Frequently asked questions about mange in dogs
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Frequently asked questions about mange in dogs

Mange is a skin disorder caused by the presence of a parasitic mite that burrows under the surface of the dog’s skin, and this is exactly as distasteful and unpleasant as it sounds!

Whilst mange used to be a fairly common condition in dogs all over the world, it is not at all common in the UK these days, and many dog owners will never have seen a dog with mange, unless this happened on a foreign holiday in an area where packs of wild or feral dogs roam freely.

However, mange can and still does develop sometimes in dogs in the UK, and it is something that all dog owners should have a basic understanding of, for a wide range of reasons. Not least of these is the fact that mange can also be caught by people, and passed on to you by a dog; but mange also comes in different variants, and is not always contagious to people.

Regardless of your reasons for wanting to know more, this article will cover some of the most frequently asked questions dog owners have about mange, and provide their answers. Read on to find out what you need to know about dogs and mange.

What is mange?

Mange is the collective name given to either one of two types of microscopic parasitic mites, which use dogs as a host and that burrow under the surface of their skin to feed.

There are two types of mange in dogs, which are called sarcoptic mange and demodetic mange respectively. Each of these is very different in more or less every way, which we’ll look at next.

Can humans catch mange?

Humans can catch sarcoptic mange from dogs, but they cannot catch demodetic mange from dogs.

Sarcoptic mange is really contagious and the mange mites themselves are microscopic, and so you won’t actually see them with the naked eye to be able to give an infected dog a wide berth!

However, whilst humans can host sarcoptic mange, the mange mites can’t live on humans forever, and their reproductive cycle is broken by choosing us as a host; making it naturally a self-limiting and short-lived infection… Although that is likely to be small consolation to anyone infected with it!

Is mange contagious between dogs?

Sarcoptic mange is very contagious between dogs, and only a very brief and fleeting contact is required between dogs for it to be passed from one to the other. This means that if your dog is diagnosed with sarcoptic mange, they will need to be carefully isolated until they have been given the all clear, and not brought into contact with other dogs.

Demodetic mange in dogs is much rarer and less commonly heard of; and yet interestingly, many dogs host a tiny number of some form of mites (potentially demodetic) for their entire lives with no ill effect, and without them being passed on.

However, if a dam has demodetic mange mites, she may well pass them onto her pups, and if the dam or pups are sick, the litter fails to thrive, or one or more puppies is ailing or becomes unwell for any reason, this can result in the mites thriving and having a negative impact on the pups, whose immune systems are unable to fight them off effectively.

What does mange on a dog look like?

Sarcoptic mange will make your dog really itchy, and they will scratch, bite, lick and rub their skin to try to get some relief, and you probably won’t know why as you won’t see the mites themselves. This will cause the skin to become inflamed and sore, and their fur might fall out too if the condition is left unchecked for too long.

Demodetic mange itself comes in several different forms and presentations, and so this can be really hard to identify. Your vet, however, will be able to diagnose either form of mange quickly with a skin scraping.

Demodetic mange on a dog appears in the form of bald, scaly patches of skin (this is what many of us associate with the appearance of mange in general but is not true of all types), which may affect or begin on just one area of the body, but that may become systemic.

Demodetic mange can also produce a foul smell, and make your dog very itchy, just as sarcoptic mange can. Sometimes, demodetic mange affects the skin of the paws in particular, or alone, and may come accompanied by bacterial infections.

Can dog mange be treated?

Sarcoptic mange in dogs can be treated reasonably easily once your vet has given a formal diagnosis, with the prescription of medications and potentially, steroid creams to ease the itching and inflammation of the skin.

When it comes to demodetic mange, the appropriate treatment will depend on how the condition is presenting, and might involve antiparasitic baths, topical creams, steroids, and supportive care.

As mentioned, you won’t see mange mites on your dog, but your vet can view them under a microscope and determine the appropriate treatment; so if you’re not quite sure what is going on with your dog’s skin, get your vet to take a look sooner rather than later.

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