Sarcoptic Mange in Canines
Dog scabies, or sarcoptic mange, is a very agonizing canine skin disorder that can cause acute discomfort and itching as well as hair loss and rashes. The condition is caused by an infection of the female scabies mite, microscopic mites that tunnel into a dog’s skin and lay eggs for incubation. Those eggs will hatch in 5-10 days, and the cycle is repeated. The intense scratching causes the hair loss and inflamed skin. The most common areas for the mites to burrow are the ears, chest, stomach, and underside of the face. One of the frequent signs of an infestation is a crust forming on the tips of the ears as well as an itchy canine. The malady is fully treatable, but should only be done under the direct care of a veterinarian.
The most common cause of dog scabies is by direct contact with another infected animal. The mites move very quickly from host to host, so communal play areas, dog groomers, kennels, and veterinarians are likely sources of contamination. Care should always be taken anytime a dog or human comes in contact with an animal suspected of carrying mites. If you know for a fact you or your dog has been exposed to scabie mites, limit contact with other dogs and take needed precautions to minimize spreading the infestation. In extreme cases, the dog may have to be quarantined. The onset of symptoms can take place between 3-6 weeks after initial exposure. Scabies mites in dogs are contagious to humans as well, but will disappear on their own within three weeks as they cannot exist through their life cycle in the wrong biological host.
What Do Dog Mites Look Like?
Diagnosis is done by a physical examination and viewing skin scrapings of the affected area under a microscope. Veterinarians have to determine if the irritation is caused by other reasons such as food allergies, bacterial infections, or other types of parasites. Skin tests may not accurately reveal the infestation of mites, so your veterinarian may recommend starting treatment for dog scabies as a way of a positive diagnosis. If treatment does not improve the condition, the veterinarian will look for other afflictions causing the discomfort.
Treatment is relatively straight forward. Medium or long-haired dogs must have the hair, and undercoat removed from the affected areas, then be cleansed with a benzoyl peroxide shampoo. The shampoo will help remove scaled or crusty skin, and allow an insecticide dip to penetrate into the pores and egg tunnels to kill any living mites. Some mites are resistant to various dips, so a veterinarian may have to change compounds to treat the animal completely. Because the insecticides will not affect the mite eggs, treatment must continue for a minimum of six weeks, or two weeks after the last sign of symptoms. There are also oral medications available, but they have been proven to affect particular breeds negatively. Furthermore, certain dips can irritate dog’s skin or stain light colored coats, always consult with a veterinarian if you have any questions.
There are currently no known preventative measures for dog scabies. There is a growing number of people, however, that believe natural diet supplements can minimize reactions to the mites, and that holistic treatments are more desirable and less caustic to dogs. The most important factor is to start diagnosis and treatment as soon as symptoms are noticed to minimize the discomfort to the dog.