baths or anti-itch medications. Occasionally, an Elizabethan collar, or e-collar, may be recommended. All other dogs in the household should be treated for sarcoptic mange as well to reduce the risk of recurrence.

Is there a cure for sarcoptic mange in dogs?

Luckily, there is a cure for sarcoptic mange. Appropriate medication therapies and management will cure and help prevent additional infections, and hair loss should resolve with time.

Is Sarcoptic Mange Contagious For Humans or Other Pets?

Sarcoptic mange is highly contagious to other dogs. It can also affect humans who come in contact with infected dogs. However, humans are not the mites’ preferred host, and most human cases result in only a small area of red bumps before the mites die. However, if you or anyone else in your household develops clinical signs of a scabies infection, you should consult with your physician immediately.

What is the cost of treating sarcoptic mange in dogs?

Sarcoptic mange is relatively affordable to treat. You can expect to pay for the hospital visit, diagnostic tests like skin scrapes, and the medication prescribed for treatment, along with any refills and follow-up visits.

Recovery and Management of Sarcoptic Mange in dogs

The prognosis for sarcoptic mange in dogs is good. Most dogs recover with treatment, although severe cases may take longer to resolve. Continuing treatment for the prescribed period of time is crucial. The lifecycle of the mite is 21 days. Failure to treat for the recommended time may result in reinfection.

Sarcoptic mange is contagious. The best way to prevent reinfection is to treat all other dogs in the household, along with alerting regular playmates about your dog’s condition so that they can take appropriate preventative steps. In severe cases, the environment may also need to be treated with sprays recommended by your veterinarian.

Secondary infections can pose potentially serious complications. While most infections resolve with treatment, antibiotic resistant strains of certain diseases, like staphylococcus, can be challenging to treat.

Preventing Sarcoptic Mange in dogs

It is not always possible to prevent sarcoptic mange in dogs. However, avoiding contact with infected dogs is the surest way to prevent an infection. Signs of infection may not always be obvious, but observing the health of your dog’s playmates and talking with their owners can give you essential information about potential health risks.

There are no known breed predispositions to sarcoptic mange, but age can play a role. Younger dogs in high-stress environments like kennels, shelters, pet stores, grooming salons, and puppy mills may be more susceptible to the condition, and dogs with compromised immune systems are also at a higher risk.

Is there a vaccine for sarcoptic mange in dogs?

There is no vaccine for sarcoptic mange in dogs.

Summary of Sarcoptic Mange

Sarcoptic mange, or scabies, is an itchy condition caused by mites. While rarely dangerous, it can cause extreme discomfort, and the disease is contagious to both humans and other dogs. Owner diligence can help prevent sarcoptic mange in some cases. Unfortunately, it is not always possible to avoid this skin condition. Understanding the symptoms of sarcoptic mange can help you identify potentially infected playmates as well as potential infections in your own dog. Getting your dog to the veterinarian to start treatment will help your pet recover quickly and with fewer complications.

Our medical experts

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