Brown dog scratching

Mange is contagious between all animals – even humans.

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Mange in dogs: signs, symptoms and treatment

By Dr Jo de Klerk, BVetMed (Hons) MScTAH MRCVS Veterinarian

Updated on the

Mange is less common in the UK than in other countries, but you'll still want to know the signs of it just in case your dog gets it.

Mange in the UK is less common than other countries, but still a condition that should be considered for all itchy skin conditions. There are several types of mange mites that cause the disease and, as such, different symptoms depending on which mite is involved. Yet all types of mange are contagious to both other animals and humans.

Mange can be smelly and cause considerable discomfort, so a veterinary visit is important to be able to provide swift treatment. Luckily there are many effective cures for mange.

Types of mange in dogs

There are several types of mange that dogs can contract. The two most common are Sarcoptic mange, also known as scabies, caused by Sarcoptes mites, and Demodectic mange, caused by Demodex mites. There are also other mites that cause mange which are more uncommon. The symptoms, severity and treatment for mange varies depending on the type of mange.

How to prevent mange in dogs

Mange can be prevented with diligent, routine parasite control. Many flea treatments also treat and prevent mange. A veterinarian will be able to advise you on which routine parasite-control products will be most suitable for your dog.

Demodectic mange in dogs

Demodectic mange in dogs is caused by Demodex mites. These are microscopic cigar-shaped mites that live in the follicles of the hair. Many dogs, and even humans, have Demodex mites on their body without the symptoms of mange. However, when the skin barrier is compromised due to a poor immune system or skin allergies, the Demodex mites can cause mange symptoms, such as itching, hair loss, rashes or thickened skin. Demodectic mange requires several months of treatment from a veterinarian to resolve.

Early stage mange in dogs

Sometimes it is difficult to notice the early stages of mange in dogs. Subtle rashes and mild itching are the most common symptoms, but these can be easily missed when there is no hair loss.

What is the best home remedy for dog mange?

Mange should always be treated with veterinary medications, as home treatments alone are not usually effective. However, there are some home treatments that will aid the treatment of mange and improve the comfort of your dog. Firstly, oatmeal shampoos are soothing to the skin and help reduce your dog’s itchiness. However, speak with a veterinarian first before using a shampoo, as he or she may wish for you to use a medicated shampoo instead. Secondly, adding an omega oil supplement to your dog’s food will improve the health of his skin as well as provide natural anti-inflammatory effects. Thirdly, some people have found spraying a mixture of 50% apple cider vinegar and 50% water onto the skin can be soothing to their dog. It also anecdotally has anti-microbial properties. Finally, applying a buster collar to your dog will reduce his ability to lick the mange, which in turn will reduce the self-trauma and speed up healing.

Is mange contagious?

Mange is contagious between all animals, even humans. Sarcoptic mange in particular is highly contagious and requires diligent treatment, as well as disinfecting all in-contact surfaces and fabrics regularly to prevent the spread.

How common is mange in dogs?

In the UK, mange is not as common as other parasite infections such as fleas or ticks. However, it is still regularly seen, so it's important to know as much about it as possible in case your dog gets it.

Can humans get mange from dogs?

Mange is a condition that is classified as zoonotic, which means humans can also contract it. It is not always as severe in humans as it is in dogs, however precautions to prevent spread should be taken anyway. These precautions include washing hands after petting your dog, disinfecting surfaces and washing in-contact fabrics regularly in hot water.

How do I know if my dog has mange?

A veterinarian will be the person who confirms that your dog has mange, but you might have a suspicion from your dog’s clinical symptoms. Your dog is likely to have some hair loss and itchiness, which will result in him licking and scratching. The skin will either be red, dark, thickened or have a rash. Some cases of mange will also have a sticky discharge over the region.

How do you treat mange on a dog?

Mange can be treated with veterinary prescription products available from your local vet practice. Most of these products also treat other external parasites, such as fleas and ticks. However, don’t assume all flea treatments are effective against mange. A veterinarian will be able to prescribe which one is the most effective. Treatment must be continued for at least three months to ensure the larvae hatching from the eggs are also killed.

For stubborn cases of mange, a medicated shampoo or wash may also be prescribed, which treats the mange directly. This requires weekly bathing and a veterinary practice may do this for you to ensure it is done correctly.

Finally, for cases of demodectic mange, the underlying reason should also be established and treated. If there is an allergy or condition affecting the immune system that is ignored, the mange is likely to return again in the future.

Can a person get mange from a dog?

