Identifying Sarcoptes in Dogs

Sarcoptes is a mite that can cause scabies in dogs. Scabies is also known as sarcoptic mange. Mange is a parasitic skin disease that can be problematic to get rid of. The disease is difficult to identify, as the symptoms displayed by an infected dog are very similar to other parasitic, bacterial or fungal infections. However, a few tests can give a clear diagnosis.

Sarcoptic Mange

The sarcoptic mange is caused by mites that affect cats and dogs. The mites will get attached to the hair follicles and the skin.

The parasitic mites that cause the canine scabies are known as the Sarcoptes scabiei canis. This mite has the capability of infecting humans, cats and other animals as well.

Symptoms of Sarcoptes

The symptoms of sarcoptes may help in detecting that there is a skin problem.

The dog will display the following symptoms:

  • Itching, as the parasites will move on the surface of the skin
  • The dog will scratch, bite and lick the areas that are affected by itchiness
  • Skin crusting
  • Skin flaking
  • Hair loss, especially in the areas where the dog scratches more intensively
  • Coarse coat
  • Lethargy
  • General state of weakness
  • The Pedal Pinna reflex, which  involves the dog moving his back legs as if trying to scratch but only when the ears are scratched

Secondary infections often affect the dog. This may be due to the fact that the dog licks the skin and the saliva contains bacteria that can lead to an infection. In addition, the scratching can result in open wounds, which are more vulnerable and prone to infections.

The symptoms of sarcoptic mange are very similar to many skin infections that are caused by other parasites, bacteria or fungi. Consequently, you may have a difficult time distinguishing between a ringworm infection and sarcoptes. In addition, if the dog has a secondary infection, you may not be able to tell if he is also affected by mites.

The sarcoptes mites are only visible under the microscope, so they are not detectable with the naked eye.

Diagnosing Sarcoptic Mange

The diagnosis process is important and should give a clear response to whether your dog is affected by sarcoptic mange.

A skin scraping test will be performed and the vet will analyze the skin scraping sample under the microscope. The vet may require skin scrapings from several areas, as the sarcoptes may only be present in small numbers. The vet will take a sample from the areas the dog chews and scratches more frequently.

If mites are not detected, the diagnosis of sarcoptic mange may be confirmed by testing the dog for the Pedal Pinna reflex. The vet will scratch the dog’s ears, where mites typically gather. The dog will lift his back legs trying to scratch. This reflex is present in over 90% of the dogs affected by sarcoptes.

A serologic test can also be performed and may give conclusive results in some cases.