The Mystery of Mange: What is it and How is it Treated?

dog with mange“Mange” is an unpleasant word, and many of us associate it with stray dogs and cats. However, mange is something all pet owners should know about, as it’s highly contagious and is not just a problem among strays. It can also be diagnosed in well cared for pets.

So, what is this skin disorder, how is it spread, and most importantly, how can we prevent it? The team at Beverly Hills Veterinary Associates is glad you asked!

Mange 101

Mange is a disorder of the skin caused by – you guessed it – mange mites. Certain parasitic mites actually live on the skin of many mammals (in small numbers). However, this doesn’t result in the disease of mange because they aren’t the specific mites that cause the skin condition.

Mange can be found in both cats and dogs and, in the case of Sarcoptic mange, can even affect people. Not all types of mange are the same. Some can produce different and/or more severe symptoms depending on the type.

Demodectic Mange

This is an inflammatory mange caused by the proliferation of Demodex mites, which can be either localized to one specific part of the body or can be spread throughout. Symptoms include:

  • Itchy skin
  • Foul odor
  • Hair loss
  • Sores and scabs
  • Infection

Demodectic mange is sometimes associated with an underlying health condition and presents greater risk to puppies under 18 months of age.

Demodectic Pododermatitis is another form of this type of mange, but is more resistant to treatment and typically affects the feet.

Sarcoptic mange

This type of mange is highly contagious and is caused by the Sarcoptes scabiei mite. These mites burrow into the skin, resulting in severe itching and hair loss. Common symptoms include:

  • Intense itching
  • Restlessness
  • Persistent scratching
  • Body sores, scabs
  • Hair loss
  • Inflammation

Diagnosing and Treating Mange

Because the mites that cause mange are invisible to the naked eye, a proper diagnosis involves a physical examination and oftentimes skin scrapings, which can be examined under a microscope.

How mange will be treated varies depending on secondary conditions, such as infection or problems with the immune or endocrine systems, as well as the type and severity of the mange. Most often, mange will be treated with oral medications or topicals, medicated shampoos/dips, and/or injections.

Because mange can be spread to other humans and household pets, special care must be taken to quarantine the affected animal, as well as clean all areas and items that may have come into contact with the pet. It’s also advisable to treat other pets within the home as a precaution.

While mange isn’t something anyone enjoys thinking about, the risk of this common skin problem can be decreased through monthly bathing and frequent cleaning of all pet beds and toys. Also keep your pet in good overall health with preventive veterinary care.

If we can answer any additional questions about mange, please do not hesitate to give us a call.