Is Demodectic Mange in Dogs Contagious?

Demodectic mange is a common canine skin condition that most likely affects puppies whose immune systems are still developing or older dogs with other health issues that suppress their immune systems. It is not a disease caused by unclean living conditions, although it was once thought that dirty kennels or unclean bedding were partly to blame for the condition.

Demodectic mange is caused by the demodex mite, which is related to the spider. Interestingly, most dogs have demodex mites on their skin, but the parasite only causes problems for dogs that have weakened immune systems, are malnourished or are under stress.

How Demodectic Mange Is Transmitted

Direct dog-to-dog contact transmits demodectic mange mites. Mother dogs spread them to their puppies during their first weeks of life, and the mites live on the dogs' skin for the rest of their lives. They cause no problems if a dog lives in a healthy environment where he eats nutritious foods and visits the veterinarian regularly for health screenings.

Even most puppies are immune to the mites' effects, but some may have an outbreak of mange as their immune system finishes developing. Most dogs do not have further problems with demodectic mange after their immune systems mature between the ages of 12 and 18 months.

Although you may be concerned that you can contract demodectic mange from your dog, you don't need to worry. Demodectic mange mites are species-specific, which means that the mites that cause problems for your dog are different than demodectic mange mites that cause mange in people.

Demodectic mange should not be confused with sarcoptic mange, another canine parasite. Sarcoptic mange, also called canine scabies, is considered a zoonotic disease, which means it can be spread between dogs and their owners. Dogs with sarcoptic mange should be isolated from other pets, and precautions need to be taken to ensure that sarcoptic mange doesn't spread to other pets or people in the home.

Symptoms of Demodectic Mange

The symptoms of demodectic mange can develop either on a small area of your dog's coat or over his entire body, depending on the severity of mite infestation. Small infestations are described as localized mange, while larger outbreaks are called generalized mange. Symptoms can include red or crusty skin, inflammation and a greasy or moist look to the coat.

Hair loss is a common symptom of demodectic mange, and it usually begins on the dog's face and head. It can then spread to the dog's neck, torso, legs and feet. Other symptoms can include appetite loss, fever and lethargy. Untreated demodectic mange can lead to secondary bacterial infections of the skin.

Diagnosing and Treating Demodectic Mange

If your veterinarian suspects your dog has demodectic mange, skin tests can confirm the diagnosis. Treatment can include topical medications if the mange is confined to a small area of your dog's skin, or lotions, shampoos or dips if the mite infestation covers a larger area.

Quarantine is not usually required for dogs with demodectic mange, and treatment of other pets in the home is required only if they show their own set of symptoms.