Identifying and Treating Mange


Many have either seen or heard something described as “mangy.” From the living creature for an old jacket, it can carry some profoundly negative connotations. Often, “mangy mutt” describes a dog who appears lost at sea, with what appears like stone skin.

Mange is skin diseases due to mites, affecting not just animals but also humans. It can be a serious condition combined with patchy, itchy, hairless, crusty, infected spots about the body.

Whether you have firsthand knowledge about it or are reading up on it now, countless animals suffer this visibly unpleasant condition every year.

Before you stop and scream, “scabies!” Wait. There are a few items to understand about the disease. 

It is really a terrible and painful condition, yet no matter how bad it gets, generally, it's treatable. There's two types of mange in dogs caused by different mites (Demodectic and Sarcoptic).

Demodectic Mange

If there were a lesser of two mange evils, it might be Demodectic.

Also referred to as “red mange” or “Demodex,” unlike its parasitic counterpart, Sarcoptes scabei (aka Itch Mites or SCABIES!), Demodectic mange is not contagious.

Demodectic mites naturally occur (primarily harmless) in your dog's hair follicles as well as in the sebaceous glands and also have since puppydom.

Mange starts when these microscopic cigar-shaped mites become overgrown; this usually happens in puppies and elder dogs and people who are afflicted by autoimmune issues, cancer, diabetes, and undiagnosed underlying conditions.

Demodex is part of a dog's skin flora (microbial balance) and it is always chilling on follicles of hair. If mange presents itself, this means they burrowed deep within the skin, and treatment methods are imperative before it becomes some risk to your dog's all around health.

Because the further down they go in to the skin, the more waste (bacteria and skin cells) build-up and it is left behind like garbage. Now, your canine friend takes on millions of mite waste, plus rotting mite corpses, yeast, and you never know what else.

Even before you begin treating, this is what is new, blocking up follicles, feeding secondary infections, and merely more itchy misery ensues.

Puppies with red mange will build up crusty bald spots around the lips, head, and perhaps the front legs. Yet, there's a good chance a puppy's immune response activates and fights off the infection independently.

Here are some potential Demodectic mange symptoms/signs to look out for in your dog:

  • Fur loss
  • General fatigue
  • Areas of eroding or missing skin
  • Crusty particles on the skin, swelling, infections
  • Red, peeling skin
  • Itching

Sarcoptic Mange

As creepy crawlies go, scabies is as prevalent in language as with nature, second maybe only to cooties.

This eight-legged parasitic mite is called Sarcoptes scabei, also it likes to burrow under the skin surface and lay eggs, which take about three weeks to hatch. It has no antennae or claws but comes with suckers on the ends of its legs. 

They really are a highly contagious zoonotic disease, i.e., your dog can provide them to you and also other animals. However, it is good to notice; they historically do not have much luck thriving on species beyond canines.

While they cannot fulfill their metamorphosis cycle on humans, they'll most certainly result in a rash of itching as they die away.

Here are some symptoms that could contained in your pet if it is struggling with scabies (note, some similarities to Demodectic, however, remember, they are entirely different mites):

  • Hair or fur loss
  • Hardening or thickening from the skin
  • Extreme weight loss
  • Possible inflammation from the lymph nodes
  • Itching, red, scaly skin
  • Thick yellow crusty spots around the skin
  • Often starts at the ears, stomach, elbows; still, it may proceed to the entire body if untreated
  • Yeast and bacterial infections

Where the signs and symptoms look and sound quite daunting, once you're well-versed within the treatment of this particular mite, you will find it's relatively simple to kill.

Professionally Diagnosing Mange

Once you are taking your dog to the vet, they will do a number of blood and urine tests to identify the mange and rule out other possible excessive itching or hair thinning conditions.

Further skin scrapings and examinations of follicles will tell which kind of mite may be present. 

Treating Demodectic Mange

Luckily, many instances of demodectic mange go away without treatment, although acute patients may need more long-term care, medication, and regular scrapings.

There can also be topical medication to attack more concentrated conditions; however, some dogs might require a more aggressive approach, be it injections, oral meds, shampoos, or dips.

Using a cleansing shampoo that contains benzoyl peroxide works to cleanse those clogged follicles of hair before a dip.

If awful itching persists, a lime sulfur dip can provide some relief but seek guidance from your veterinarian first. The concentrated sulfurated lime solution carries antimicrobial and antiparasitic properties. It features a pungent odor but is simply by sponging the affected areas using the diluted formula.

It is good to understand that demodectic mange will likely clean up whenever your dog's immune system is robust enough to watch mite populations.

And, also, it is important to check all of the boxes to make sure it's not a more serious underlying condition that requires attention.

Treating Sarcoptic Mange

Once a veterinarian has diagnosed your pet with Sarcoptic mange, they'll discuss the different treatments that may best work for your pet's condition.

There is everything from baths to injections to medications, in addition to a possible med cocktail.

Topical treatments are available containing active agents for example selamectin, moxidectin, fipronil, imidacloprid, etc. Solutions may be put on one or two locations when your dog continues to be dry. Medication is usually applied every 14-30 days, or however, your vet decides.

A vet might prescribe an amitraz and lime-sulfur dip with instructions on how to treat your dog correctly. The Sarcoptic mange could also require prescribed oral meds for various problems that may arise.

To avoid reinfection, remove any bedding, or you can bleach it with about one-ounce bleach in one gallon water. Call your vet in case your dog continues to be scratching those impossible itches after four to five days once treatment has started.

When it comes to Demodectic vs. Sarcoptic mange, while one carries the contagious, sore-inducing mite infamously known as scabies, however, if unchecked, both will wreak serious havoc on your canine's health.

Thankfully, many instances are simple to treat; however, when the cause is underlying conditions weighing down the defense mechanisms, you must seek further treatment.

Winning the war on mange is all about love and diligence. Donate to some rescued animal with mange here.

Learn about other ailments animals struggle with:

Distemper: Spread, Symptoms, and Prevention

Decompression (The 3-3-3 Rule)

5 Methods to Help Your Pet's Seasonal Allergies