Symptoms of Scabies in Dogs

Scabies in dogs is the result of infestation by a species of mite known as Sarcoptes scabiei. These parasitic mites burrow into your dog's skin and cause itching, inflammation, pustules and yellow crusting of the skin. The resulting condition is known as sarcoptic mange. Here's what you should know about diagnosing and treating scabies in dogs.

Symptoms of Dog Scabies

Canine scabies is caused by a parasitic mite infestation. These mites, Sarcoptes scabiei, spend their entire life cycles on the host animal. They can live on ferrets, cats, foxes and other animals, but they prefer to live on dogs.

These mites burrow into your dog's skin, where they lay their eggs. The eggs often hatch and complete their life cycles under your dog's skin. They're capable of surviving for two to 22 days off of their host animal's body. That means your dog can catch canine scabies even if he doesn't have direct contact with an infected animal.

One of the initial symptoms of scabies in dogs is hair loss. Mites typically infest the least furry parts of the dog first, resulting in initial hair loss from the elbows, abdomen, ears, chest, hocks and armpits. If the infestation becomes severe, it can spread to furrier parts of your dog's body, and even cover the whole body.

Scabies in dogs causes severe itching. Red pustules usually form in the affected area, and yellow crusting of the affected skin may occur. If your dog scratches the affected area, he could be vulnerable to secondary skin infections. In severe cases, the skin may darken in color and the lymph nodes in the affected area may enlarge.

Diagnosing Canine Scabies

Your vet will probably diagnose canine scabies by taking a skin scraping and examining it under a microscope. However, your vet may not find any evidence of scabies infestation in the skin sample. Just because your vet doesn't find scabies mites in the skin sample, it doesn't mean that your dog doesn't have canine scabies.

Your vet will need your dog's complete medical history in order to support a diagnosis. You should tell your vet about any history of allergies your dog may have, since many allergies affect the skin in the same way that scabies mites do. In fact, scabies in dogs is often misdiagnosed as an inhalant or other allergy.

Treating Canine Scabies

Lime sulfur dips and benzoyl peroxide shampoos are the most common treatments for scabies in dogs. Lime sulfur dips can be toxic and should not be used on very old or very young animals. Nor should they be used on animals weakened by illness. They should be used carefully, especially on sensitive areas like the face.

Selamectin and ivermectin, both used to treat parasitic infestations such as fleas, ticks, and heartworms, can also treat scabies in dogs. These drugs are applied topically or orally. You'll also need to treat your dog's bedding and environment with an insecticide like permethrin to prevent re-infestation.