Mange is a disease that affects a dog’s skin. Caused by microscopic mites that live on or in the skin, it causes itching and mild to severe skin infections.
Despite there being over forty-eight thousand different species of mites, including ear mites and seasonal harvest mites. The two most common causes of mange in dogs are the Demodex Canis mite and the Sarcoptes scabei mite. But how do dogs get mange?
The Demodex Canis mite is an eight-legged, cigar-shaped parasite that lives on the surface of its host. It lives and feeds in and on the hair follicles and oil glands of the skin.
Also known as red mange, it causes hair loss and red, inflamed skin. Localized infection appears mainly on the face. In comparison, a generalized infection can spread widely to other areas of the body.
There is also a form of Demodectic mange that only affects a dog’s feet. Known as Pododermatitis, it can be tough to treat.
How did my dog get Demodectic mange?
It’s thought that the Demodex Canis mite lives on most dogs without it causing an issue. A healthy dog’s immune system will usually overcome an infestation and repair any damage caused. Because of this, Demodectic mange (Demodicosis) is self-limiting. In that, the dog will eventually remove the problem themselves once the infestation has gone. Most dogs do not get this type of mange again as their immune system builds up a defense against it.
However, old dogs with compromised immune systems and young dogs with immune systems that have not yet fully developed are more at risk of the effects of red mange. Since Demodectic mange occurs mainly around the face, if it becomes more generalized and spreads. It could be an indicator that your dog has a compromised immune system.
Hereditary Demodectic mange
Despite red mange being classed as non-contagious. When a puppy is born, the mother will transfer Demodex mites via skin-to-skin contact shortly after birth. As these parasites commonly live on dogs anyway, this isn’t usually an issue. That is unless the infestation becomes problematic and the puppy develops excessive hair loss or skin lesions.
Most dogs will develop a strong enough immune system when they are eighteen months old for the Demodex mite to no longer present an issue. However, hereditary Demodectic mange is not the inheritance of mites from mother to puppy. But rather the inherited lack of specific antibodies that will fight against an infestation of these parasites.
Specific breeds including, the Pug, Shar-pei, and Old English Sheepdog, are more prone to bouts of this type of mange because of the lack of antibodies in their system.
Sarcoptic mange or canine scabies, as it is also known it highly contagious. Sarcoptic mange is caused by the female Sarcoptic mite. These mites burrow themselves into the upper layers of a dog’s skin, forming tunnels in which to breed.
The tunneling by these mites causes severe itching and skin inflammation, made worse by a dog scratching. As the infestation increases, open wounds appear that quickly become scabby, crusty, and swollen, making a dog vulnerable to bacterial infections. Typically this type of mange affects the whole body, starting in areas that don’t have a lot of hair. The infection can spread quickly, with excessive scratching, hair loss, and sores being common indicators of mange in dogs.
How do dogs get Sarcoptic mange?
Unfortunately, Sarcoptic mange in dogs is easily spread. Dogs can transfer the mites to each other and pick them up from infected bedding, grooming tools, and other animals like foxes.
Despite the severity of symptoms, some dogs do not show any outward signs of being infected by the mites and quickly spread the infection. Regrettably, the Sarcoptes scabei mite is an unfussy feeder and can transfer its attention to humans and other animals. If you suspect that your dog does have mange and you develop any symptoms, you will need to visit your doctor.
How is mange diagnosed?
If you notice your pet scratching more than usual or if bald patches and or sores appear, then a trip to the Veterinarian is needed.
Your veterinarian will take skin scrapings or biopsy of the affected area as the mites are too small to see with the naked eye. The sample will be examined under a microscope to check for signs of infestation.
Since Demodex mites live on all dogs, the presence of these parasites doesn’t automatically mean that your dog has mange. However, if the mites are present and your dog also has skin lesions. Then a diagnosis of Demodectic mange is likely to be made.
Sarcoptic mange in dogs may be trickier to diagnose as a skin scraping may not reveal the presence of mites, as the Sarcoptes scabiei mite tunnels into your dog’s skin. Only a small percentage of infected dogs will have positive skin scraping.
However, if the skin scrapings prove positive for mites’ presence, then a diagnosis can be made quickly.
If these parasites are not present, it doesn’t necessarily mean that your dog does not have canine scabies. Your vet will take your dog’s history and symptoms into account to rule out allergies and other conditions that may create itching.
If your dog does have a mange infestation, treatment will vary depending on the type of mange they have.
As Demodectic mange is non-contagious, there is no need to keep your dog isolated. The Demodex mite lives and dies on the host dog. Growing from eggs to larvae to nymphs and finally to adults in a life cycle takes twenty to thirty-five days.
As the mites cannot live independently of a host. There is no need to treat your dog’s bedding or the wider environment. However, your dog will need to be treated. Depending on the severity of the infestation, your veterinarian may recommend oral or topical medications. As well as medicated shampoos or dips.
Since Demodectic mange results from a compromised immune system, it is more common for young and older dogs or pets in failing health.
Unlike Demodectic Mange, Sarcoptic mange is highly contagious and can spread to other animals, including humans. Dogs with canine scabies must be isolated to prevent the infection from spreading.
Unfortunately, the Sarcoptes mite can survive without a host for several days. This means that it’s essential that you treat your dog’s bedding, collar, toys, and wider environment as well as your dog. Your vet may prescribe several medications for external and internal use to combat both the mites and any secondary skin infections.
It’s important to follow veterinary advice carefully as these treatments can have toxic side effects.
How do dogs get mange?
It depends on the type of mange.
Demodectic mange is a non-contagious form of skin disease that usually occurs in dogs with suppressed or weak immune systems, such as puppies or older dogs. Most dogs live in harmony with these tiny parasites and never experience issues. Despite this, particular dogs inherit a lack of the antibody that fights these mites, which is commonly known as inherited Demodectic mange. Dogs with inherited Demodectic mange should not be bred as they will pass the condition down to their puppies.
Sarcoptic mange is a highly contagious form of the condition. Dogs can catch it from other dogs and an infected environment or other animals such as foxes. Both these forms of mange must be treated quickly. So if your dog has hair loss, lesions, or develops intense itching, do take them to see your vet for an early diagnosis and prompt treatment.