Mange is classified as a zoonotic disease, which means that humans can also contract it from their dogs. However, the mites that cause mange on dogs, do not cause as severe a disease on humans. Nevertheless precautions to prevent the spread to humans must be taken, such as washing hands and disinfecting the house.

What does mange look like?

Mange can vary in appearance depending on what mite is the cause and how severe the case is. Most mange will cause hair loss, unless it is still in the very early stages. The most common places for the hair loss are down the back of the legs, on the flaps of the ears and on the main body. The skin itself is likely to be dark grey or red, rather than a normal skin colour, and may have a rash, may be thickened or may have a sticky discharge.

Does apple cider vinegar kill mange?

Apple cider vinegar is a common home remedy that has natural antimicrobial properties. However, it is not effective enough to kill the mange, but it can be used to complement the veterinary treatment. Apple cider vinegar should be mixed 50/50 with water and applied to the skin with a spray bottle daily.

How did my dog get mange?

Your dog will have contracted the mange from another animal or from the environment. Foxes are common carriers of mange and, if they run through your garden, your dog is at a higher risk.

Will mange go away?

Mange is unlikely to go away by itself and therefore requires veterinary treatment. Leaving the mange to run its course is unfair on your dog, as it causes great discomfort and allows potential for other animals and people to become infected.

Can an indoor dog get mange?

An indoor dog can certainly contract mange. Even indoor dogs must go outside to go to the toilet, and if wildlife runs through your garden, this is a common way for him to contract mange. Mites can also be brought into the house on your clothing, and therefore your dog is also able to contract mange from you.

What does mange smell like?

When a dog has mange, they usually have a musty, wet dog odour to them. This is because the skin is in a poor condition and this stimulates an overgrowth of yeast on its surface. It this is particularly bad, a vet may prescribe a medicated shampoo to reduce the yeast growth on the skin.

How common is dog mange?

Dog mange in the UK is not as common as other external parasite infections, such as fleas, but it is still a common condition that should be considered just as importantly as any skin infection.

Are mange mites visible?

Mange mites are not usually visible to the naked eye. They are best visualised under a scientific microscope. Once microscopically located, you may be able to recognise that there is a mite on the microscope slide without looking through the microscope, however it will just look like a speck of dirt and not representative of a mite.

Can you see mange mites?

You cannot recognise mange mites with the naked eye, as they are as small as, or smaller, than a speck of dirt. However, they are easy to recognise with the use of a scientific microscope. In addition to this, many mites live in the skin or in hair follicles, and therefore they are buried away from the surface of your dog.

Is there a shampoo for mange?

There are medicated shampoos that treat mange, as well as treating secondary yeast and bacterial infections, which are common concurrent infections. It can only be dispensed by a veterinarian, as it contains prescription medication. It requires regular baths and a veterinary practice may do this for you to ensure it is applied correctly.

What is the best home remedy for dog mange?

There are many home remedies for dog mange, however none are effective enough to fully clear the condition. However, home remedies complement veterinary treatment and may help speed up resolution of the condition.

Examples of home remedies include soothing oatmeal shampoo, apple cider vinegar spray and omega oil supplements. There is not one that is considered the ‘best’, as each individual case of mange is different.

What do mite bites look like?

You will not notice mite bites on your dog as an individual red bump, like you would an insect bite, as mites are microscopic and therefore only have microscopic bites. However, the immune system will produce an area of inflammation and therefore you will notice changes in the skin, such as a colour change to red or a darkening, and possibly thickening of the skin.

How do you kill mange?

Mange can be killed with prescription medication, which is targeted to kill external parasites. It can also be killed with medicated shampoo. A veterinarian will be able to determine which is the most appropriate for your dog.

Does coconut kill mange?

Coconut oil has antimicrobial properties that will help kill mites, however it is not effective enough to treat mange by itself. It can be rubbed onto the skin directly.

Coconut oil can also be added in small quantities to the diet, as it contains omega oils, which help improve the skin barrier and act as natural anti-inflammatories. However, always check with a vet first to make sure this is okay, as some dogs cannot tolerate additional fat in their diet.

Questions to ask a vet

When you go to a vet, there are several questions that you should ask him or her. These include how long do you think it will take for my dog to get better? Does the treatment interfere with the monthly flea control I use? How often should I repeat the treatment for mange? What must I do in the house to reduce the chances of mange being transmitted to my family or back to my dog? What can I do to make my dog more comfortable? And should I treat my other dogs for mange too?

These questions will give you a full picture of what the next few months will look like for you while you work together with a vet to cure your dog of mange.

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