Sarcoptic mange is caused by scabies mites burrowing within the skin. Mites are found on the skin surface, and it is a highly contagious disease. Mites feed on material in and on the skin. It is considered to be the most irritable skin disease of dogs. They chew and scratch at the skin constantly leading to the loss of large amounts of hair, especially on the legs and belly. Eventually, the skin thickens and becomes pigmented. Dogs of all ages can be affected although it is most common in puppies. The disease is considered a result of poor hygiene and bad management and is often found in puppies from puppy farms.
Diagnosis is made by microscopic examination of a chemically treated skin scraping. In some cases skin biopsy or a blood test may be required to confirm the diagnosis. Occasionally mites are not found but a presumptive diagnosis can be made based on the presenting signs and treatment started.
There are a number of easy-to-use, safe spot-on treatments used to successfully treat sarcoptic mange. All in-contact dogs must be treated even if one or more dogs appear normal. Treatment must be repeated 1 month later. Additional treatment may be needed for self-inflicted skin damage or a buster collar may be necessary to prevent excessive chewing.
As the mite can survive for up to 21 days in the environment using an environmental insecticide may be necessary, especially in a multiple dog household. Under these circumstance bedding should be discarded, or washed regularly in hot water with bleach.
Spread to People:
Canine sarcoptic mange is also contagious to humans. If any member of your family develops an itching skin rash, please contact your doctor immediately. Tell him/her that your dog has been diagnosed with canine sarcoptic mange. The disease is self limiting in people as the mite cannot complete its life cycle and signs will abate once your dog is successfully treated.