By Dr. Gary Borgman
Okay, the above title is poor grammar at best, but it does quickly get to the point that canine mange is somehow associated with mites (microscopic parasites). Companion animal veterinarians seeing dogs of all ages in their office can expect to encounter two types of mange on a regular basis. There are actually two types of mange: Demodectic or red mange and Sarcoptic mange, also called Scabies.
Red mange, so called because the skin of affected animals is usually quite inflamed, is most commonly seen on the face and forelegs of puppies during the first few months of life. The Demodex canis mite is actually a common mite which lives on most if not all dogs of all ages, usually with no symptoms at all. The immune system of most adult dogs keeps the mites at bay and their presence is non-problematic. During the first few weeks of nursing, a puppy spends a lot of close contact time with their mother and puppies can acquire these mites on their face and legs. Because puppies have immature immune systems, it is common for the mites to reproduce and overwhelm the skin with resulting hair loss and secondary bacterial infection. The mange may be localized, appearing in only one or two locations and often requiring no treatment. When the infection becomes more generalized and spreads to many locations, we will definitely need to treat with regular miticidal dips and antibiotics or a daily oral medication. Early treatment for several weeks or months is usually very effective.
Demodectic mange of adult dogs is much less common and is always challenging to treat. These unfortunate patients usually have a deficient immune system associated with other medical conditions, stress, or unidentifiable health factors. Adult mange can occur at any age but is usually found in very mature animals. The treatment of adult dogs is very challenging and usually is long term. Relapses can occur, especially if the underlying causes remain unresolved.
Demodectic mange is not very contagious to other dogs (except for young puppies) and is not contagious to humans. Scabies, on the other hand is highly contagious among dogs, cats, and humans. It is caused by the Sarcoptic mange mite and it is easily transferred from animal to animal and to humans. It is common to find very itchy arms, necks and other exposed skin of the humans in the family when the cause of the pet’s itching is Sarcoptic mange. Treatment of dogs and cats is much easier now than in former years when we were forced to use smelly and somewhat toxic baths, dips and topical applications. Fortunately, we can now successfully rid dogs and cats of Scabies with easy to apply and regular applications of a product called Revolution. All animals within the household must be treated or the untreated animals will remain carriers and will re-infect the treated ones. We always refer the humans residing within an infected home to medical professionals for appropriate treatment measures.
The gold standard for diagnosing mange of dogs and cats is skin scrapings, which are relatively simple outpatient procedures. Sometimes we will treat suspected but unconfirmed Scabies patients with Revolution as a precaution because the Sarcoptic mange mites are difficult to find with scrapings. Demodex mange mites are relatively easier to find with scrapings but of course more difficult to treat because the immune system is compromised.
The veterinarians and staff of Kissimmee Animal Hospital (Tel 407-846-3912) and Poinciana Pet Clinic (Tel 407-518-0880) are available to answer your questions about mange or other pet health concerns. We are here to help and to serve.