Tiny mites and parasites are the main cause of the skin disease, mange. It is quite common for some mange mites to be residents of your pet’s hair follicles and skin, however all mites can cause severe to mild skin infections if they reproduce rapidly. Mites are light-colored, oval in shape and often invisible without a microscope, cause mange.
Mothers transfer mange mites to their babies during the first few days of life through cuddling and snuggling. Most pets do not suffer any consequences from mites, however in some cases, they can proliferate in small areas on your pet. The results are scaly, bald patches that can appear on your pet’s face. This can be quite common in puppies and often resolves on its’ own most of the time.
Demodectic mange, however, can affect larger areas of the body causing itching and an odor from secondary bacterial infections. Often, this is a sign of a weakened immune system, endocrine or hereditary problem or another health issue. Demodectic pododermatitis comes with bacterial infections confined to the feet and often require deep biopsies to locate these mites for the right diagnosis.
You may be wondering if mange is contagious or can be transferred to another pet, however as long as the pet is healthy, the mites simply join the pet’s mite population without any problems. Even in very severe cases, isolation is really not necessary. Mites cannot be transmitted to cats or humans.
Symptoms depend on which type of mite is present and typically include:
• Hair loss
• Bald spots
It is the secondary bacterial infections from demodectic mange that cause the itching and can be uncomfortable. Sarcoptic mange tends to cause frantic scratching and restlessness that usually appear within one week of exposure resulting in reddened skin, scabs, body sores and hair loss. Usually the symptoms appear in the ears and on the face, legs and elbows but it can spread to the entire body. This type of mange can be passed to humans causing red bumps that look like mosquito bites. Demodectic mange cannot be passed on to humans.
It is important to take your pet to your veterinarian for a proper physical exam. Skin scrapings will be done to confirm the presence of mites under a microscope. If they are buried deep in the skin, they are difficult to identify mange mites. Your pet’s history and clinical signs will help your veterinarian make a proper diagnosis.
Medication may be given topically or orally with a shampoo and dip, depending on the breed of animal and type of mange. If your pet has sarcoptic mange, it is recommended to isolate him or her to prevent the condition from spreading to humans and other pets. The medication can help stop inflammation, itching and other infections. It is important to not overdo the use of medicated shampoos’ as these are rather toxic. Check with your veterinarian first before starting any treatment.
Adult dogs often require long-term therapy to control mange and may need skin scrapes every two weeks to avoid a recurring outbreak. Thoroughly clean your pet’s collar, bedding and treat all animals that may have come in contact with the infected pet. Regular check-ups with your veterinarian to make sure the mites have been eradicated are important.
Reviewed and approved by Dr. David L. Roberts, DVM