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Sarcoptic Mange in Dogs

By: Dr. Rosanna Marsalla

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Sarcoptic mange (also known as scabies) is a highly contagious parasitic disease caused by a microscopic mite called Sarcoptes scabiei that affects animals and people. These mites invade the skin of healthy dogs and puppies and create a variety of skin problems. Humans exposed to infested dogs commonly are affected.

Dogs of all ages may be affected, but sarcoptic mange is more common in young animals. Cats living in close contact with affected dogs may develop the disease. The mite prefers to live lives on the surface of the skin, and does not survive for very long off the host.

The hallmark of the disease is intense pruritus that does not respond to symptomatic treatment; the dog scratches and chews at himself. There may also be papules (small red bumps) located on the margins of the ears, elbows, hocks (ankles), chest and abdomen. These lesions may become generalized. Other symptoms may include patchy hair loss, and crusty sores.
Symptoms are thought to be the result of a severe allergic reaction to the mite. Just a few mites can cause severe generalized pruritus (itchiness), which sometimes persists after therapy due to the allergic component of this disease. The incubation period (time until clinical symptoms become apparent) can be as long as 3 weeks after exposure.

If left untreated, chronic skin lesions develop including increased pigmentation, thickening and wrinkling of the skin, ulcerations and draining tracts. Secondary bacterial infections are common due to self-trauma.

Pruritic (itchy) papules (small red bumps) can be found on the arms, neck and waistline of affected humans. The sarcoptic mange mite of dogs cannot reproduce on human skin, and lesions on humans regress spontaneously in 12 to 14 days.

What to Watch For

  • Intense itching
  • Presence of papules
  • Patchy hair loss
  • Crusty sores

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