Choosing a Treatment for Mange in Dogs

Treatment for mange, a skin disease caused by parasitic microscopic mites, involves treating both your dog and the environment. Dogs may contract two types of mange: sarcoptic mange (or canine scabies), caused by the Sarcoptes scabei mite, and demodectic mange, caused by the Demodex canis mite. How to treat canine mange varies with the type of mite contracted and the severity of the infestation and contagion.

Causes and Characteristics of Mange

Some mange mites live in your dog's skin and hair follicles, causing no problems. If they reproduce and spread, they cause mild to severe skin disease. Sarcoptic mange is highly contagious, transferred between both animal and human hosts.

With demodectic mange, the mother dog passes the mites to her puppies during initial contact after birth. Localized demodectic usually subsides on its own. If not, and generalized demodectic mange sets in, the disease may signal a compromised immune system, hereditary problems, endocrine problems or other underlying causes in your dog. Demodectic mange may in rare cases pass from dog to dog but not to humans.

Symptoms of Sarcoptic Mange

Sarcoptic mange starts in the ears, elbows, face and legs, sometimes spreading to the entire body. It causes the following symptoms:
  • Intense itching
  • Restlessness due to itching
  • Frantic scratching
  • Sores
  • Scabs
  • Hair loss

Symptoms of Demodectic Mange

Symptoms of demodectic mange vary with the three types that may be contracted:

  • Localized demodectic mange, in which mites confine themselves to one or two small areas, causing scaly, isolated bald patches, usually on the dog's face, which looks like it's covered with dots.
  • Generalized demodectic mange, in which mites affect large areas of skin or the dog's entire body, causing scaly, red patches, as well as secondary bacterial infections that cause the dog to itch and smell.
  • Demodectic pododermatitis, in which mites locate in the feet, causing redness and itching, and leading to bacterial infections.

Diagnosis and Treatment of Mange

Your vet will analyze skin scrapings, observe symptoms, as well as review your dog's health history to diagnosis and treat the type of mange mite affecting your dog. Treatment involves these three phases:
  • Isolation - In cases of sarcoptic mange, the degree of contagion dictates that all affected dogs must be isolated from others. In addition, all dogs living in the same quarters as a dog diagnosed with mange should be treated. Since demodectic mange is rarely contagious, isolation of dogs affected by it is usually not necessary.
  • Medication - Topical miticides may be administered in the form of creams, shampoos or dips. Internal miticides may be given orally or by injection. To ease the itching, your vet may prescribe cortisone and other anti-itch topical medications. If the skin becomes infected, your vet may prescribe antiobiotics or recommend medicated shampoos to treat the secondary infections (but antiobiotics won't treat mange itself).
  • Treatment of the Environment - If your dog has sarcoptic mange, you must wash or replace all bedding and clothing in hot, soapy water, or replace them. Replace all collars, too. Ask your vet about products to treat carpets and furniture if your dog stays indoors.

How You Know if Your Dog Is Cured

Young dogs recover more quickly from mange than older dogs, which may require intense, protracted treatment. To check the progress of treatment, your vet will perform skin scrapings every two weeks, discontinuing medication after two negative scrapes. A skin scrape performed one month after cessation of medication is done to determine whether mange has recurred.