An Introduction to Sarcoptic Mange and Mites

Adult sarcoptic mange mites burrow beneath the layer of a dog or puppy's skin causing hair loss, crusty scabs, rashes and persistent itching. Typically, you only find the skin mites on dogs, but in the right conditions you may find mites in cats, ferrets and humans.

While it is uncommon for the skin mites to affect humans, the mites simply seem to prefer the skin of a dog, sarcoptic mange can be passed to those around infected animals. If your dog has mange, wear rubber gloves when touching the animal. Keep him restricted from your other pets and spray his bedding, leash and collar with a pesticide, such as Sawyer's Duranon Permethrin Insect Repellent.

Life Cycle of Sarcoptic Mange Mites

Sarcoptic mange mites get onto a dog's skin where a female and male breed. The female burrows into the dog's skin, often doing to a depth of a centimeter or more, and lays a trail of eggs in the process. Those eggs hatch in three to ten days and the larvae head for the skin's surface progressing from larvae to nymph to adult in the process, feasting on skin cells the entire time.

Once on the surface of the skin, the adults mate and the cycle repeats. A mite's life cycle averages 14 days, but in cooler temperatures they can survive for up to three weeks.

Discover How a Dog Gets Skin Mites

Most dogs get sarcoptic mange from other infected dogs, but this isn't the only way. Some mites simply manage to get onto the dogs from your yard, especially if foxes frequently enter your property.

Symptoms of Sarcoptic Mange

Key signs that a dog has sarcoptic mange is a loss of hair on specific areas of the body, including:

  • Abdomen
  • Armpits
  • Chest
  • Ears
  • Elbows

As the mites feast on the dog's skin, small red pimples appear and scab over. The animal will itch excessively leading to open sores. Infection becomes a key concern.

Veterinary Tests for Sarcoptic Mange Mites

The symptoms of sarcoptic mange mimic many dog allergies. Your veterinarian will need to perform a skin scraping test to confirm the presence of these microscopic mites on dogs. The skin scraping test is not always conclusive because mites in cats and dogs are often torn from the skin surface when the dog or cat scratches himself.

If the skin scraping test is negative, many vets will prescribe a medication that kills sarcoptic mange mites. If the condition clears up after four weeks, the medications are stopped because the mites are killed off. If the condition remains, the veterinarian knows allergies might be to blame.

Ivermectin Treatment for Mange Mites

Ivermectin is the most commonly prescribed medication for sarcoptic mange mites. The medication is given orally or through weekly injections. There are few side effects to ivermectin, though owners of Australian Shepherds, Collies and Sheepdogs should use caution.

With these canine breeds, there is a genetic sensitivity to ivermectin that allows the medication to affect the central nervous system. Your veterinarian should perform a blood test to look for this genetic sensitivity before starting your dog on ivermectin.