Mange in dogs represents a contagious disease caused by mites. Dogs who suffer from mange have a variety of symptoms. Some of them are crusty and flaky skin, redness, excessive scratching (pruritus), and bald patches (alopecia). When it comes to treatment, some cases might require more persistent and longer treatment than the others, depending on the severity of the case and the control of the ectoparasites in the surrounding area. In this article, you will learn more about what forms of mange can appear in dogs, what symptoms indicate that a dog has this disease, whether it can be passed from a dog to other animals or to humans, how it’s treated, and whether it can be prevented.
Types of Dog Mange
In dogs, there are a few types of mange. The most common are Demodicosis/Demodex (demodectic mange), scabies (sarcoptic mange), and otodectic mange.
There are also other types of mange in dogs:
The occurrence of these diseases depends on the type of mites, location, contagiousness, etc. For example, scabies, otodectic mange, and Cheyletiellosis are very contagious mite diseases, while Demodicosis and other are not contagious.
Demodex in Dogs (Demodectic Mange)
Demodex, or demodectic mange, is also known as red mange. The causal agent of Demodex in dogs is an ectoparasite named Demodex canis. This parasite infests hair follicles and sebaceous glands, which produce oily and waxy substances onto the skin and hair of the dog, and they feed on it.
Demodex is not contagious, but it can be transmitted from the mother to the puppy during close contact (nursing). The complete process of the disease is not completely known.
Immunosuppressed dogs are more susceptible to this disease. Also, it is believed that genetics can have an important role, and this happens because the lack of immune defense can be hereditary.
There are three forms of Demodex:
- Localized form
- Juvenile-onset generalized form
- Adult-onset generalized form
The localized form is usually seen in younger dogs. The bald and changed parts of the skin are usually localized around the lips, around the eyes, and on the forelimbs.
The generalized forms have more severe symptoms, such as generalized baldness (alopecia), crusty skin, edema, oily skin, pustules, and hyperpigmentation.1Dryden, M. W. (June 2016). Mange in dogs and cats. MSD Veterinary Manual.
The generalized forms are easily subject to bacterial secondary infections, which lead to Pyoderma and Pododermatitis. This disease cannot be transmitted from dogs to humans or to other animals.
Breeds that are predisposed for Demodex Canis:
- American Staffordshire Terrier
- Boston Terrier
- English Bulldog
- West Highland White Terrier
Besides these, all dogs can get Demodex, but these breeds are more prone to it.
You can learn more about the diagnosis and treatment of this disease in sections “Dog Mange Diagnosis” and “How to Treat Mange in Dogs“.
Scabies in Dogs (Sarcoptic Mange)
Scabies, or sarcoptic mange, is caused by an ectoparasite called Sarcoptes scabiei. Sarcoptes is a mite, which burrows itself into the skin of the dog, feeds, and makes the tunnels in which females lay their eggs. This type of mange is very contagious to other dogs, animals, and even humans.
Sarcoptes cannot live on humans for a long period of time, but they cause strong itching. Because their life cycle is stopped on humans, they die after a certain period of time.
After they infest a dog, their presence irritates the dog, and because of this, a dog scratches, bites, and licks himself excessively. Because of intense scratching, dogs lose a great amount of their hair (alopecia), depending on the infested area and severeness of the infestation. The most usual places of hair loss are the legs and abdominal area. Also, because of this, redness, crusts, and flakes are noticeable in the infested area of the skin, and these are the main symptoms of scabies. Sometimes, because of discomfort, dogs can be nervous, which can lead to a reduced appetite. The symptoms usually develop from two weeks to two months after the infestation.
After some period of time, the skin of the infested dog turns darker and thicker. About the diagnosis and treatment of scabies, you can learn more in sections “Dog Mange Diagnosis” and “How to Treat Mange in Dogs“.
This type of mange is caused by Otodectes Cynotis, a mite that infests the dog’s ears. This ectoparasite causes external inflammation of the ear (Otitis externa). The main symptoms are scratching of the ears, redness, head shaking and sometimes discharge. Due to excessive earwax (cerumen) secretion, complications can occur, such as perforation of the eardrum due to inflammation.2Dryden, M. W. (June 2016). Mange in dogs and cats. MSD Veterinary Manual.
Less Common Types of Mange
Besides Demodicosis, scabies, and Otodectic mange, there are also less common types, such as Cheyletiellosis, Trombiculosis, and Straelensiosis.
Cheyletiellosis (Cheyletiella Yasguri) lives on the skin of the dog. One of the main symptoms is intensive scratching, which can lead to hair loss afterward. After the infestation, they spend their life cycle on the host. Cheyletiellosis is a very contagious disease. It can be transmitted from dog to dog and sometimes to other animals and humans. In the treatment of Chelyetiellosis, veterinarians use amitraz, fipronil, and permethrin.
Trombiculosis is caused by Netrombicula Autumnalis and Eutrombicula Alfreddugesi. This disease is not contagious. Dogs usually get the larvas from the ground while walking or laying on the ground. The symptoms of Trombiculosis are redness, scratching, and crusty skin. In the treatment, permethrin and fipronil can be used on dogs.
