what is mange in dogs

What is Mange in Dogs? 

Young dog playing in the garden

How to know if your Dog has Mange

Mange is an inflammatory skin disease on dogs caused by tiny parasitic mites. The issue is not really the presence of mites, but how many they are on the dog. In fact, nearly all dogs carry some mites in small numbers throughout their lives. Usually the canine’s immune system can handle the low numbers and keep any symptoms from developing. Trouble starts when the mite population explodes. Large colonies are responsible for anything from skin lesions and hair loss to immune system problems. Mange itself is rarely fatal, but recognizing it early makes treatment easier.

There are two types of mange that dog’s can contract: sarcoptic and demodectic mange. They manifest themselves somewhat differently.

Sarcoptic mange comes with severe itching. The dog will intensely scratch at or chew its skin to get rid of the itch. This both irritates the skin and exposes it to infection. Secondary infections can thus occur and the dog will suffer weight loss, get a fever or its lymph nodes will enlarge. While sarcoptic mange can’t kill a dog, its heath will deteriorate and the secondary infections can be hazardous.

For demodectic mange, you’ll witness hair loss and at times some scabbing or irritated skin. Skin in the patches without hair may be red, scaly and at times crusty. One of the forms of demodectic mange known as demodectic pododermatitis occurs when the mites go for the dog’s feet in large numbers. The dog gets swollen and irritated feet. This condition is worst at the nail beds. Secondary infections can easily be contracted.

By the way, if you find mite bites on yourself, chances are very high that you’re dog may be about to come down with a case of mange.

What to Do if you Suspect your Dog has Mange

Take it to the vet for a full physical exam. The vet will also analyze skin scrapings of the dog with a microscope in order to confirm presence of mange mites. Sometimes the mites are buried so deep in the dog’s skin that it’s difficult to identify them. In this case, the vet will rely on the clinical signs of the dog’s history to make a complete concise diagnosis.

Treating Mange

It depends on the type of mange, and your dog’s breed. Medication may be oral, applied topical, via injection, or through a dip and shampoo bath.

Before treatment, your dog will be isolated from other pets and humans to prevent the mites from migrating all over. The vet will then prescribe some anti-parasitic medications, and some others for the itching and skin inflammation. Some dogs may require specialized treatment for secondary infections.

Young dogs tend to recover fully from mange. The older ones will require long term therapy in order to control the condition. Results are typically seen as soon as a month of treatment.

Preventing a Recurrence of Mange

If your dog has been diagnosed with mange, clean out its bedding and collar (or better still, replace them). In addition, treat any other pets your dog may have come in contact with.

Go for periodic visits to your vet to check on your dog’s condition to ascertain that the mites have been fully eradicated.


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