Does my pet have mange?

The term mange applies to a mite overgrowth on a pet’s skin

One of the most common questions asked by animal guardians whenever their pet has a skin problem is whether or not their pet could have mange. The term mange applies to a mite overgrowth on a pet’s skin. In canine medicine, the most common cause of mange is overgrowth of the demodex mite. Although low numbers of demodex mites are present on normal dog or cat skin, these mites will sometimes overgrow producing variable presentations of localized or generalized hair loss, crusting, and sometimes secondary skin infection.

By far the most common presentation of demodectic mange is in young pets under the age of one year, where a genetic immune deficiency is thought to be the underlying cause. Most common areas affected include the face, head, and forepaws often with focal area of hair loss; however, any area of the animal can be affected. Diagnosis is quite simple and based on skin scrapes done at a veterinary office, which are looked at under the microscope to identify the mites. This is NOT something that animal guardians can diagnose at home. In fact, in most pets over the age of one, skin allergies are the most common cause of hair loss, skin crusting, etc.

In many pets a localized form of demodectic mange often resolves on its own within weeks to a few months. But in other younger pets a more generalized form can develop affecting multiple areas on the pet’s body.  Once a pet is sexually mature, demodectic mange is much less common until we hit middle age to older animals. During this phase, other immune-suppressive diseases or cancers, and even certain drug therapies like overuse of Prednisone, can on occasion cause overgrowth of demodex mange mites. It is important for animal guardians to know that this most common cause of mange is NOT contagious to other animals or people in the home.

The other type of mange seen in dogs is known as scabies mange. Scabies is usually acquired externally from either other dogs or rolling in dirt or grass, and causes INTENSE itching in most pets. The areas most commonly affected are the thinly haired areas on the pet such as the ear flaps, elbows, ankle areas of hind legs and the abdomen. Not only is hair loss present, but varying degrees of sores, crusting and secondary infections often accompany these very itchy dogs afflicted with scabies mites.

While skin scraping at the veterinarian’s office is again the common way of diagnosing this condition, 75% of the time skin scrapes can be negative because of the low number of mites on the pet’s skin. In those cases, veterinarians and veterinary dermatologists will often treat these itchy dogs if they suspect scabies mites (based on the clinical presentation), as these mites can potentially be passed to people and other dogs in the home.

Some veterinary dermatologists will suggest treating the home with products that kill fleas, as there is some suspicion that scabies mites may be able to live in the environment for a short period of time. I should say that both demodectic mange and scabies mange are a less common skin problem in cats. Treatment for demodectic mange may involve shampooing with a benzoal peroxide shampoo such as Oxydex Shampoo followed by Mitaban Dip every 1-2 weeks until the lesions resolve and skin scrapes are negative, or other products such as Ivomec in certain breeds, which is often given daily to severely affected pets. It can take sometimes several months for complete resolution to occur.

If scabies mites are suspected or confirmed by skin scrape, these can also be treated with Ivermectin once a week for one month, or using a prescription product like Revolution applied once every 2 weeks for 3 or 4 treatments. No matter which approach or medication is used, pets afflicted with either type of mange need to be under the care and supervision of a veterinarian, not only in which drugs are most appropriate, but also for follow-up skin scrapes to insure that the mange is completely resolved.

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14 Comments

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  3. our dog has been treated for mange. skin scraping was negative. he was on 10 days of antibiotic and 14 days of prednisone also given revolution. by the end of the prednisone he started itching again.
    back to the doctor and now on revolution every 2 weeks for 3 applications. He is still itching and has considerable hair loss on his paws (he just keeps licking them) and has started scratching his ears. Dr say’s to give this a chance but symptoms/itchiness has gotten worse. Any thing more we can do?

  4. Dr. Michael Dym, VMD veterinarianOctober 8, 2013 at 11:22 pm

    I would go to vet dermatologist for expert second opinion, as if not any better on revolution and skin scrape negative, then I would consider that correct diagnosis not reached yet. Consider food or other allergies.

  5. thank you
    in the process of this. I just don’t want him (the dog)
    to itch himself to death.

  6. Dr. Michael Dym, VMD veterinarianOctober 9, 2013 at 11:25 pm

    Hopefully itching will slowly resolve with treatment of mange.

  7. I have a 1and a half year old bull dog mix with dmx its much better then it was I saw a picture of him before I got him and his whole head was pink ,his hair has grown back but he’s still red around the mouth and on the bridge of his nose he’s all ways licking his paw and belly they only gave me enough meds for 2 weeks think it was ivomec or something like that they all so said once I got him home and he gets relaxed it would resove on its own but I feel bad to see him scratching licking and biting what do you suggest getting the medicine and a good medicated shampoo???

  8. Dr. Michael Dym, VMD veterinarianDecember 3, 2013 at 7:34 pm

    I would recommend having demodex treated with daily ivermectin script from your vet or perhaps bi weekly application of the topical medicine promeris. Oral antibiotics may be needed to help treat secondary bacterial infection.

  9. I have small dog a and a about a month and half I notice she was chewing and scratching I have been having trouble with fleas and thought that was what was wrong but she is losing her hair and she has some flaking of her skin and some leakage could this be mange and how did she get it I cant afford a trip to the vet what can I do for her this is my baby

  10. I have a small dog and about a month ago she started scratching and chewing ,I am having trouble with fleas and thought that might be what was wrong but she has started to lose hair she has some skin flaking and has some drainage from certain spots, what is it

  11. Dr. Michael Dym, VMD veterinarianAugust 28, 2014 at 6:09 pm

    If fleas still an issue on dog and/or environment, then itching and/or secondary bacterial/yeast skin infections are possible. I would have vet assessment to see if any other meds needed for this. Also consider antihistamine like benadryl at dose of 1 mg per pound twice daily to help with itching, as well as possibly adding fatty acid like nordic natural pet omega 3 fatty acid from 1800petmeds to meals.

  12. Dr. Michael Dym, VMD veterinarianAugust 28, 2014 at 6:16 pm

    Oral benadryl at dose of 1 mg per pound twice daily. Add fatty acid like be well to meals from 1800petmeds. Try bathing with 1800petmeds aloe vera and oatmeal shampoo every few days, as well as see vet if signs persist or worsen.

  13. We have an 8 month Heeler mix who was just diagnosed with generalized Demodicosis and the treatment is Peroxide shampoo with a Lime dip. Also prescribed a prednisone and antibiotic. However I read on more than one source that Prednisone will cause DMX growth. Should I hold off on giving the Prednoisone?

  14. Dr. Michael Dym, VMD veterinarianSeptember 26, 2014 at 9:25 pm

    You are correct. Prednisone is not typically used in dogs with demodectic mange, as it does suppress the immune system and allow the mites to possibly worsen.

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