How To Treat Mange in Dogs
One of the most distinctive parts of a pet is its fur, whether soft or coarse, fluffy or flat. Dogs especially take great pride in their coat, non-discriminately welcoming belly rubs, rump pats and head scratches alike. Medical conditions affecting the skin or fur can take a heavy toll on animals, who are often in constant misery from the incessant urge to itch, scratch or bite. To top it off, many treatment methods aren’t exactly pleasant for pets – the cone of shame, anyone? – and require long-term care to clear up.
Mange in dogs is a fairly common skin condition, mostly seen in immunocompromised or abandoned pets. The symptoms of mange are fairly general and can indicate a number of things, so always have any unusual changes in your pet’s behavior checked by your vet. While curing mange is on the cheap side, as far as pet healthcare goes, severe or untreated infections can require secondary treatments for symptoms like skin infections.
Mange in dogs is a skin condition caused by two species of parasitic mites, demodectic and sarcoptic. Just like humans, pets maintain a healthy population mites on their skin and fur; these helpful organisms feast on dead cells. Demodectic mange in dogs is caused by an overgrowth of the naturally-occurring, or Demodex mites. This typically occurs in pets with weak immune systems – puppies, seniors and those with autoimmune diseases – who can’t keep their mites at a healthy level. Pets can quickly spiral as secondary infections occur, further taxing the body. Animals who are malnourished or have chronic health conditions may develop demodectic mange as their immune systems collapse.
Sarcoptic mange is also called scabies – these are the contagious mites. However, only other animals can catch a serious case of scabies from an infected pet! Although mild itching may occur in humans, a different species of mite is responsible for the condition in humans.
Symptoms of Mange in Dogs
The number one symptom of mange in dogs is excessive itching, which leads to hair loss and patchy fur. The alopecia usually develops on the muzzle and head; if it spreads down the body to the rump, the condition is known as generalized mange. Scaly patches of skin around the joints, ears and abdomen are another sign. If your dog itches so hard he breaks the skin, painful secondary infections can develop.
Some pets can develop anxiety or depression alongside mange, especially in severe or prolonged cases. As the treatment begins to work, the pet’s spirits also lift – try taking your pup for extra walks and car rides or teach him a new trick as a distraction.
How To Treat Mange in Dogs
Diagnosing the condition requires a skin scraping, which is analyzed for the presence of mites. The treatment for mange in dogs is relatively simple in localized cases, but can be more complex (and expensive!) for generalized mange. Topical medication is the primary cure, available in many different forms, including shampoo, dips and ointments. In certain cases of demodectic mange, an oral medication is available; this requires special approval from your vet, as it’s use is off-label.
Secondary skin infections can be treated with antibiotics. A “cone of shame” or Elizabethan/E-collar is highly recommended to stop pets from itching, although a sturdy chew toy is also a great distraction!
Methods of Prevention
Puppies with demodectic mange may suffer relapses, as a dog’s immune system doesn’t mature until 18 months of age. If your pet has an autoimmune disease – like lupus or hemolytic anemia – the condition could reoccur, so it’s important to maintain your pet’s treatment plan.
If one pet in your household develops scabies, or sarcoptic mange, it’s important to isolate him or her immediately. Regular vacuuming can take care of any mites in your household, harmful or not, and feeding your dog a healthy diet with plenty of exercise will keep his immune system in tiptop shape.
(Featured image via Flickr.com/aidras.)