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Sarcoptic mange is a type of skin infection which is most commonly seen in dogs, although it can appear temporarily in humans, cats, and other animals. Like other conditions known as “mange,” sarcoptic mange is characterized by the development of crusty skin, small lesions, hair loss, and intense itching on the body. Pet owners need to have the dog examined at a veterinarian to confirm the diagnosis of sarcoptic mange and to obtain the most effective treatment, as several related skin conditions look similar, and require different treatment.
This condition is caused by an infection with the Sarcoptes scabiei canis mite, a close relative of the mite which causes scabies in humans. Sarcoptic mange is sometimes referred to as “canine scabies” or “scabies,” which can cause some confusion, as the mites which infect dogs and humans are actually slightly different. The mites burrow into the skin for the purpose of laying eggs, causing inflammation, itching, and the development of numerous small red pustules.
The initial infection can be painful and debilitating, and it can be worsened as the dog scratches or bites at the affected areas, causing a secondary infection to set in. The dog may injure itself with desperate scratching, causing large lesions and cuts to appear. If the infection is allowed to persist, it will slowly spread, moving from the abdomen and legs up to the head and the margins of the ears and causing considerable discomfort.
A veterinarian can sometimes diagnose sarcoptic mange which a skin scraping. The scraping can also be used to rule out other causes of infection, such as demodectic mange. If the skin scraping reveals the presence of scabies mites or rules out other causes, the veterinarian can prescribe treatments such as dips, topical lotions, shampoos, pills, or injections.
It is important to be aware that some treatments are dangerous for certain dog breeds, and that treatments designed for use on other animals may not work on dogs. Likewise, a mange treatment for dogs will not be effective on other animals, and it could even be dangerous. For example, permethrin creams which are commonly used to manage insect infestations on dogs are deadly for cats. Folk remedies such as topical applications of motor oil and other substances are also very dangerous.
If one dog in a household has sarcoptic mange, chances are high that other dogs will have it also, and they should be treated at the same time. If an infected dog has playmates or friends, their owners should be informed so that they can treat their dogs as well. Dogs with sarcoptic mange should be isolated from other animals and people in the household, and their bedding should be washed thoroughly in extremely hot water to remove mites and eggs.