Straelensiosis is a very rare disease, and it’s not contagious. The main symptoms of Straelenosis are redness, pustules, and crusts. Amitraz can be used in the treatment of this disease.3Dryden, M. W. (June 2016). Mange in dogs and cats. MSD Veterinary Manual.
Early Stage of Mange (Symptoms)
Early symptoms, in almost every type of mange, is itchy and mildly red skin. As time passes, dogs get a stronger urge for scratching, which leads to the occurrence of small bald patches that then become larger. In the case of infection caused by Demodex mites that lives in hair follicles, inflammation of the hair follicle occurs, which also leads to hair loss.
Dog Mange Diagnosis
To diagnose demodectic mange, the veterinarian will take a skin scraping to identify the mites under the microscope. Sometimes, a skin biopsy may be needed in chronic cases.4Author: Blackwell W., Editors: Larry P. Tilley, DVM, Francis W. K. Smith Jr, DVM, Blackwells five-minute veterinary consult canine and feline, sixth edition, 2016, title Demodicosis, page 355
When diagnosing scabies, the veterinarian also does skin scraping. Pinnal-pedal reflex has shown to be reliable. This is a diagnostic technique in which the veterinarian takes the ear of a dog between the fingers and rubs it for five seconds, and a positive test is when the dog scratches himself with his hind leg.
Sometimes, a skin scrape can produce a false negative, and in that case, veterinarians can use fecal flotation to discover the presence of mites or eggs.5Author: Blackwell W., Editors: Larry P. Tilley, DVM, Francis W. K. Smith Jr, DVM, Blackwells five-minute veterinary consult canine and feline, sixth edition, 2016, title Sarcoptic Mange, page 1199
Otodectic mange is diagnosed by an ear exam with an otoscope and by taking a swab from the ears.
How to Treat Mange in Dogs?
After the mange and its type have been diagnosed, the veterinarian will proceed with the treatment. The method of treatment depends on what type of mange the dog has.
How to Treat Demodex in Dogs?
In the case of Demodicosis, veterinarians can prescribe antiparasitic drugs, such as amitraz, milbemycin, ivermectin, or some other similar drug.6Author: Blackwell W., Editors: Larry P. Tilley, DVM, Francis W. K. Smith Jr, DVM, Blackwells five-minute veterinary consult canine and feline, sixth edition, 2016, title Demodicosis, page 355, 356
The drugs can be for topical use, such as amitraz, in which case your veterinarian will wash your dog with the solution. Note that amitraz can be toxic to dogs and humans if not used properly. Symptoms of poisoning can include vomiting, loss of conscience, disorientation, respiratory problems, etc. Based on the studies on mice, amitraz has been recognized as a potential carcinogen, and it increases the risk of lymphoreticular malignancies and liver adenoma.7Dhooria, S., & Agarwal, R. (2016). Amitraz, an underrecognized poison: A systematic review. The Indian journal of medical research, 144(3), 348–358.
Ivermectin is also a drug of choice for treating both ectoparasites and endoparasites, and it is usually for oral use. Some veterinarians do not recommend the use of ivermectin, especially on Collies, Shetland Sheepdogs, Australian Shepherds, Old English Sheepdogs, or other similar breeds because they can be sensitive to ivermectin. If your veterinarian has prescribed ivermectin for your dog, follow all the given instructions and advice, because it can be dangerous if not used properly.8Weir, M. Panning, A. Ward, E. Demodectic Mange in Dogs. VCA Animal Hospitals.
Imidacloprid and Moxidectin are also used in the treatment of Demodex, but these are off-label drugs, which means that the drug is used for conditions that they are not approved for.9Weir, M. Panning, A. Ward, E. Demodectic Mange in Dogs. VCA Animal Hospitals.
Also, you should use benzoyl-peroxide shampoo, because it has an antibacterial effect.
Fluralaner in the form of chewable tablets has shown to be very effective in the treatment of Demodex 10Fourie, J. J., Liebenberg, J. E., Horak, I. G., Taenzler, J., Heckeroth, A. R., & Frénais, R. (2015). Efficacy of orally administered fluralaner (Bravecto™) or topically applied imidacloprid/moxidectin (Advocate®) against generalized demodicosis in dogs. Parasites & vectors, 8, 187.. Besides this, fluralaner also provides very good protection against other ectoparasites, such as ticks, fleas, and mites.
During the treatment, the veterinarian will have to take a skin scraping again, maybe even a few times, to see if there are mites present.
How to Treat Scabies in Dogs?
For the treatment of scabies, veterinarians can prescribe dips and topicals for your dog.
Amitraz is a dip solution that is used for bathing. This is usually done by a veterinarian. After the application, follow all the instructions given by your veterinarian, to avoid unnecessary complications.
For topical treatment, veterinarians prescribe imidacloprid, moxidectin, fipronil, etc. Topicals are applied on the dry skin. Ivermectin is also effective as a treatment, but note that it can be toxic to some breeds, and it can be dangerous if not handled correctly.
