Simply put, mange is a skin condition found in domestic pets as well as livestock and other mammals by a small, parasitic mite. Fear not because mange in dogs is identifiable and treatable.
The Causes Of Mange
All dogs carry Mites and, in most cases, mothers even transfer them to their pups in their early life. Although this sounds nasty, these mites usually live in harmony with our dogs. However, this depends on the strength of the dog's immune system. If the immune system is weakened and unable to fight, the mites can take over and do some serious damage.
It is the Demodex genus of mites that cause mange.
These are tiny parasites that live in or near hair follicles of mammals. This genus is vast and varied, in fact, there are roughly 65 different species of Demodex mites.
Two particular mites are responsible for causing mange in dogs; the Sarcoptes scabiei mite and the Demodex Canis mite, which cause Sarcoptic mange and Demodectic mange respectively.
The Demodectic Canis mite likes to live in the hair follicles near the surface of the skin, whereas the Sarcoptes scabiei mite actually burrows its way into the skin.
There is some evidence that Demodectic Mange is not as contagious as Sarcoptic Mange, but you should treat both as highly contagious.
The Symptoms Of Demodectic Mange
There are three forms of Demodectic Mange; The Localised Form, The Generalised Form and The Demodectic Pododermatitis Form
The Localised form displays small bald patches on the skin that usually develop a reddening, scaly appearance. These patches are not necessarily dangerous and may even go away on their own.
In most cases, there will be a few small areas around the facial area and perhaps a patch or two elsewhere on the body, for example, the legs.
However, as with any skin condition, it is best to visit your vet should the appearance of your dog's skin worsen. All skin infections are uncomfortable for your pet, so getting a prescribed treatment as soon as possible will make a recovery much faster.
The Generalized form is more severe. Typically most the dog’s body gets covered with bald and scaly patches. These areas become itchy, so your dog naturally scratches. This scratching can lead to lesions and rawness of the skin, and these lesions can, in turn, become infected, making the condition that much more uncomfortable and severe.
The third form is known as Demodectic Pododermatitis. In this case, the skin condition is found at its worst around the paws, between the toes of the dog, as this is where mites in most cases are out of reach and can live 'safely'.
The Symptoms Of Sarcoptic Mange
The Sarcoptes scabiei mite prefers areas of the body with less hair. Redness, hair loss, and itching will usually begin around areas like the armpits, ears, chest, belly and hocks. What happens is that the female will dig tiny tunnels into the skin of the dog, and as she does so, she lays her eggs.
After 5 to 8 days these eggs hatch, and as the nymphs grow they will mate, and the process begins again. Even though the adults mate and live for only 2 to 3 weeks, of course, they then lay eggs and their "next of kin" become responsible for the continuance and worsening of the skin infection.
Remember that these conditions can worsen and if not treated with care can lead to severe discomfort. In severe cases where many mites are apparent; as they burrow into the skin, this causes intense itching. This itching once again leads to scratching which can, in turn, lead to the development of infected sores.
The Treatment Of Mange
Mange in dogs can be highly contagious so you should get it treated as soon as possible to stop your dog's discomfort and stop it spreading to other dogs. The problem is that it can be difficult to tell the difference between the types of mange. Without a scrape or analysis, which only a vet can do, it is impossible to know which type of mange is plaguing your pet, and therefore which type of treatment is needed. So, if you feel that your dog has even the slightest skin condition, a trip to the vet will be the wisest choice you can make.
Depending on the type and severity of Mange, the vet will typically prescribe either a dip, topical treatment or possibly an injectable treatment for the worst cases.
While there are shampoos and dips available commercially that claim to do the trick, unless you know the type of mange your dog has, it may simply be a waste of time.
So, if you feel that your dog has even the slightest skin condition, a trip to the vet will be the wisest choice you can make - always do what’s best for your canine companion and seek advice from a professional.