Scabies, also known as sarcopic mange, is caused by an infestation of the Sarcoptes scabe, a parasitic mite that lives both on an underneath the skin. The condition is extremely itchy and uncomfortable for the dog and may be hard to diagnose. Treatment is usually highly effective in eliminating this condition.
In scabies, the female mite burrows under the skin to lay her eggs. When the eggs hatch, the larva and juveniles grow to adulthood under the skin, then emerge to mate and continue their live cycle. This results in extreme itching, hair loss, red and scaly skin patches, inflammation, crusted ear tips and darkly pigmented skin. Areas with less hair, such as the ears, elbows and stomach, generally have the most severe outbreaks.
Your veterinarian may recommend prescription medication to treat scabies. Ivermectin is highly effective but may cause a serious reaction in some dogs. Collies, Shetland sheepdogs and Australian shepherds are most likely to have a negative reaction. Selamectin, typically used as a preventative, can wipe out the infection when given twice a month rather than once a month. Milbemycin oxime, generally used as a heartworm preventative, is sometimes used off-label to treat scabies. Use cortisone and antibacterial creams to help eliminate itching and prevent infection in scratched areas during treatment.
For dogs with sensitivity to medication, dip treatments may be a better option. Trim the hair around the affected area and soak any crusty places in benzoyl peroxide shampoo to prepare the dog for treatment. The dip itself, generally either amitraz or 2 to 4 percent lime sulfur, must be administered once a week for six weeks and should be performed under the supervision of a veterinarian.
Scabies can be transferred to humans, although the infection will clear up on its own. Humans are not the ideal host, and the mites cannot complete their life cycle. Red bumps, similar to mosquito bites, may indicate an infection. The mites are generally found around the belt area and anywhere clothing is particularly tight. They can live in warm places such as your bed, so if your dog has a scabies infection, wash all your bedding to prevent the infection from spreading to you.
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