One of the most worrying skin diseases ever to afflict our beloved pooches is mange, which typically results from the initiation and exacerbation of inflammatory processes caused by certain species of parasites. This leads to a host of changes in the skin that can range from excessive drying to loss of hair on the affected parts or even the entire body. There’s intense itching because of the pro-inflammatory substances that are stimulated and released by the parasitic onslaught.
But really, what does mange look like? To answer this question, let us first try to understand the two fundamental types of mange.
Demodetic mange is officially called Demodicosis since it is caused by the parasitic mite called Demodex canis. This species of mite live otherwise, harmlessly in the hair follicles of dogs. Often, their number doesn’t cause any disease or inflammatory reaction on the skin of the dog. Unfortunately, when the overall health of the pooch is compromised such as when it is under intense stress, has severely impaired immunity, or even moderate to severe malnutrition, there is a sudden increase in the numbers of Demodex canis. This leads to the initiation of inflammatory changes that can include:
- Skin irritation
- Pustules on the skin
- Skin redness
- Localized hair loss
- Dry, scaly skin
- Leathery skin
- Skin warm to the touch
These symptoms of demodetic mange may seem mild. However, because D. canis effectively dilates the sweat glands and the hair follicles, it introduces the bacteria Staphylococcus epidermidis into the inner structure of the skin. This results in:
- Severe, widespread inflammation
- Massive hair loss involving most of the dog’s body, if not all
- Crusting skin or scabbing
- Moderate to severe pain
- Enlarged lymph nodes
- Infection of the deeper skin structures
The other type of mange is known as sarcoptic mange, better known as canine scabies, caused by the ectoparasite mite Sarcoptes scabiei canis. This is a very contagious skin disease and is characterized by the following:
- Burrows on the dog’s skin that follow a linear pattern
- Intense itching
- Skin rashes and redness
- Frantic scratching
- Scabbing or formation of crusts
The major issue with sarcoptic mange is that it is often a result of an allergic reaction to the proteins on the various body parts of S. scabiei canis. Sadly, the hypersensitivity reaction stimulates a variety of immune responses that can include an immediate antibody-mediated response and a delayed type of cell-mediated immune response. It is for this reason that sacroptic mange typically presents with an unusually longer pathology.
So, what does mange look like? Regardless of the type, you can almost always expect your pet to show the following manifestations.
- Hair loss
- Skin soreness
- Secondary infection
If you’re asking how do dogs get mange, it should already be apparent, based on our discussion above that the main culprits are two species of mites. These are:
- Demodex canis
- Sarcoptes scabiei canis
It should be understood that both mites cause inflammatory reactions on the skin of your pooch. However, Sarcoptes scabiei canis has a very peculiar behavior not seen in Demodex canis. S. scabiei canis burrows itself into the skin of your dog whereas D. canis manages to exert its pro-inflammatory activity only when your dog’s immune system or its overall health status is compromised. For the S. scabiei canis, it doesn’t matter whether your dog is immunocompromised or not. As long as it gets in contact with another dog or any other animal that has scabies, it is almost guaranteed that your pooch will have sarcoptic mange, too. Sadly, if your pooch happens to be malnourished or has its immune system severely malfunctioning, the severity of sarcoptic mange can be quite deadly, often as a result of massive infections.
This leads us to the question “Is mange contagious”? Demodetic mange is not contagious, thankfully. However, sarcoptic mange is. This type of mange is known to be highly contagious, effectively transmitted across animals and pets through skin-to-skin contact. Among humans, scabies is often transmitted via the same route, although it is possible to get scabies from the sharing of personal items like beddings, towels, and clothing.
So, how do we treat mange in dogs? First and foremost, if you think your pooch is suffering from mange, it is imperative that you consult with your vet right away. He will perform a comprehensive examination of your dog. This often involves microscopy to visualize and identify the causative specie. Do take note, however, that if the mite has already burrowed deep into your canine friend’s skin, then your vet will have to rely on your pet’s health history and confirmed by physical assessment.
Treatment will typically involve the following:
- Anti-parasitic medications to kill the ectoparasitic mite
- Symptomatic treatment for itching, redness, soreness, and inflammation
- Antibiotics for secondary bacterial infections
These medications are often given via the oral route or applied onto your pooch’s skin. There are also medications that can be administered via injections or as part of a dog shampoo. In some cases, the medication comes in the form of a bath solution. For demodetic mange, it is crucial to manage your pooch’s stress levels.
For those who don’t like using commercially available medications and solutions for mange, there’s comfort in knowing that there are several effective home remedies for mange, although the expected results can take a longer time to be observed. The following are some of the most common home remedies for mange.
- Apple cider vinegar – Mix equal parts of ACV and water to be sprayed onto your dog’s coat, 2-3 times weekly.
- Honey – Apply directly over the mange twice daily.
- Yogurt – Rub yogurt onto the mange once daily in the morning and rinse with lukewarm water by day’s end.
- Lemon – Make a concoction of lemon pieces steeped in boiling water. Apply once daily in the morning.
- Aloe vera – Rub fresh aloe vera onto the mange once daily. No need to rinse.
- Neem or Indian lilac – Mix equal parts coconut oil and neem oil and apply 2-3 daily.
Concerned your dog has mange? If you see any of these symptoms, then you already know what to do next.
- Stacia Friedman, Natural Remedies for Mange in Dogs: Do They Exist?, PetMD
- Ernest Ward, DVM, Demodectic Mange in Dogs, VCA