Sarcoptic mange is highly contagious. Find out what it is and how to treat it if your dog becomes unwell.
What is sarcoptic mange?
Sarcoptic mange, otherwise known as canine scabies, is a highly contagious skin disease that affects dogs. The condition is caused by spider-like mites that burrow under the skin and lay eggs. These eggs hatch in three to 10 days, producing larvae that move about on the skin’s surface and eventually mature into adults. These adults then mate, and the cycle begins again.
The entire process creates an allergic reaction, which leaves the skin itchy and causes intense scratching. This scratching then exacerbates the issue, causing open sores, scabs and hair loss.
How do dogs catch sarcoptic mange?
The highly contagious condition is often caught from infected urban foxes (hence the nickname ‘fox mange’), but it can also be passed between dogs through direct contact and shared bedding. It’s often transferred in kennels, dog parks, groomers and animal shelters.
Can humans and cats develop the condition?
Other animals, including cats and humans, can catch the condition through direct contact and shared furniture, causing irritation and itching. However, the mites can only complete their lifecycle on dogs and foxes, so human and feline infections are relatively short-lived and should clear up on their own.
Signs and symptoms of sarcoptic manage
Mites prefer hairless skin, so the inside of the ears, armpits and belly are usually the first areas affected.
Signs of sarcoptic mange include:
- Excessive scratching
- Biting at the skin
- Red, inflamed skin
- Scabs and crusty skin
- Open sores
- Hair loss
If you spot any of these symptoms, contact your local vet straight away.
Treatment for sarcoptic mange
Sarcoptic mange can be difficult to diagnose as mites can be hard to see and blood tests can be unreliable. On the other hand, once identified, treatment for the condition is straightforward with a course of oral medication or spot ons. Cream or tablet steroids can be used to address the inflammation and antibiotics may also be prescribed to treat secondary infections.
Unlike other parasites, sarcoptic mites can’t survive for very long in the environment without a host. However, it’s still a good idea to thoroughly wash bedding, collars and harnesses to avoid reinfestation.
Your vet will be able to advise you on the best treatment for your dog. Most cases will be successfully treated within a month.
Preventing sarcoptic mange
The only way to prevent sarcoptic mange is to keep your dog away from other infected animals. However, some dogs may show no signs and preventing exposure at kennels and groomers can be impossible. A regular parasite treatment can also help prevent the condition – speak to your vet for more information.