What Causes Sarpotic Mange in Dogs?

Dogs infected with sarcoptic mange may not start itching for several weeks after becoming infected.
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Sarcoptic mange is a fairly common, highly contagious infection caused by a mite. The specific mite that causes sarcoptic mange on dogs, called Sarcoptes scabiei, will also infect humans, cats and ferrets, although it prefers dogs. These mites will burrow into a dog’s skin and, over their life cycle, will cause an infection that causes intense itching. Sarcoptic mange in dogs is also called scabies.

Sarcoptic Mange Mite

Sarcoptes scabiei are six-legged parasites that burrow into the outermost layer of skin. Mites on dogs prefer the areas that have the least amount of hair coat, such as the ears, chest, stomach, hocks, elbows and armpits. The female mite lays eggs as she burrows through this layer of skin. Human beings infected with Sarcoptes scabiei will develop a rash and severe itching that will last until the adult mites die, approximately two to five days.

Preventing the Spread of Sarcoptic Mange

No means for preventing the spread of sarcoptic mange currently exists. Separating affected dogs from other dogs in a household or a kennel isn't a guarantee of preventing infection. Sarcoptic mange mites can pass the infection from dog to dog without any direct contact between them, as it can live in the environment without a host for up to 22 days. However, separating dogs with sarcoptic mange from other dogs will reduce the possibility of spreading the infection, as they are less likely to shed mites into the shared environment.

Sarcoptic Mange Symptoms

The sarcoptic mange mites cause pustules and yellow scabs on the skin’s surface, in addition to the severe itching caused by the mites’ burrowing. Dogs infected with sarcoptic mange will persistently chew and scratch at the affected areas, resulting in sores and hair loss. The irritated skin will thicken and may darken. In addition, the dog’s lymph nodes may become enlarged.

Treatment of Sarcoptic Mange

A variety of treatments exist for sarcoptic mange, including dips and topical solutions. Dogs may have to be treated for bacterial and yeast infections secondary to sarcoptic mange due to the damage caused to their skin. Because most treatments affect only the adult mites and not the eggs, treatment must be continued for approximately four to six weeks.

The infected dog’s bedding should be discarded. Alternatively, it can be washed with bleach or treated with insecticide. Dips used to treat sarcoptic mange should be handled with care, as they can be toxic to humans.