I recently had an opportunity to re-familiarize myself with mange. I learned a lot about mange 20 years ago when one of my dogs had a struggle with the stuff. To summarize: YEEUUCK!!! Mange is some nasty stuff! A customer walked in the other day and told me that he thought his newly-adopted dog had mange. I asked him to please keep the dog in his vehicle while I had a look. Some kinds of mange are quite contagious. Luckily for my customer, his dog had one of the more easily treatable forms of mange. He was able to treat the stuff himself with a medicated shampoo and a topical flea treatment.
This experience prompted me to revisit some of the veterinary literature and bring myself back up to speed on the subject. I thought you might appreciate a summary of the information I found.
There are 3 basic types of mange:
Each of the three types of mange is caused by a different species of mite.
Cheyletiella is caused by the “Fur Mite”, Cheyletiella yasguri.
Cheyletiella is also known as “Walking Dandruff” because the presence of the mite can be detected by the slight movement of skin flakes caused by the mite’s activity. This type of mite does not burrow into the skin but lives on the surface layer.
Cheyletiella is highly contagious via direct contact with the infested animal. The complete life cycle of the mite is about 3 weeks. The mite can not reproduce on human skin, so while cheyletiella can cause mild irritation and itching in humans, it does not last longer than the life cycle of the mites.
A Cheyletiella infestation can be treated by bathing the dog in a medicated shampoo. Bathing should be followed up with one of the topical flea treatments, such as Advantage or Frontline, as these can prevent the maturing and reproduction of any mites that survive the medicated shampoo.
Demodectic Mange is caused by the Demodex canis mite. Demodex lives in the skin and is present in most dogs however; only some dogs will experience a full blown infestation which can lead to localized or general hair loss. For some reason, believed to be hereditary, the mites mass-reproduce in some dogs to cause the condition that is known as demodectic mange. Demodectic mange is not generally contagious among dogs except that puppies get the mites from their mother.
The localized version of demodex is most common in puppies. It usually causes small patches of hair loss around the face, eyes, chin or forelegs. This condition will often resolve itself. The generalized version causes much larger patches of hair loss which expand, often leaving crusty sores on the bald areas. There are several treatments for demodex that can be obtained from your vet. If you have any suspicion that your dog has demodectic mange you should take him to your veterinarian ASAP.
Sarcoptic Mange is caused by the mite Sarcoptes scabiei. If the name looks familiar it’s because this mite is closely related to the parasite that causes scabies in humans. Sarcoptic mange is highly contagious. Live mites can survive, off the host, in a room temperature environment for several days and infect other animals without direct contact with the host. This mite prefers to live imbedded in the skin of canines, but it can also infect humans.
The most common symptoms of sarcoptic mange are severe itching and hair loss, small red pustules, and yellow crust on the skin. Sarcoptic mange is very difficult to diagnose with certainty because skin scrapings, which are the most common method of diagnosis, can be negative even though the dog has the condition.
Sarcoptic mange needs to be treated by your vet.
Dogs with reduced immune systems are more vulnerable to all three types of mange. The best form of prevention is to keep your dog in the best possible health by maintaining clean bedding, feeding a good quality food, and using one of the topical flea & tick preventions such as Advantage or Frontline. The active ingredients in these products help keep the dog healthy by killing harmful parasites and also interrupt the growth cycle of some mites.