Mange is a scary word because it has connotations of disease, infestation, and being contagious! So naturally, we all sort of recoil from the thought of it being an issue for our pets. Turns out there are several types of mange. The one that we can catch is called Sarcoptic Mange and is thankfully less common than Demodectic Mange.
Mange is caused by a mite, and most mites are associated with a specific species and do not cross over (i.e. cats get cat mites, dogs get dog mites, etc.). Unfortunately Sarcoptic Mange can cross over, and that’s why we can get it too. But luckily, it is far less common in our practice than Demodectic Mange.
Demodex mites cause Demodectic Mange. These mites are microscopic and live deeper in the skin below the surface, so they cannot be seen with the naked eye. Cats have their own species of this mite, as do people. Most of the time, in cats and people, the mite is harmless and in relatively low numbers. Dogs also have their own species of this mite (and therefore it is not contagious to people or cats). Most of the time it is also found naturally on your dog, in low numbers. But sometimes it can lead to hair loss, secondary skin infections, and itchiness, particularly in young dogs with an immature immune system.
A diagnosis is usually made with a technique called a skin scraping. A small amount of the surface of the skin is disturbed with a blunt blade, and the material that is lifted is examined under a microscope. The mite has a distinctive look and is not hard to find if present.
In young dogs, we often will treat small lesions with a topical ointment, or if it is more widespread, we can use an oral medication like Bravecto or Nexgaurd for a few months to control the infection until the puppy’s own immune system can control the mite population and the secondary skin lesions resolve. Some breeds seem to be more susceptible in general, such as Staffordshire Terriers, Staffordshire Bull Terriers, and Shar Pei dogs. But it is important to realize that any dog can be affected, especially as a puppy. In some cases, adult dogs may also have symptoms with Demodectic Mange and require treatment. In these cases we will often look for other underlying causes for immunosuppression in case that is making the dog more susceptible, and try to treat that as well. In cases where secondary bacterial infection is present, antibiotics may also be required.
In most cases, the mites can be treated, and although it may take a few months, the skin and coat should return to normal. At least in this case, the mites are not contagious, and there is no need to recoil from the diagnosis, should your pet be given one of… Demodectic Mange!
**THANK YOU KALI FOR LETTING US SHARE YOUR PICTURES!**