Mange in Dogs: Signs, Symptoms & Treatment

Updated: 5/15/20242-4 minutes
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Dogs with mange are usually easy to identify. Depending on their type of mange, they may have excessive itching, hair loss and patches of crusted skin. The experience can be painful and hard to avoid for some pets. While a diet of dog food that promotes skin health can help, they might still be affected by the disease.

Fortunately, with guidance from your veterinarian, you can set your canine companion on a path to recovery from mange and provide much-needed relief.

Here’s what you should know about the causes and treatments for mange in dogs.

What is Mange in Dogs?

Mange is a skin disease caused by tiny mites that live on or under the skin. Closely related to ticks, mange mites are parasites that belong to the Arachnida family of organisms.

While symptoms can overlap, there are two common but distinct types of dog mange.

Demodectic Mange

This type of mange is caused by the cigar-shaped Demodex mite, which is present in all dogs’ hair follicles. Healthy immune systems keep their presence manageable. A suppressed immune system, however, can cause their numbers to grow, creating an unpleasant infestation.

Demodectic mange may affect young, healthy dogs, but affected patches of skin are usually small and heal on their own or with the help of an ointment.

Puppies which have an immune system that is still developing can be more susceptible. Older, sick or stray canines are the highest risk, as their immune systems are typically weaker than younger dogs.

Demodectic Mange Symptoms

  • Scratching
  • Redness
  • Scaling and crusting
  • Hair loss (either in patches or all over the body)

Often, itching and hair loss is primarily located around the face, legs and trunk.

Sarcoptic Mange

Sarcoptic mange is often referred to as canine scabies and, unlike demodectic mange, is highly contagious. The disease occurs when female mites burrow into dogs’ skin to lay their eggs. When the eggs hatch several weeks later, the mites begin to feed on their host’s skin.

Known as Sarcoptes scabiei mites, these are the same parasites that cause scabies in humans.

Sarcoptic Mange Symptoms

  • Intense itchiness
  • Crusted, yellow skin
  • Inflammation
  • Hair loss
  • Rash
  • Yeast infections
  • Dandruff, oozing sores, emaciation (recurring, extreme cases)

Typically, symptoms begin to appear anywhere from 10 days to 8 weeks after exposure to scabies. Look for symptoms on the ears, legs, chest and belly.

How Do Dogs Get Mange?

All mange in dogs is caused by mites that infest the skin. Mites that cause demodectic mange are passed to puppies from their mothers shortly after birth.

For Sarcoptic mange, infection is spread between dogs from playing together and potentially from sharing bedding. Canines can also spread it to humans, although the symptoms are less severe and short-lived as the mites can’t complete their life cycle.

If your dog has canine scabies, keep them comfortably quarantined away from you and your other pets. It’s also a good idea to wear gloves when handling them, and to wash their bedding often.

How to Treat Mange in Dogs

Fortunately, most cases of mange are treatable, especially if they’re identified early.

Prevention at home can reduce the chances of infestation. Because mites thrive around weakened immune systems, it’s important to keep your dog as healthy as possible.

Feed them a nutrient-rich diet, promote good hygiene and provide a clean, low stress living environment with enrichment activities. Regular checkups from your veterinarian will also help.

If you do all these things and your pet still gets mange, don’t worry. Your veterinarian can likely help.

Diagnosis & Care

Based on your dog’s symptoms, age and overall health, your veterinarian can prescribe a tailored plan of action.

Here are a few common ways veterinarians diagnose and treat mange.

  • Skin scraping: With skin scraping, your veterinarian takes samples of skin from one or several locations on your pet’s body. They’re then examined under a microscope for signs of mites.
  • Medicated shampoos and dips: To heal damaged skin caused by mange, shampoos with specialized formulas can be applied during regular baths for your dog. Lime-sulfur dips, which are added to the affected areas, have also proven effective at healing the skin.
  • Medication: Your veterinarian may prescribe medication to eradicate mites as well as soothe your dog’s itching and inflammation. If other skin infections have occurred as a result of mange, they might also recommend antibiotics.
  • Other laboratory tests. If your veterinarian suspects demodectic mange, they may run bloodwork or perform radiographs to look for an underlying reason for immune suppression.

Get more tips on your dog’s health from our pet experts or visit our Pet Expertise page.

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