Mange is a highly contagious disease caused by minute parasites called mites. They attack the skin of healthy animals, resulting in inflammation, itching, irritation of the skin, and hair loss. Dogs and cats are both highly vulnerable to mite infestation, though it is possible for horses and other domestic animals to be infected. Dogs can be affected by different types of mites, such as ear mites (otodectic mange), canine scabies (sarcoptic mange),), trombiculosis, and walking dandruff (cheyletiellosis). Although demodicosis is caused by mites, it is not considered mange.
Canine Scabies (Sarcoptic Mange)
This type of mange is due to the highly contagious parasite Sarcoptes scabiei canis, which is prevalent all over the world. Its commonly used name is canine scabies. While the mites that bring about mange are very specific when it comes to picking a host, any other animals or people may also become infected if they come in contact with an infected dog. Females create tunnels for laying eggs in the skin. The mites spend their whole life-cycle (17 to 21 days) on the infested dog.
Transmission of mange via contact is very easy, and it is rare for indirect transmission to occur, such as through infested bedding. The incubation period (10 days to 8 weeks) is dependent on the body part affected, the severity of infestation, the individual dog’s wellbeing and hygiene, and the number of mites spread.
Not all dogs infested with sarcoptic mange mites develop signs. The most common indicator the animal will have is extreme and sudden itching. Sensitivity to the droppings of the mites is the probable cause of the itching. The first response to infestation is the skin erupting with little, solid lumps. As the dog tries to relieve the itch by biting or scratching itself, the surrounding skin and the bumps are often injured, leading to thick, crusted wounds. This can lead to development of secondary bacterial or yeast infections. The first places the infection appears are on the chest, abdomen, ears, legs, and elbows. Without proper diagnosis and treatment, the sores can cover the whole body. Dogs suffering from long-term, chronic mange get oozing, weeping sores; oily dandruff (seborrhea); and excessive thickening of the skin with wrinkling and accumulation of crust. Severely affected dogs can waste away and even die.
Mange that is extremely difficult to diagnose is referred to as “Scabies incognito”. Regular baths and a well-groomed coat can make it difficult to detect presence of mites, even though the dog might be itching. Regular baths tend to remove typical signs of mange, such as crusts and scales on the skin.
Your veterinarian will conduct a physical examination, collect skin scrapings and even a faecal sample, if mange is suspected. Some clinics may also diagnose mange by carrying out a blood test. If signs indicate presence of mange mites, but they are not discovered, then trial treatment is necessary. Mange is a highly contagious disease and can be transmitted easily among animals of various species and even to humans. You should therefore ask your veterinarian for instructions on how to steer clear of getting mange from your pet.
Treatment should include clipping the hair, applying an anti-mite dip, and removing the crusts and dirt by soaking with a medicated (antiseborrheic) shampoo. A highly effective and harmless option for use in young animals is lime-sulphur. Your veterinarian can also prescribe some internal medicines, which can also be used for heartworm prevention, though a heartworm test should be done on your dog first. It may also be necessary to treat for secondary infections.
Ear Mites (Otodectic Mange)
Otodectes cynotis mites are responsible for causing this particular form of mange. Ear mites usually attack the external ear, leading to inflammation of the ear canal in dogs and particularly in cats. They are commonly found deep in the external ear canal, though they can also be seen on the body at times. The signs of infestation include shaking the head and scratching the ear(s), and drooping ears in dogs that normally have erect ears. There are variations in the intensity of the itching. In extreme cases, pus may be produced from the inflamed external ear, and the eardrum may be torn. A parasiticide should be used to treat dogs with ear mites. It should be applied on the entire body and in the ears for 2 to 4 weeks.