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Demystifying Mange in Dogs: Mite Infection

Vet Reviewed

Within the fascinating realm of our faithful canine companions, an insidious menace known as mange lurks, causing discomfort and distress.

Learn more about Mange- symptoms, transmission, and different types of mange and prevent this troublesome condition caused by microscopic mites.

Sarcoptic Mange or Canine Scabies—The Itch That Drives Dogs Mad

Mange is characterized by relentless itching, redness, sores, and the potential for zoonotic transmission to humans. It is caused by a mite known as Sarcoptes Scabiei. The entire life cycle (17 to 21 days) of these mites is spent on the infested dog. Females burrow tunnels in the skin to lay eggs.

Mange- Mite Infection
Mange- Canine Scabies

Mange is easily spread between animals by contact. The itching is caused by sensitivity to the mites’ droppings. Initially, infested skin will erupt with small, solid bumps. The dog scratches or bites itself to relieve the itch, these bumps and the surrounding skin are often damaged, causing thick, crusted sores. It first appears in the abdomen, chest, ear, elbows and legs and can spread all over the body. The damaged skin is susceptible to secondary bacterial and yeast infections. Dogs affected severely can become emaciated and may even die.

All dogs that have come in contact with an infected dog will need to undergo treatment. The crusts and dirt should be removed by soaking with a medicated shampoo. Alternatively, internal or topical medicines are also effective. Reach out to your veterinarian for more information.

Canine demodicosisUnravelling the Mite's Overpopulation

Mite Infection- Demodicosis
Scaling of skin in dog - Mite Infection

Demodicosis, also known as Demodex mite infestation or mange, is caused by two species of microscopic mites called Demodex canis (in dogs). These mites are commonly found on the skin and hair follicles of dogs and cats in small numbers without causing any issues. However, under certain conditions, such as a weakened immune system or other health problems, these mites can reproduce rapidly, leading to an overgrowth and causing skin problems.

In most cases, demodicosis occurs in young animals or those with underlying health conditions. It typically presents as hair loss, redness, scaling, and sometimes secondary bacterial infections in the affected areas.

Demodicosis can be localized, affecting only a small area, or generalized, spreading to multiple parts of the body. Demodex mites are not contagious between animals or humans, as they are commonly present in small numbers on the skin of most dogs and cats. However, an overgrowth of these mites can lead to the development of demodicosis, which requires proper diagnosis and treatment by a veterinarian.

Signs and Symptoms:

  • Hair loss

  • Reddened and swollen skin

  • Increased pigmentation

  • Raised lumps that look like acne, and scabs

  • Secondary bacterial infections (pyodemodicosis) are common

  • Inflamed foot pads

  • Enlarged lymph nodes

  • Lethargy and fever

  • Pus-filled inflammation of the deeper layers of skin

Laboratory analysis of deep skin scrapings is required to confirm the condition.

Cases of localized demodicosis often resolve without treatment. Generalized demodicosis is a serious disease that requires medical treatment. Medicated shampoos and dips are often used to treat demodicosis. Prescription medications to kill the mites may be required.

Recurrence within the first year of treatment is not uncommon.

Ear Mites

Ear Mite- Mange

Ear mites are extremely contagious parasites that inhabit the interior and surrounding areas of the ear canals. The specific type of mite that affects dogs is known as Otodectes cynotis. Unlike certain mites that burrow into the skin, these mites reside on the surface of the skin.

Ear mites provoke a severe itching sensation. The primary symptoms of a dog suffering from an ear mite infection include:

  • Persistent scratching and rubbing of the ears

  • Head shaking in an attempt to alleviate discomfort

  • Presence of dark discharge from the ears

  • Hair loss, skin lesions, and secondary skin infections, commonly found in the ear, head, and neck areas due to excessive scratching and rubbing

It's worth noting that bacterial and yeast ear infections can resemble ear mite infestations. If you suspect any issues with your dog's ears, it is recommended to seek veterinary attention for a thorough examination and proper diagnosis.

Walking Dandruff

Walking Dandruff- Mite Infection

Cheyletiellosis, caused by mites belonging to the Cheyletiella spp., is a relatively uncommon yet highly contagious skin condition affecting dogs, cats, humans, and rabbits. This condition is often referred to as 'walking dandruff' due to the notable presence of large, whitish mites crawling across the skin and fur, accompanied by excessive scaling.

Fortunately, cheyletiellosis has become less prevalent in recent times, primarily attributed to the effectiveness of improved flea control medications. These advancements in flea prevention have contributed to a reduction in the occurrence of cheyletiellosis cases.

In many cases, veterinarians will prescribe topical or body-wide treatments with an insecticide to eliminate the mites. In addition, treating the pet’s environment is necessary to kill mites in bedding, carpets, and other areas. Insecticidal treatment of kennels is required to halt mite infestations.


Chiggers - Mange

Trombiculosis, a form of mange, is caused by the larval stage of mites from the Trombiculidae family, commonly known as chiggers. These mites resemble tiny spiders and are typically found in habitats with decaying organic matter. Dogs acquire the larvae by coming into contact with the ground or walking in suitable environments.

Once attached to the host, the larvae feed for several days before becoming engorged and leaving. They appear as immobile, small, oval dots with an orange-red color. These clusters of larvae are often found on the head, ears, feet, or belly of the affected animal.

Signs and Symptoms:

  • Redness

  • Bumps

  • Hair loss

  • Crusts.

Even after the larvae have departed, intense itching may persist. Diagnosis is typically based on the animal's history and clinical signs, while skin scrapings can be examined under a microscope to confirm the presence of six-legged mite larvae.

Treatment for trombiculosis in dogs and other pets follows a similar approach as general mange treatment. Medications prescribed to eradicate these mites may differ from those used for other mite infestations. It is important to follow your veterinarian's recommended treatment program. In cases of severe or prolonged itching, additional medications, such as antibiotics, may be prescribed to manage secondary infections resulting from scratching and biting.

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