Mange is a skin disease affecting dogs. It is a term used to describe mites in dogs. This skin disease is caused by microscopic mites that are present over the dog's body. It leads to severe itching and hair loss in dogs. These mites reproduce rapidly and feed on the nutrients from the dog's skin. There are different types of mites that lead to mange.
There are several species of mites that lead to mange in dogs. Most of the time, mites are normal residents on your dog's skin. They live harmoniously on the dog's body, without ever causing any problem. Not all mites are good and there are certain mites that lead to infection of the skin and hair follicles.
A common mite infecting dogs is Sarcoptes scabiei. This mite leads to sarcoptic mange or canine scabies. These mites are light-colored, microscopic and oval-shaped parasites. The female mite is responsible for the characteristic itching of the skin. Itching occurs as the female mite burrows under the skin to lay her eggs. The eggs hatch within a few days and mature. They too begin to lay eggs in less than 3 weeks leading to a serious mange infection.
The dog will start biting, scratching and digging himself ferociously due to the severe itching. This causes open sores on the skin, leading to secondary skin infection. This causes loss of hair on the ears, elbows, legs and face during the early stages along with crust formation of ear tips. As the infection progresses, it leads to loss of hair all over the body. The mites spread from an infected dog to a healthy dog as well as to humans. So, if the dog is infected, it may spread the infection to his human owner as well. However, the condition in humans is self-limiting. This is because, the mites cannot complete their life cycle on human skin and die off within a few weeks.
Another mite that causes demodectic mange is Demodex canis. These mites are transferred from the mother to her pups. Most of the time, these mites exist peacefully on the pups without causing any skin infections. If the pup or dog develops lower resistance to the mites, it may lead to activation of an infestation. This leads to thinning of hair around the eyes, mouth, front legs and leads to hair patches of about 1 inch in diameter.
In many cases, the condition resolves on its own within 3 months without any treatment. If the condition is serious, it will lead to open sores, crust formation and oozing. The hair follicles will be clogged with debris and mites. You will need veterinarian attention for treatment of this condition. Medicated shampoos and insecticides to kill mites are usually advised.
Demodectic mange is of two types, generalized and localized. In case of localized mange, the mites are concentrated in one or two small areas on the body. This causes scaly bald patches on the dog's face and is very common during puppyhood. Generalized demodectic mange is a severe condition as it affects the entire body of the dog. It leads to secondary bacterial infections that make the skin itchy as well as very smelly. It is often caused due to an underlying endocrine problem, compromised immune system or some other health issues.
Another condition called Cheyletiella mange affects puppies. This condition is also called 'walking dandruff' that is caused by a large red colored mite called Cheyletiella. This mite can be observed with the help of a magnifying glass. A dandruff dusting occurs on the head, neck and back of the dog. This condition is very contagious and leads to mild itching. The mange will die after a short time period, once it leaves the host.
The mange treatment for dogs usually include application of a topical medication or oral medication that will get rid of mange. It can even be given in the form of an injection, medicated dip or shampoo. The dog should be kept away from other dogs, pets, children and humans till the condition is not cured. The itching, inflammation and secondary skin infections are treated with medications for a month. Mostly, young dogs fully recover from mange while adult dogs may require long-term therapy. Never breed dogs with demodectic mange as the condition is said to be hereditary.
Keep your pet in a clean and hygienic environment at all times. Keep your pet's coat clean and brush it regularly to prevent any mite infection. Feed the dog good food that will boost his immune system. Seek early treatment for mites as a severe infection can lead to death of the dog. For further help, speak to your pet's veterinarian for more details.