There are also some off-label drugs, such as afoxolaner, sarolaner, and fluralaner in the form of chew tablets. Your veterinarian will explain to you the whole process of treatment.11Weir, M. Panning, A. Ward, E. Demodectic Mange in Dogs. VCA Animal Hospitals.
During the treatment, you should wash your dog’s bedding, clean the dog’s living space, and vacuum the house and furniture to remove skin crust, flakes, etc.
How to Treat Otodectic Mange in Dogs?
Otodectic mange is usually treated with ivermectin. Also, topical treatment with selamectin and moxidectin is very effective. Be sure to follow the instructions given by your veterinarian during the treatment.
Home Remedies for Mange in Dogs
Many dog owners have tried different home remedies, such as apple vinegar, neem, or turmeric oil. These may be effective against fleas, but it’s not proven that they are effective against mites. These home remedies are not recommended to be used as the main therapy. If you, at some point, decide to use it against ectoparasites, you should consult with your veterinarian before using it.
How Do Dogs Get Mange?
All dogs have a small number of Demodex mites in the hair follicles, but most of them never express any signs of it. In the case of demodectic mange, younger dogs get it from their mother, during close contact (nursing).
Scabies is a very contagious disease. Dogs get it after close contact with an infested dog. A large number of cases can occur in places where dogs share the same living space (e.g., kennels, shelters, etc.).
Otodectes is also contagious, and dogs get it from each other. Cheyletiellosis is contagious to other animals and humans, but Trombiculosis is a noncontagious disease; dogs get it from the infested ground.
How to Prevent Mange in Dogs?
Because Demodex occurs in immunosuppressed dogs, dogs with metabolic issues, and those that are genetically predisposed, there is no certain form of prevention. What you can do is to groom your dog regularly, keep him in good health, and protect him against ectoparasites with antiparasitic drugs that contain active substances, such as fluralaner, sarolaner, ivermectin, etc.
In the case of Sarcoptes, Otodectes, and other ectoparasites, you should use regular protection against ectoparasites in the form of collars, spot-on, chew tablets, sprays, etc.
Mange can be contagious or non-contagious, depending on the mite that caused it.
The most common are Demodicosis, scabies, and Otodectic mange. Demodicosis is not contagious, while scabies and Otodectes are contagious.
Every dog has a small number of Demodex mites on their skin, but depending on their immune system and general health, the disease may or may not develop. Demodex or Demodicosis is transmitted only from a mother to a puppy during close contact. It can occur in two forms: localized and generalized. In the localized form, symptoms develop in certain areas, such as bald patches around lips, eyes, and forelimbs, and it can be seen in younger dogs. The general form is expressed in general baldness, crusty and oily skin.
The treatment takes a long time, and you have to be patient during the process. If you notice any symptoms, contact your veterinarian to diagnose and to begin treatment.
The main drugs used for demodectic mange are amitraz, ivermectin, and nowadays fluralaner. The veterinarian may advise you to bathe your dog with benzoyl-peroxide shampoo to prevent further bacterial infections.
Scabies is caused by Sarcoptes scabiei. Symptoms of scabies are excessive scratching, bald, crusty, and flaky skin. This is a very contagious disease, and even humans can get it from a dog. If you notice some of these symptoms, pay a visit to your veterinarian for a professional opinion. Veterinarians will prescribe appropriate drugs.
It’s also important to wash the dog’s bedding and to clean the places where the dog has stayed.
When it comes to Otodectic mange, which is caused by Otodectes cynotis, the infestation is localized on the ears, and it causes external inflammation of the ears, and this condition is called Otitis externa. To diagnose, the veterinarian takes an ear swab sample; the sample is examined under a microscope. In the treatment of Otodectic mange, veterinarians use ivermectin.
There is nothing much you can do to prevent Demodicosis because of its specific pathophysiology. To prevent the appearance of other mites, you should use standard ectoparasitic drugs and groom your dog regularly.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) About Mange in Dogs
What Is Mange in Dogs?
Mange is a disease caused by mites such as Demodex canis, Sarcoptes scabiei, and Otodectes cynotis. Mange develops symptoms such as itchy skin, excessive scratching, crusts and flakes on the surface of the skin, bald patches, and in some cases generalized baldness.
What Causes Mange in Dogs?
Mange in dogs is caused by ectoparasites Demodex canis, Sarcoptes scabiei, and Otodectes cynotis. There are also Cheyletiella yasguri, Netrombicula autumnalis, and eutrombicula Alfreddugesi.
How to Cure Mange in Dogs?
The method of treating mange in dogs varies depending on the pathogen that has caused the disease. Veterinarians generally use antiparasitic drugs. To learn more about the treatment of mange, visit the “How to Treat Mange in Dogs” section.
How to Identify Mange in Dogs?
If your dog has symptoms, such as excessive scratching; crusty, flaky, and oily skin; bald patches; or generalized baldness, there is a big chance that he has some type of mange, and you should pay a visit to your veterinarian.