If your dog suffers from mange, don't despair. It can take a while, depending on the type of mange mites; but follow your vet's instructions and your dog's condition should improve. Once he's clear of mites, putting your dog on a monthly topical or oral heartworm preventive should keep mange from recurring.
Sarcoptic mange causes intense itching in affected dogs. Female sarcoptic mange mites burrow under a dog's skin to lay eggs. Highly contagious, mange can also affect people, whereby it's called scabies. It can cause you to itch, but the mites can't live on humans for very long. If your dog has been diagnosed with mange or you suspect he has it, keep him away from other canines. He'll be in doggy exile for at least two months after his condition clears.
The intense itching leaves your dog with bald patches on the chest, head and joints. The ear flaps are particularly vulnerable. In severe cases, the hair loss extends over the whole body. The constant scratching causes sores to develop, which may become infected.
Your vet uses skin scrapings to confirm the presence of sarcoptic mange mites. She might prescribe antibiotics if your dog suffers from infected lesions, along with lime sulfur dips and an increased dosage of a topical or oral monthly prescription flea and tick preventive. Because mange is contagious, all dogs in your household must be treated, even if they aren't scratching. You can wash your dogs' bedding in the hot wash cycle to get rid of mites, but you're better off just replacing it to ensure there's no infestation.
Unlike scabies, demodetic mange isn't usually contagious. The exception concerns newborn puppies, who pick up the mites from their mothers. Most dogs have some demodetic mites feeding on their hair follicles, but their immune systems keep them in check. Healthy adult dogs rarely develop demodicosis, or active mange, from these mites. Puppies might come down with localized demodicosis, a few bald spots that generally disappear by the time the animal hits puberty. Grown dogs who come down with demodicosis generally suffer from another disease that weakens the immune system initally, making demodicosis possible. Demodex mange causes hair loss and lesions over the entire body. Both the illness causing the immune system compromise and the demodicosis must be treated. For the latter, treatment consists of daily doses of a broad-spectrum parasite-killing drug, along with special miticide dips.
Jane Meggitt has been a writer for more than 20 years. In addition to reporting for a major newspaper chain, she has been published in "Horse News," "Suburban Classic," "Hoof Beats," "Equine Journal" and other publications. She has a Bachelor of Arts in English from New York University and an Associate of Arts from the American Academy of Dramatics Arts, New York City.