Sarcoptic Mange in Dogs

Sarcoptic mange in dogs is a skin disease caused by the parasitic mite Sarcoptes scabiei. The condition, also called canine scabies, is a relatively common and extremely contagious disorder that can occur in dogs of any breed or age. Although not as frequent, humans and other animals may also develop the itchy condition following an infestation by the spider-like Sarcoptes mite. Mange typically causes skin discomfort and irritation in affected dogs. Fortunately, the effects of the disease, may be easily and effectively combated with proper diagnosis and treatment. Here is a summary on sarcoptic mange, including its development and symptoms, as well information on diagnoses, treatment and prevention.

How Sarcoptic Mange Develops

Sarcoptic mange may develop when a dog becomes infected with Sarcoptes scabiei mites. These microscopic parasites prefer to complete their 3 to 4-week life-cylces burrowed under canine skin. In many cases, a dog may experience an outbreak after coming into contact with an infected animal or material like bedding or clothing. Female mites burrow into the skin of their host, leaving behind a trail of eggs. Generally, after a few days, the eggs hatch and develop into mite larvae. Upon reaching adulthood, the parasites move to the surface of the dog's skin. Here they mate and begin the reproduction and egg-laying cycle on the affected dog.

Sarcoptic Mange Symptoms

Sarcoptic Mange can cause a range of uncomfortable symptoms in dogs. Some of the most common include:

  • Severe itching (especially of areas containing less hair, like the abdomen, armpits, chest, ears and elbows)
  • Redness of the affected skin
  • Puss-filled blisters (pustules) developing on infected skin
  • Secondary skin infections from broken skin (often evidenced as open wounds and rashes)

Diagnosing Sarcoptic Mange

One frequent method for diagnosing sarcoptic mange is examining skin scrapings. During this process, an animal medical professional uses a scalpel to gently scrape a sample of skin from a dog. The contents, including skin cells and mites, may then be viewed under a microscope. Since the microscopic Sarcoptic mite is usually killed when an animal scratches its infected skin, retrieving a skin sample with detectable traces of the parasite can be challenging. In some cases, a veterinarian may recommend a treatment plan for Sarcoptic mange in dogs displaying physical symptoms of the disease.

Treating and Preventing Sarcoptic Mange

Treating sarcoptic mange often involves eliminating the parasite from the infected dog and its environment. In recent years, prescription medications have become preferable options for removing mites versus a regiment of potent and often unpleasant chemical dips. Topical drugs like Revolution (Pfizer) and Frontline Plus (Merial) are considered generally safe and well-tolerated by most dogs. These products may be used to destroy Sarcoptes scabiei mites and then reapplied regularly to prevent future outbreaks in affected animals. Although not officially labeled for use in treating sarcoptic mange, strong medications like ivermectin and milbemycin oxime (Interceptor) have also been used to combat mite infestations in dogs. Your veterinarian will likely suggest the best course of prescription treatment to safely and effectively eliminate mites from your pet.

Because mites can also infect your dog's environment, you may also be advised to wash and treat all bedding, furniture and carpet that he has come in contact with. Treatment plans are usually recommended for around 4 weeks, in order to thoroughly destroy all adult mites, eggs and larvae.