Sarcoptic mange, also known as scabies in dogs, is caused by a parasitic mite that feeds on the material under its host’s skin. Mange in dogs is a highly contagious disease that is transmissible to other animals, including people but is most commonly found in canines. Any form of dog mange treatment would involve a two-pronged approach, getting rid of mites in dogs and killing mites in the environment where the pet spends most of his time. Before we can discuss treatments for mites in dogs, it’s important to understand what a mite is and how it lives.
What is Mange?
There are two forms of mange in dogs, sarcoptic mange and demodectic mange. The difference between the two is that the mites that cause demodectic mange live on hosts with weak immune systems, while the sarcoptic mite will make its home in the skin of any healthy animal. The mite burrows just below the dog’s skin surface, where it will lay its eggs and live out its short three to four-week lifespan. If left untreated, the eggs will hatch, and before you know it, the dog will be suffering from a mite infestation. The mite prefers to live in areas on the dog where there is the least amount of hair, such as the ears, stomach, chest, armpits, and elbows. However, if an infestation is allowed to occur, the mites will eventually spread to all parts of the animal’s body.
The Symptoms of Dogs with Mange
The mite that causes sarcoptic mange in canines will cause constant and intensive itching in the animal. The itching and scratching will lead to the loss of hair and cause the dog’s skin to get thicker and darker in color. Persistent itching can also lead to secondary skin conditions such as skin allergies and infections that cause reddening and inflammation of the skin that often develop into lesions and scars. For more information on these topics, see our post on itching and scratching in dogs and the post on dogs’ skin allergies.
Diagnosing Mange in Dogs
If you suspect that your dog has mange, you should immediately take the animal to a veterinarian for a diagnosis. Dog mange can become a serious condition if not treated right away due to the secondary conditions that often develop due to it. The veterinarian may take skin scrapings from your pet that will be examined under a microscope to detect mites’ presence. The mite can burrow deep within the skin; this testing procedure is only accurate in about 1 in 5 cases. Therefore, the pet’s medical history, the clinical signs being demonstrated by the animal, and how well the dog responds to the mange treatments are usually key factors in diagnosing mange.
Dog Mange Treatment Options
As mentioned earlier, it will be necessary to both get rid of the mites on your dog and those in the environment.
Mites can survive without a host for nearly a week if they find a damp, cool area to live. If your pet remains in the same environment during treatment, be sure to wash everything in hot water and bleach, if possible, that your pet may have been in contact with, including bedding, brushes, and collars. Foggers and household flea treatments and insecticides generally work well to kill mites in the carpeting and upholstered furniture. Just make sure to leave the treated area until it has had time to air out.
Conventional Dog Mange Treatments
Veterinarians will often recommend using topical sprays, shampoos, or dips. Though the dips were a popular dog mange treatment method in the past, they can not be used on puppies. They also must be applied cautiously around the face area of mature pets as there are harmful side effects and health risks involved for both the animal and the person applying the dip.
Other topical solutions (such as ivermectin, amitraz, selamectin, and flea treatments) may cause side effects. If you own a herding dog such as a collie or sheepdog, for example, the use of ivermectin on these animals has been know to cause a reaction that in some cases is fatal.
Natural Mange Remedies
An increasing number of veterinarians are now advocating using natural mange remedies for dogs that are just as effective and safer than the treatments containing chemicals that can cause harmful side effects. One herb used in many of these natural remedies for dog mange is garlic, known for its repellant properties. Not only is garlic used as a repellant for mites, ticks, and fleas, but it also has the characteristics of antibiotics that make it great for fighting infections that can occur due to the dog’s itching.
Another herb ordinarily used in these remedies is Wormwood, which has been used for centuries to rid pets of parasites such as ear mites, worms, and mange.
Lemongrass and Neem are two more natural ingredients frequently found in formulas for its skin-soothing and healing properties. You may also want to add natural supplements to your dog’s food to promote re-growth of hair and quicker healing of the skin.