What is sarcoptic mange?
Sarcoptic mange is a highly contagious, (not to mention ITCHY), disease caused by tiny microscopic mites called sarcoptes scabei. These practically invisible critters are not so much insect-like as they are spider-like, burrowing in the skin and leaving a nasty allergic reaction in their wake.
They are most often spread from direct contact between hosts, meaning your pet likely was infected by contact with another animal. Joyously rolling around on a recently dead wildlife carcass may be all it takes. Once the mites find themselves on your pet’s skin, they will begin to mate. After mating, the female will then burrow itself into the skin, leaving 3-4 eggs in the tunnel behind her. After 3-10 days, the eggs will hatch and tiny larvae are born! They then move around on the surface of the skin, where they will stay until they reach maturity. At this time, the process begins again.
What are the symptoms of sarcoptic mange in my pet?
Sarcoptic mange is difficult to diagnose indefinitely, because the symptoms are the same as any other allergic reaction–red, scaly, itchy skin. Skin scrapings can be done but because the mite burrows so deeply into the skin, the scrapings are often negative. The characteristic inflamed skin will most likely be noticed first on the abdomen, ear tips, and elbows because these mites prefer hairless skin. These are the most commonly affected areas, but if left untreated, the pet’s whole body will become involved.
How can I treat and prevent sarcoptic mange in my pet?
Although sarcoptic mange is difficult to diagnose, it is very easy to treat. It is a good idea to give your dog a thorough bath with an anti-itch shampoo to help with their discomfort, as well as to get rid of any crust and residue before applying a medication. Clipping the dog’s coat may also be a good idea, depending on their coat length and severity of the disease. At this point, your veterinarian will be able to prescribe a medication to help kill the mites. The prescription will likely be in the form of a drip, oral medication, or spot-on product. Additional medication may be given to control the itch or treat infection. REMEMBER: You must treat ALL animals in your household once one pet has been diagnosed, EVEN IF THEY SHOW NO SYMPTOMS. The disease is highly contagious, and it is very likely they have contracted it. Let your veterinarian know if you have other pets in the house. Additionally, the diagnosed dog may remain contagious long after treatment, and they should be quarantined from other pets for 2-4 weeks until the check-up appointment.
Can I be infected with sarcoptic mange?
YES. Because the disease is so contagious, it is not unlikely that you will contract the disease if you notice it on your animal. The good news is that on humans, the disease is self-limiting. This means that it will most often go away on its own, unlike your pet! While you have it though, it can be very uncomfortable so seek advice from your doctor. If the disease is noticed on your pet, it is advised to wash all bedding immediately as well as collars and harnesses.
Brooks, W. C. (2001, January 01). Sarcoptic mange (scabies). Retrieved from Veterinary Partner website: http://www.veterinarypartner.com/Content.plx?P=A&S=0&C=0&A=616
Foil, C. S. (2003, November 30). Sarcoptic mange. Retrieved from Veterinary Partner website: http://www.veterinarypartner.com/Content.plx?P=A&S=0&C=0&A=1586
Content Contributor: Dr. Sandy Drury