Types of Mange in Dogs: Understanding the Differences

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Mange is a type of skin disease that results from an infestation of mites on a dog’s skin. There are two main types of mange in dogs: demodectic mange and sarcoptic mange. In order to prevent your dog from developing mange, it is vital to understand what mange is, the causes of mange, the different types of mange in dogs, and how to treat mange.

Below is a guide to the types of mange in dogs, how to understand the difference, and how to prevent your pup from developing mange.

What is Mange?

While many people recognize the word mange and have encountered mange in some way, many do not understand the unique processes at work when mange develops. Mange is a type of parasitic skin disease in dogs that manifests when there are a large number of parasitic mites that embed themselves within a dog’s hair or skin follicles.

Microscopic parasites are commonly found in small numbers on a dog’s body, but in far smaller quantities than when mange develops. Mites are often transferred between young puppies and their mothers, as well as from dog to dog when in close quarters. The presence of a small number of mites may be normal, but when the mites begin to spread quickly, mange will occur. Mange will also occur when a new, invasive species of mites is introduced to the dog’s skin.

Types and Causes of Mange in Dogs

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There are two main types of mange in dogs: demodectic mange and sarcoptic mange.

Demodectic Mange

Demodectic mange is a type of mange that occurs when a dog’s immune system is compromised in some way and is unable to regulate the mites. As with human beings who are more susceptible to develop illnesses when suffering from a compromised immune system, dogs with demodectic mange cannot combat the onslaught of mites.

Because of the dog’s compromised immune system, the mites will begin to overpopulate the surface of the skin, which will lead to the development of skin issues in dogs. The majority of dogs develop an immunity to regular mites over time, but mange develops when a dog is unable to combat mite populations attempting to infest their fur and skin.

There are two common situations that result in demodectic mange. The first is in older dogs that are suffering from a compromised immune system due to another issue, such as a hormonal imbalance, cancer, or changes in resiliency due to aging.

The second is in young puppies, typically under two years of age, as young puppies begin their life with a weaker immune system that becomes stronger and develops more immunity over time. Demodectic mange is not contagious to other animals or humans.

Sarcoptic Mange

Sarcoptic mange is the second main form of mange in dogs. Sarcoptic mange is a type of mange that develops as a result of canine scabies, which are also sometimes referred to as burrowing mites. Sarcoptic mange gets its name from Sarcoptes, another moniker used to refer to canine scabies.

Many dogs contract sarcoptic mange due to interactions with other dogs that possess canine scabies, or from being in an area that has been infected by a dog with sarcoptic mange. The burrowing mites will mate, and once their mating is complete, the female mites will burrow into the skin on the dog and implant their eggs. These eggs typically will hatch between three to ten days later.

This can be extremely uncomfortable for the dog, and is therefore, vital to recognize early. Sarcoptic mange is highly contagious to both animals and humans, making it important to treat as soon as possible once diagnosed. The most common cause of sarcoptic mange in dogs is by being exposed to an infected animal.

Burrowing mites quickly move from animal to animal, making minimizing exposure important. Dog parks, groomers, veterinary clinics, kennels, and animal shelters all experience a high exposure rate of mange due to the close proximity many dogs are often kept in.

Symptoms of Mange in Dogs

The manifestation of mange differs based on the type of mange contracted. Below is an overview of the symptoms associated with demodectic and sarcoptic mange.

Demodectic Mange Symptoms:

  • Hair Loss
  • Bald Spots
  • Alopecia
  • Scaling
  • Redness
  • Sores
  • Lesions
  • Scabbing
  • Itching

Demodectic mange can occur in two forms: localized and generalized. Localized demodectic mange is confined to one area, while generalized demodectic mange spreads throughout the body.

Localized demodectic mange will present symptoms only in one area, such as a collection of small bald spots or redness. Localized demodectic mange often appears as a red patch that has lost its hair. This patch may cause itching and discomfort to the dog, but in some cases, it does not. This patch may also develop spots that are raised up and appear similar to pimples.

Generalized demodectic mange will occur throughout the body and will present symptoms across the body. Generalized demodectic mange often is characterized by a much higher volume of hair loss in dogs and skin that is extremely irritated. Generalized demodectic mange can also cause footpads to become swollen, fever to develop, and bacterial infections to be contracted.

Sarcoptic Mange Symptoms:

  • Sores
  • Scabs
  • Redness
  • Itching
  • Hair Loss
  • Alopecia
  • Skin rash
  • Scab formation in the affected area

The symptoms of sarcoptic mange typically appear one week after exposure. Sores will develop where the mites have burrowed into the dog’s skin, and their movement into and out of the skin will be very uncomfortable and irritating for the dog.

To try to combat the mites, dogs will often scratch at sores that develop, which can splice them open and expose them to bacteria and infections. Sarcoptic mange may at first appear localized to one area, such as the legs, tail, face, or ears, but will then spread quickly out to the dog’s entire body if not treated immediately.

