Mange in Dogs (Canine Scabies)
is a skin disease caused by several species of tiny mites, common external
parasites found in companion canines. Some mange mites are normal residents of
your dog’s skin and hair follicles, while others are not. All mites can cause
mild to severe skin infections if they proliferate.
What Causes Mange in Dogs?
Sarcoptic mange (Sarcoptes scabei) is transferred easily between
hosts. Also known as canine scabies, sarcoptic mange is caused by mites that
are oval-shaped, light-colored and microscopic.
All dogs raised normally by their mothers possess demodectic mange mites
(Demodex canis), which are transferred from mother to pup via cuddling
during the first few days of life. Most dogs live in harmony with their mites,
never suffering any consequences.
There are three types of demodectic mange that affect
canines. Localized cases occur when these mites proliferate in
one or two small, confined areas. This results in isolated scaly bald
patches-usually on the dog's face-creating a polka-dot appearance. Localized
demodicosis is considered a common ailment of puppyhood, and approximately 90%
of cases resolve with no treatment of any kind.
Generalized demodectic mange, in contrast, affects larger areas of
skin or a dog’s entire body. Secondary bacterial infections make this a very
itchy and often smelly skin disease. This form of mange could also be a sign of
a compromised immune system, hereditary problem, endocrine problem or other
underlying health issue. Treatment depends on the age at which the dog
developed the disease.
One of the most resistant forms of mange, demodectic pododermatitis is confined
to the foot and accompanied by bacterial infections. Deep biopsies are often
required to locate these mites and make a proper diagnosis.
Is Demodectic Mange Contagious?
Current thinking is that Demodex mites can be transferred from one dog to
another-but as long as the dog is healthy, the mites simply add to the dog's
natural mite population and no skin disease results. Isolation of dogs with
even the most severe cases is still felt to be unnecessary-though in rare
circumstances, contagion is possible. While there are still different theories
about dog-to-dog transmission of Demodex mites, it is accepted that mites
cannot be transmitted to humans or to cats.
What Are the General Symptoms of Mange in Dogs?
The symptoms of mange depend on which type of mite is present. Demodectic
mange tends to cause hair loss, bald spots, scabbing and sores. Secondary
bacterial infections can make demodectic mange an itchy and uncomfortable
Sarcoptic mange tends to cause intense itching. It can result in restlessness
and frantic scratching, symptoms that generally appear one week after exposure.
It also can result in hair loss, reddened skin, body sores and scabs. The most
commonly affected areas are a dog’s ears, elbows, face and legs, but it can
rapidly spread to the entire body.
When passed to humans, sarcoptic mange causes a rash of red bumps, similar to
mosquito bites. Humans cannot get demodectic mange from dogs.