Mange in dogs is caused from mites, which are parasites that result in hair loss and skin inflammation. Two different types of mites cause mange in dogs— Demodex species and Sarcoptes scabiei. Puppies are born with Demodex mites, while Sarcoptes mites are contracted from exposure to other dogs, wildlife or contaminated bedding. Sarcoptic mange is contagious to other dogs and humans, but demodectic mange is not.
Is dog mange contagious? Sarcoptic mange is; demodectic mange is not
Sarcoptic mange is caused by the mite named Sarcoptes scabiei. This condition is commonly referred to as “scabies,” and it is highly contagious among dogs. It tends to spread quickly in places where large numbers of dogs are kept, such as shelters and boarding facilities. Sarcoptic mange is considered zoonotic, which means it can spread from dogs to people, too! It causes extreme itch and most commonly affects the ears, elbows, armpits, legs and bellies of dogs.
Demodectic mange in dogs is not contagious. Demodectic mange, also referred to as red mange, is caused by Demodex mites. These mites naturally live in hair follicles and oil glands and do not usually cause concern in healthy dogs because the immune system keeps them under control. However, in puppies or dogs with weakened immune systems, such as seniors or dogs who have underlying health issues, the number of mites can rapidly increase and result in mange. Localized demodectic mange is commonly seen in between the digits on the paws, around the eyes and on the muzzle, while generalized demodectic mange affects the entire body. This form of mange is not contagious to other dogs or people.
Dog mange: signs and symptoms
Mange causes characteristic signs in affected dogs. These include:
Because sarcoptic mange is so uncomfortable, pet parents often notice their dogs aggressively chewing at their skin to combat the extreme itchiness. Demodex can result in itchy skin as well, but it is typically much milder. Both forms of mange can lead to skin infections, which may result in swelling and pain.
Dog mange: treatment
Most commonly, veterinarians treat mange using specific oral flea and tick preventatives that are also effective against mites. Dips, topical medications and injections are less commonly used for treatment. Medicated shampoos are often started prior to topical or oral therapies to improve treatment outcomes. These shampoos soften the skin, remove scales and crusts, and cleanse the hair follicles. Additional medications, such as antibiotics, antifungals or anti-inflammatories, may be prescribed in some cases. Although dogs start feeling better fairly quickly once treatment begins, it can take a couple months for their skin to heal and their hair to grow back.
Dog mange: tips to stop the spread
To prevent the spread of sarcoptic mange, keep affected dogs separate from other pets until the mites have been eliminated. The dog’s environment, bedding, toys, collars and leashes should be thoroughly cleaned and disinfected. Wear gloves and wash hands and arms well after coming into contact with a dog who has sarcoptic mange.