Mange in Dogs: Demodectic and Sarcoptic (Scabies)
The most common forms of mange seen in dogs are known as demodectic mange and sarcoptic mange. The cause of these skin infestations are two different types of skin mites, demodex and sarcoptic.
Demodex is by far the more common form seen in clinical veterinary practice. Every healthy pet and mammal has a low level of demodex that lives on the skin. When the immune system is compromised or suppressed, some genetically prone animals will have an overgrowth of demodex mites on the skin which can often lead to hair loss, crusting and scabbing. While this can occur in pets of any age, overgrowth of demodex mites most commonly occurs in pets under the age of one. In many circumstances only a few areas are involved around the head and legs, and the pet may heal on its own. In other cases a more generalized form develops that can lead to wide spread areas of hair loss and secondary infection. It is important to know that the demodectic form of mange is not contagious to other dogs or people. However, it is the more severe generalized form that often needs to be treated systemically with medications such as topical mitaban dips applied to the body every 1-2 weeks.
For pets with demodectic mange, your should first bathe your pet with a benzoal peroxide shampoo such as Oxydex shampoo before a dip (such as Mitaban Dip) is applied. Other dogs are treated with more aggressive medications such as oral Ivermectin (Heartgard Plus or Iverheart Plus) given daily for weeks to months until the demodex is brought under control. Diagnosis and response to treatment is usually determined by skin scrapes performed at your veterinarian’s office.
As for the second most common form of mange, unlike demodex, sarcoptic mange (scabies) is an infectious and contagious type of mange mite often gotten from other dogs or unclean environments. Symptoms of sarcoptic mange may include intense itching, scabbing and hair loss of most commonly thinly haired areas of the coat such as the ears, elbows, back hocks and abdomen. While diagnosis is also made by skin scrape, these mites are often difficult to find, so if veterinarians suspect these mites as a cause of intense itching, they will often treat a pet for mange mites before doing a lot of other more expensive diagnostic testing. Treating a pet with scabies may include weekly shampoos and lime-sulfur dips, as well as topical pesticides such as Revolution. All dogs in an affected home will need to be treated due to the contagious nature of sarcoptic mange.