Smelly but effective -- that's lime sulfur in a nutshell. If your dog is diagnosed with mange, also known as scabies, it's likely your vet will prescribe a lime sulfur shampoo or dip to eradicate the mites causing the condition. Lime sulfur treats other canine skin issues, too. You don't use lime sulfur shampoo for general cleansing, but for specific pest eradication and skin treatment.
Although lime sulfur shampoo is available over the counter, your vet should diagnose your dog's skin disease before you begin treatment. Lime sulfur eliminates both parasites and fungus. Your vet might provide you with lime sulfur shampoo or dip in premixed or concentrate form. She'll recommend the frequency of washing or dipping your dog with lime sulfur. Your dog might require weekly shampoos for a month or more. Because lime sulfur is relatively safe, the shampoo or dip can treat puppies or kittens. Other products for mange and other skin problems aren't safe to use on young animals. Besides mange, lime sulfur dip or shampoo might be used to treat ringworm and skin infections.
A mange mite spends its entire three-week life cycle on its canine host, according to the "Merck Veterinary Manual." These tiny pests are circular, with four legs. Females burrow in the top layer of a dog's skin to lay eggs. Your vet can confirm the presence of mange mites via a skin scraping. If mites aren't detected but the dog's symptoms are indicative of mange, your vet might suggest using a lime sulfur dip or shampoo regimen because of its efficacy and safety.
Maybe you don't know it's mange, but something's obviously wrong with your dog. He can't stop scratching -- and because mange mites can affect people, you might also be itchy. Within a short time, his scratching results in painful, crusty lesions. Usually, initial lesions appear on stomach, chest, legs and ears. Without treatment, they spread over the entire body. Those open sores invite bacterial infection.
Because lime sulfur smells so bad, you might not want to bathe your dog in the bathtub. If you have outdoor facilities suitable for bathing or dipping, that's probably a better alternative. Wear old clothes when performing the task -- lime sulfur stains. Even if only one dog shows symptoms, all dogs in the household should receive a lime sulfur shampoo or dip to kill mites. Mange mites are extremely contagious, and some dogs can be asymptomatic carriers.
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.