Sarcoptic mange is often first identified due to severe itching by the dog. After the dog begins itching, small, firm bumps will often appear on the surface of the skin, which indicate the presence of the burrowing mites.

Once the dog scratches at the raised bumps, they will often begin to scab over. These sores can spread across the surface of the body and can result in the contraction of secondary infections if not promptly treated.

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How is Mange Diagnosed?

The diagnosis of mange always begins the same way: with a comprehensive physical examination by your veterinarian. If your veterinarian suspects your dog may have mange, they will often request that skin scrapings be collected. Once the skin scrapings have been collected, they will be examined under a microscope.

In order to obtain the skin scraping, your veterinarian will use a scalpel to scrape the outer surface of the skin. This process allows the veterinarian to check the hair follicles for mites living within them. It is not uncommon for dogs to develops a slightly irritated patch of skin as a result of the skin scraping. However, the surface irritation often dissipates within a few days of the appointment.

When a veterinarian suspects mange, they will often collect skin scrapings from several locations throughout the body in order to obtain an accurate understanding of the severity and type of mange the dog possesses. Once the veterinarian examines the skin scrapings under a microscope, they will be able to identify whether or not live mites are present. Depending upon the veterinarian, blood work and stool samples may also be requested.

Treatment Options for Mange in Dogs

As with symptoms, treatment options vary based on the severity and type of mange. Below are the treatment options most often recommended for demodectic and sarcoptic mange.

Treatment Options for Demodectic Mange

Demodectic mange often garners topical treatments to treat the affected area. Benzoyl peroxide and Goodwinol ointment are two of the most commonly prescribed treatments for demodectic mange. However, these are sometimes not comprehensive enough to treat generalized demodectic mange.

In cases of demodectic mange, Amitraz dips are often presented as an option. The safety of Amitraz dips as a treatment option has been a topic of conversation amongst dog lovers, so be sure to speak with your veterinarian to confirm this is the right treatment for your dog. If your dog has developed a secondary infection as a result of the demodectic mange, then antibiotics will often be prescribed in tandem with the treatment for the demodectic mange.

Other medications that may be prescribed are ivermectin and milbemycin oxime. For some localized cases of demodectic mange with relatively mild symptoms, your veterinarian may recommend that you allow the mange to resolve on its own. It is important to consult with a veterinarian to determine the best treatment option for your dog’s individual needs.

Treatment Options for Sarcoptic Mange

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Sarcoptic mange requires a much different approach to treatment than demodectic mange due to its highly contagious nature. To treat sarcoptic mange, it is important to identify the source of the burrowing mites in order to ensure all pets that have come into contact with the infected animal can seek treatment as soon as possible.

When treating sarcoptic mange, it is common to trim the fur down so that the scabs are closer to the surface and can be treated through bathing with medicated shampoo. This medicated shampoo is antiseborrheic and antiparasitic.

Once the medicated bath has occurred and the scabs and irritation have been removed, dogs usually then have a Amitraz or Lime-Sulfur dip to kill the burrowing mites. This process often has to repeated three to four times, biweekly, to completely rid the dog of the burrowing mites and stop their lifecycle.

If any secondary infections have been contracted, antibiotics will also be prescribed. To prevent your dog from contracting the mites again from contact, be sure to clean all of his bedding. Burrowing mites do not have a long lifespan once detached from their host, so ridding the dog’s environment of any exposure to mites is vital to ensuring successful treatment of sarcoptic mange.

Burrowing mites can infect human skin, but they cannot reproduce on it, making it even more important to rid your home and dog of burrowing mites quickly and efficiently.

The Two Outlying Types of Mange

While demodectic and sarcoptic mange are the two most commonly known types of mange found in dogs, there are two other forms are mange that are lesser known: Cheyletiellosis and ear mites. Cheyletiellosis is also sometimes referred to as “Walking Dandruff” and has earned its unique moniker due to the present of the Cheyletiella yasguri mite, which is visible to the human eye and can be observed moving on the surface of the dog’s skin.

These mites are extremely contagious, making them easy to pass between both humans and dogs. Cheyletiellosis is generally treated using topical treatments, such as a Lime-Sulfur or Amitraz dip. This is often repeated over the course of six to eight weeks. Another treatment that has shown to be effective in treating Cheyletiellosis is ivermectin, which can be taken orally or administered by injection.

As with sarcoptic mange, due to the highly contagious nature of Cheyletiellosis, it is important to wash all bedding and rid your home of these mites quickly to prevent further exposure.

The second lesser known type of mange is ear mites, which is identified as a type of mange due to how ear mites affect the exterior portion of the ear. Ear mites are caused by an infestation of otodectes cynotis mites. Otodectes cynotis mites are extremely contagious and can easily be transferred between animals, though they cannot be transmitted to humans.

The treatment of ear mites begins with the removal of the built-up discharge within the ear. The discharge will form a barrier that prevents medication from being fully effective, making it vital to remove prior to treatment with medication. Veterinarians often prescribe medication to treat ear mites, one of the most common being Tresaderm, which is placed within the dog’s ear.

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