Dogs With Sarcoptic Mange

I’m sure many people have heard of the dreaded skin disease, mange. But what is mange, how is it transmitted, and what does it mean for your dog? Mange is a parasitic skin disease caused by one of two parasitic organisms, Demodectic and Sarcoptic Mange. In this article, we will discuss the Sarcoptic form, the official name of this mite is Sarcoptes scabiei var canis. It can only be seen under a microscope, so you can’t see it directly on your dogs skin. Sarcoptic Mange is highly contagious and causes severe itching and hair loss. Even a few mites can cause severe clinical signs. The area most commonly affected in a dog are the ear margins, elbows, and ankles (although we call ankles in dogs the tarsus or hocks). In some cases, secondary bacterial infections can coincide noted as papules or generalized redness.

Unfortunately, Sarcoptes mites can live transiently on humans and cause similar symptoms as seen in dogs! In our area, foxes serve as a primary host for Sarcoptes mites and the mites can be found in areas where a fox has been present for up to 48 hours. The life cycle of this mite is 21 days or three weeks. Diagnosing sarcoptic mange centers on two tests. The first, called a pinnal-pedal reflex simply involves rubbing the tip of your dog’s ear against the base. In many cases when a dog is positive, rubbing of that ear will result in his back leg on the same side making a scratching motion. While this test is not perfectly accurate, it can help give your veterinarian an indication that your dog is infected with these mites. The second test performed by your veterinarian is a skin scraping. By using a surgical blade and scraping your dog’s skin, a sample is acquired which can be used to look under the microscope to identify the mites present. Finally, since these mites can sometimes be difficult to identify, simply treating your pet may make the most sense. Fortunately, there are many available treatments which are safe and effective at eliminating the mite from your dog. The treatment options range from oral medication given once weekly, to certain shampoos, even some commonly used prescription Flea/Tick preventatives have activity against Sarcoptes mites. Of course, thorough cleaning of the environment including crates, bedding, and carpets is also recommended.

If you suspect your dog has been infected with Sarcoptes mites, it’s strongly recommended to a schedule an Appointment with a member of our Veterinary Team. Please make sure to note any flea/tick preventatives given to your pets as well as to mention how many pets you have in your house. If you suspect you have acquired mange, we recommend you schedule an appointment with your regular physician or a human dermatologist as veterinarians are not legally authorized to diagnose or treat any humans.

Jeffrey Stupine, V.M.D
Medical Director, World of Animals Veterinary Hospitals