Surely everyone has heard the term “mangy mutt” to describe an unthrifty or unattractive dog (is there really such a thing?). But the word “mange” actually describes a medical condition caused by skin mites.
There are two major types of mange mites that cause symptoms in the dog: Demodex mites and scabies mites.
Demodectic mange is caused by the skin mites of the Demodex genus. These mites are passed from mother to pup during the first few days of the pup’s life through contact such as nursing and cuddling. Therefore ALL dogs who were raised naturally by their mother have these mites living inside their hair follicles.
In most cases, Demodex mites and dogs live comfortably together with no problems at all. Some dogs, however, have problems when challenges to their immune systems cause the mites to proliferate. This can result in either localized or generalized skin disease called demodicosis.
This condition occurs as small bald areas, most often on or around the face, and most often in puppies. This is because one of those “challenges to the immune system” I talked about earlier is simply being a puppy. Generally, localized demodicosis is a cosmetic problem only and most cases do not need to be treated medically. About 10% of the cases of localized disease will progress to generalized demodicosis.
This condition, as the name implies, represents disease that covers a great deal more of the body than localized demodicosis. Often the whole body is affected with crusting, patchy fur, baldness and infection. When this occurs in puppies, generally an immature immune system is to blame. Pups usually recover spontaneously from generalized demodicosis, but they will often be treated to speed healing.
When generalized demodicosis occurs in adult dogs, it could mean that there is a more serious condition affecting the immune system, and a further work up should be done to determine if this is the case. Having Petplan pet insurance, which covers not only injuries and illnesses but also the exam fees involved, can help deal with the costs involved in diagnosing the cause of your pet's health problem.
Regardless of the type of demodicosis or the age of the dog, it is important to note that mange caused by the Demodex genus of mite is not contagious to you or your other pets.
Sarcoptic mange is caused by the scabies mite. Affected dogs are extremely itchy and show signs such as dry, crusty skin on the belly, elbows and ear tips. Eventually, if left untreated, sarcoptic mange will progress to involve the entire body. Unfortunately, this type of mange is contagious to you and your other dogs. It is spread by contact, so it is recommended that all dogs in the household should be treated regardless of whether they are showing signs.
If your dog shows signs of either type of mange, don’t despair. There are several treatments for both kinds of mange, and you and your veterinarian can decide which is best for your family.