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How To Treat Mange in Dogs

By Colleen Williams
July 23, 2015 • 3 min. read
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Reviewed for accuracy on May 9, 2022 by Jennifer Coates, DVM

Key Takeaways

  • Mange is a relatively common skin condition.
  • Mites cause the parasitic skin disease known as mange.
  • There are two common types of mange in dogs: sarcoptic mange and demodectic mange.
  • Symptoms of and treatments for mange vary with the type a dog has and its severity.

One of the most distinctive parts of a dog is their coat, whether soft or coarse, fluffy or flat. 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 scratch or bite themselves. Left untreated, severe skin problems can lead to permanent scarring or even death.

Mange in dogs is a fairly common skin condition. The symptoms of mange are nonspecific and can indicate several things, so always have any unusual changes checked by your vet. While curing mange is on the cheap side, as far as pet healthcare goes, severe or untreated cases can require additional treatments for secondary problems like skin infections.

mange in dogs infographic

What is Mange?

Mange is a skin condition commonly caused by two types of parasitic mites: Demodex spp. or Sarcoptes scabiei var canis. The two forms of mange, called demodectic mange and sarcoptic mange respectively, occur for different reasons.

Just like humans, pets maintain a population of Demodex mites on their skin; these helpful organisms feast on dead cells. Demodectic mange in dogs is caused by an overgrowth of their naturally-occurring Demodex mites. This typically occurs in pets with weak immune systems – puppies, seniors, and those who are sick – because they 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 decline.

Sarcoptic mange is also called scabies, and this condition is caused by contagious mites that are transmitted from dog to dog.  Sarcoptes scabiei var canis can also cause itching and skin lesions in other species, including humans.

Symptoms of Mange in Dogs

Both types of mange cause hair loss and skin lesions like scaling or crusting, but that’s where the similarities end. Dogs with demodectic mange usually aren’t very itchy unless they develop secondary skin infections. Dogs with sarcoptic mange, on the other hand, or intensely itchy!

Demodectic mange can be localized (only affecting a small area of skin) or generalized (involving larger or multiple parts of the body). Sarcoptic mange typically starts over a dog’s elbows or hocks and around the edges of the ears but can spread anywhere on the body.

Some pets 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. In some cases, other types of tests may also be needed.

The treatment for demodectic mange in dogs is relatively simple in localized cases but can be more complex (and expensive!) for generalized mange. If a puppy has a simple case of localized demodectic mange, no specific treatment may be needed as the condition often resolves on its own as the dog’s immune system matures. Whenever a dog develops generalized demodectic mange, particularly when they’re older, a veterinarian should perform a thorough search for an underlying, immunosuppressive disease. When necessary, the veterinarian may recommend amitraz dips or oral medications to kill off as many mites as possible.

There are several options for treating sarcoptic mange in dogs. Veterinarians used to rely on dips (lime sulfur or amitraz), but newer spot-on and oral treatments are much easier to administer.

For either type of mange, secondary skin infections may require treatment with antibiotics. If a dog is extremely itchy, a short course of medication to calm the immune response can be beneficial.

Methods of Prevention

With sarcoptic mange, all dogs in the household should be treated to prevent reinfestations. Discard or wash your dogs’ bedding in a dilute bleach solution to kill any mites that could be hiding there. Keeping dogs on a flea and tick preventive that also kills sarcoptic mange mites will prevent the disease from recurring.

Dogs with demodectic mange may suffer relapses. It takes time for a puppy’s immune system to mature. If your pet has an underlying illness, make sure to maintain their treatment plan to keep demodectic mange under control. Feeding your dog a healthy diet combined with plenty of exercise can also help their immune system stay strong.

The content is not intended to be a substitute for professional veterinarian advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your veterinarian or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical diagnosis, condition, or treatment options.

(Featured image via Flickr.com/aidras.)

colleen williams
By Colleen Williams

Over the past decade, Colleen has written about health, wellness, beauty, and even pets for The New York Times, The Cut, Refinery29, xoVain, Healthy Paws Pet Insurance, and Seattle Met Magazine, as well as many beauty brands. She has a BFA in Art History from the University of New Mexico and an AAS in Fashion Design from Parsons School of Design in New York.

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