Sarcoptic mange (scabies) – Whole Dog Journal


Sarcoptic mange is difficult to diagnose and yet easy to treat. It’s an itchy, uncomfortable disease

Canine scabies, also known as sarcoptic mange, is a terribly itchy skin condition that affects an estimated 2 to 4% of the dog population. Courtesy of Sarcoptes scabiei var canis Mite, the condition is highly contagious and incredibly uncomfortable. Tiffany Tapp DVM, DACVD, of East Greenwich, Rhode Island, describes untreated scabies as “a painful, relentless, progressive condition.”

While it may not be as common today because it is with flea and tick repellants (some of which fight the smack mite), dog scabies should be on the radar for those of us who use a flea repellent that doesn’t smack mites controlled. or those of us who forget to give our dogs regular preventative feeds.


The mite has a host preference for canids, including dogs, with foxes and coyotes serving as major reservoirs. Dr. Tapp, who practices in New England, suspects that some of her patients get the disease from wildlife.

For example, if an infected fox is sniffing around garbage cans or patios, you may now have mites around you. Or your dog sticks his head into a hole that turns out to be a coyote or fox den, voilà, your dog can get scabies. Then when she scratches herself, mites fall into her surroundings. And when she spends time in a place frequented by other dogs, e.g. In animal clinics, groomers, dog parks, daycare centers, etc., your dog may become a super spreader, passing on its mites to other dogs it encounters.

The mites’ viability outside the host is usually only a few days, although they are infectious in the environment for about 36 hours.


On board, mites penetrate the dog’s skin and cause intense itching. The mites are typically found in areas where there is less hair, such as B. Ear flaps / edges of the ears, side elbows, ankles and the belly (belly). Soon, lesions, scabs, hair loss, and a thick crust will develop along the auricle (ear flap).

The itching caused by the scabies mite bite differs in intensity from even strongly flea allergy dogs. Dr. Tapp says: “In the examination room, for example, there is continuous scratching – a 10 on the itching scale.”


Dr. Tapp says she can only prove it is mange from scratching the skin about every 10 times or so. “The mites are hard to find on a skin scratch because they are notorious tunnel workers; Plus, it doesn’t take many to itch a dog, so they’re easy to miss. Negative skin scratching doesn’t necessarily mean anything. “

A veterinarian might suggest a polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test, which involves analyzing a sample to see if it has genetic material. contains Sarcoptes scabiei – but, says Dr. Tapp, these tests are not always accurate.

That said, mange is always on their differential for an itchy dog, especially if the dog is severely itchy and has no history of severe itching. Additional clues that may lead you to consider a diagnosis of sarcoptic mange include:

* Pinnal pedal scratch reflex. The auricle’s scratch reflex is assessed by vigorously rubbing the tip of one of the dog’s ear flaps against the base of the ear for five seconds. The test is positive if the dog’s hind leg makes scratching movements. Dr. Says Tapp, “A positive reaction should give the vet a pause to look at scabies on the differential, but not all dogs with a positive reflex will have scabies.”

* Itchy person. Mites can cause temporary itching and irritation of the arms, neck, and waist. Although this mite cannot reproduce in humans and dies of its own accord relatively quickly, the people in the household are fair game if the animal is left untreated.

*History. A variety of treatments that couldn’t address the itching, including bathing, or an initially good response to steroid therapy followed by recurrent pruritus are a few flags. When a dog goes to Dr. Tapp comes up and she reads the dog’s story she usually already has a good idea of ​​whether the dog should be isolated because it could have the highly contagious disease.

* Template. Where do itching, crusts and hair loss occur?

• Ears, elbows, ankles, ventrum: suspected mange.

• Buttocks, tail, hind legs: possible flea allergy.

• Paws, front of elbows, face and groin (areas that touch the ground where the dog can pick up pollen): Atopic dermatitis.

• “Ears & Butts”: Food allergy, although this is a good way to mimic a flea allergy.

Demodectic mange is different

Demodectic mange is caused by Demodex canis, a parasitic mite other than the one that causes sarcoptic mange or “scabies”. Demodectic mange, sometimes just called “Demodex”, is the most common form of mange in dogs – but not because, like the scabies mite, it is contagious and transmissible. As it turns out, most dogs (and humans!) Demodex Mites live on your skin all the time! But only something Dogs develop hair loss and itching due to the overgrowth of these mites due to a weakened immune system that does not take appropriate measures to control the mites. Poor diet, stress, weather conditions, and a lack of clean places to live all contribute to the depression of the immune system, which leads to the overgrowth of. can lead Demodex. Fortunately, today’s isoxaline-class drugs treat these infections easily by quickly stopping the itching and allowing the dog’s hair to grow back.


Since a negative scabing is not enough to rule out scabies, a medication study “can mange” is often carried out. The dog will be treated for sarcoptic mange and observed over the course of a few weeks for the symptoms to subside. Treatment is simple and usually effective; Treatment with a trial medication offers quick inclusion / exclusion.

A variety of treatment options are available, including using some routine flea / tick prevention. With regular use, some – if not all – preventive agents prevent mange from ever affecting a dog, which is a likely reason why cases are no longer occurring.

For a long time, multiple off-label administration of ivermectin, administered orally or as an injection, was the primary strategy for treating sarcoptic mange. For Ivermectin-sensitive (MDR1-positive) dogs, this is not an option.

More recently, isoxazolines have made breakthrough changes in the treatment of mange. You work quickly and efficiently; In most cases, a single treatment at the usual dose is sufficient to eliminate the sarcoptic mites. Oral drugs Simparica (Sarolaner), NexGard (Afoxolaner), Credelio (Lotilaner) and Bravecto (Fluralaner) are used off-label in the US for this indication, but are approved in Europe for the treatment of sarcoptic mange.

Some topicals, including Revolution (Selamectin) and Advantage Multi (Imidacloprid and Moxidectin), require more than one dose but also kill scabies.

Before these newer drugs hit the market, the standard treatment consisted of labor-intensive weekly bathing with a fragrant lime-sulfur dip for at least six weeks. It’s been successful many times – but my God, it stinks so badly! That said, those looking for an alternative to an oral or topical drug could use this treatment (especially if you don’t have a particularly sensitive nose!).

If the condition is left untreated, many dogs show secondary bacterial and yeast infections that require additional systemic and / or topical treatments.


Sarcoptic mange should be on the vet’s radar for any severely itchy dog.

Dr. Tapp says, “It’s so terrible for the dog. With the intensity of the itching, the dog will not eat or sleep; it is real misery. If the diagnosis is not made, the dog incurs increased discomfort and significant financial costs when treating the wrong conditions such as allergy tests, feeding trials and multiple rounds of medication, not to mention secondary infections that also need treatment. “

Canine scabies themselves can become expensive if left untreated. Easy to deal with, there is no need to ever get to this point.

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