What You Should Know About Mange

fawn and white puppy on a striped bed

There are a lot of horror stories out there about mange and a lot of myths and misinformation too. It’s a common condition and it is also very treatable, especially if it’s caught in the early stages. Here’s what you should know about mange:

What is Mange?

Mange is a skin disease that is caused by parasitic mites. These little eight-legged critters are related to spiders and there are different species that can lead to mange. These mites can infect a lot of things including plants, reptiles, and birds as well as furry mammals. But, the term “mange” is usually used to describe the poor condition of a furry coat caused by the infection.

Symptoms of Mange

The symptoms associated with mange can vary based on the dog breed, the type of it, how long it has been left untreated, and the severity of it. Symptoms of mange can include patches of hair loss or patches of thinning fur, dandruff, scabies, and skin that is sore, oozing, or crusty.

3 Types of Mange

There are three types of mange that are caused by different species of mites. Each type may result in itchy, crusty, sore, or oozing skin if left untreated. However, the earlier symptoms of each type will vary.

1. Demodectic Mange

Demodectic Mange is also sometimes referred to as Demodex or Red Mange and is caused by a mite called Demodex Canis. These mites are a normal part of the flora on the skin and are usually harmless. Mothers tend to pass these normally harmless mites to their puppies in the first days following birth. They are not contagious to humans and do not normally cause issues in pups with normal or strong immune systems.

If a puppy has a weakened immune system, the Demodex Canis population on their skin can grow out of the normal range where it starts causing issues and becomes mange. This will most commonly occur when the puppy is between 3 and 12 months old. Elderly or sick dogs with weakened immune systems may also develop Demodex. It can also show up in young healthy dogs, but often goes away on its own or with the assistance of a topical treatment.

Demodectic Mange can be localized to certain areas of the dog’s body or it can be generalized where it spreads across the whole body.

Localized Demodectic Mange

When Demodex is localized, you will see patches of thinning fur or hair loss about one inch in diameter. Red, scaling skin usually accompanies the hair loss. This tends to occur around the eyes, mouth, and front legs. At this stage, it can normally be treated topically.

Generalized Demodectic Mange

Demodex can also develop into a generalized case with multiple sites of lost fur all over the body. At this point, the dog’s hair follicles are often clogged with mites and dirt. In addition to fur loss in patches, the skin will also be red, sore, crusty, and oozing. There may also be swelling from infection. It is also more serious than other types and requires a series of medicated baths and topical treatments to help kill the mites and heal the damaged skin.

Demodectic Pododermatitis Mange

There is also a type of Demodex called Demodectic Pododermatitis Mange. This type is localized to the feet and is the hardest form of mange to treat. It also is usually accompanied by a secondary infection. In order to diagnose this type of mange, your vet usually needs to take a deep tissue biopsy. In terms of treatment for this specific type of mange, long-term antibiotics, medicated baths and dips, and a lot of careful foot care are often included.

2. Cheyletiella Mange

Cheyletiella Mange is also sometimes referred to as “walking dandruff” or Cheyletiellosis. It is caused by a large reddish mite called the Cheyletielle yasguri. There are other species of Cheyletiella mites, but they tend to be host-specific. C. yasguri is the one that most commonly affects dogs.

Cheyletiellosis in dogs can cause scaling on the skin along the back. However, it is called “walking dandruff” because the most common symptom is the appearance of a dandruff dusting that occurs along the dog’s head, neck, and back and it is highly contagious.

Although it is highly contagious to other dogs, Cheyletiellosis is also short-lived. There will be some mild itching and discomfort while it is occurring, but the life cycle of the mites is about three weeks. Small cuts or skin irritation may also occur if your dog is scratching a lot or biting themselves for relief from the itching.

Cheyletiellosis is also often confused with a flea infestation as the mites can sometimes bite humans resulting in something similar in appearance to fleabites. That, plus an itchy dog, usually makes most people think it’s fleas. This type of mange can usually be treated with normal flea and tick control treatments and there are also topical and spot treatments available specifically for it.

If you’re on top of flea and tick medicine for your dog and keep them protected year-round, it’s unlikely that they will develop Cheyletiellosis. Although they are not specifically meant for preventing these mites, normal flea and tick control routines usually end up keeping this type of mite away from your dog.

3. Sarcoptic Mange

Sarcoptic Mange is also referred to as Canine Scabies. It is caused by a mite called Sarcoptes Scabiei. With Sarcoptic Mange, the female Sarcoptes Scabiei will burrow beneath the skin to lay eggs. It takes about three weeks for those eggs to hatch and, once they do, the young mites feed on their host’s skin. If left untreated, those mites will grow, lay eggs, and the cycle continues.

This tends to cause extreme itchiness and is also accompanied by redness and a rash. Fur loss tends to occur along with thick yellow crusts on the skin. Dogs with this type of mange tend to scratch, dig, and bite at themselves intensely, so secondary infections, like bacteria and yeast infections, also tend to occur. In advanced cases of Sarcoptic Mange, there will often be inflamed lymph nodes and thickening of the skin. In extreme cases, as you might see in a stray or neglected dog, the dog will also be emaciated.

This type of mange is highly contagious. The mites causing it pass from dog to dog easily and can also pass from dogs to humans. They don’t do well on non-canine hosts. They may cause some itchiness in humans, but they will eventually die off. But, by being able to essentially “travel” on a human, they come into contact with a dog that makes a more viable host.

Symptoms can appear anywhere from 10 days to 8 weeks after contact with an infected dog. Generally, they will show up first on the edges of ears, on the chest, along the belly, and on elbows and hocks. If left untreated, it can spread quickly across the body. Sarcoptic Mange is usually treated with topical treatments, medicated baths, and, sometimes, oral treatments as well.

How do You Treat Mange?

If you suspect your dog may be developing mange, the first step is to make an appointment with your vet. Your veterinarian will take a skin scraping to get a sample and then check it for mites under a microscope. This will rule out other potential causes and will also allow them to identify the type of mites and, therefore, the type of mange.

Depending on the type of mange and how severe it is, your veterinarian will put together a plan to get rid of the mites and help your dog feel better. Topical treatments tend to be the most common treatment, but medicated baths or oral treatments may also be necessary. Antibiotics may also be included to take care of any secondary infections that may be occurring.

Your dog’s fur may also be clipped in order to better manage what’s going on. You should expect to follow a treatment plan for several weeks in order to treat mange. In more advanced cases, it may be longer.

All of this may sound scary. But, as long as you catch it early and get treatment, mange can be treated easily and effectively. Having a general understanding of what you should know about mange will help. You can also help prevent the spread of it by keeping your dog away from others if they are infected and by keeping them away from any dogs that may be infected. This, plus regular grooming and care, can help prevent issues in general and can help you catch anything that might be happening early.