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If you’ve seen a dog with mange, you know that it is a skin condition that causes a lot of itching. In fact, many animals with this condition lose a lot of their fur as a result of excessive scratching.

Mange can affect several mammals, but it is most commonly seen in dogs. The main cause is parasitic mites.

Though highly contagious, mange is also completely and easily treatable. (In time, your gorgeous pet will also grow his/her fur back.)

  1. Types of mange
  2. Causes
  3. Symptoms
  4. Diagnosis
  5. Treatment
  6. Prevention

There are three types of mange that affect dogs - Sarcoptic mange, Demodectic mange and Cheyletiellosis (walking dandruff).

  • Sarcoptic Mange: Also known as canine scabies, it occurs due to a circular, eight-legged mite called Sarcoptes scabiei. This type of mange is highly contagious: it can pass from one dog to another and also from dogs to humans. The female mites of this species burrow into the skin of the dogs to lay their eggs which hatch in about three weeks, and those young mites then feed on the affected dog’s skin.
  • Demodectic Mange: Also known as Demodex, Demodectic mange is caused by a cigar-shaped mite called Demodex canis in dogs and Demodex cati in cats. These mites are always present as a part of the dog’s skin flora and are usually harmless. Pups usually get these mites from their mothers in the first few days after birth. These mites continue to stay deep in the hair follicles causing no trouble until their number grows.

Their numbers can go out of control in a dog with a weakened immune system. Infection usually occurs in puppies under two years of age, who tend to have an immature their immune system. In older dogs, the immune system may become weak due to hormonal imbalances, diabetes, cancer, or age-related changes.

  • Cheyletiellosis Mange: This is a rare skin condition that can look like mange in dogs, cats and rabbits. It is caused by the Cheyletiella yasguri mite in dogs, Cheyletiella blakei in cats, and Cheyletiella parasitovorax in rabbits. This species of mites move beneath the keratin layer of the skin, pushing up scales of skin as it spreads. It is also known as “walking dandruff” mange, as the skin of the dog looks yellow and flaky - like dandruff.

 While Sarcoptes scabiei can latch on to your pet’s skin and burrow deep inside to lay eggs, Demodex canis and Demodex cati take advantage of a weakened immune system to grow out of control and cause mange.

Mange is highly contagious, and kennels, animal shelters, groomers and veterinary clinics have a high rate of spreading mange due to the close proximity with animals that are infected.

The symptoms of sarcoptic mange are initially seen on the ears, chest, elbow, hocks and belly.

  • Persistent itching 
  • Redness and rashes
  • Hair loss in small patches
  • Thick yellow crust on top of the skin (in later stages)

The symptoms of demodectic mange could be localized and generalized:

  • Localized symptoms: patches of hair loss, redness and scaling of the skin with persistent itching.
  • Generalized symptoms: The entire body of the dog might get covered with redness, scaling, swelling, thick crusts and sores. The dog may lose his entire hair at this point.

The symptoms of Cheyletiellosis are:

  • Extreme scaling and flaky dandruff on the animal’s back.
  • Itching

It can only be diagnosed microscopically by a professional. The veterinarian may scrape the skin from one or more sites and look at it under a microscope for the presence of mites or their eggs.

You must take your dog to a vet if you see him/her scratching his/her body persistently or if you find him/her losing hair in an unusual way or in patches.

Once the presence of mange is confirmed, your vet will discuss the treatment options to help clear up the infestation. It may take four to eight weeks to eradication the mites entirely. The treatment may involve:

  • Clipping of long hair to facilitate the removal of most of the mites.
  • Application of medicines like selamectin and imidacloprid-moxidectin formulations onto the skin over a period of several weeks. 
  • The vet may give you medicated shampoos, which have to be used on a weekly basis to help heal and soften your pet’s skin.

Unfortunately, there is no specific prevention for mange yet. But you can help your pets develop an immune system that is healthy enough to fight such parasitic attacks: a balanced diet, plenty of exercise, and regular supplements like neem bark powder can help to enhance the immune system of dogs.

Regular check-ups with the vet can also help to prevent the occurrence of the disease.

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