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Scabies in dogs: symptoms and treatment

Dog with itchy back advice

Humans can catch scabies from your dog.

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With symptoms including extreme itching, rashes and baldness, scabies isn't pleasant for you dog. Here's all you need to know about how to get rid of it.

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

Updated on the 11/08/2020, 15:38

Scabies in dogs is a type of mange caused by the mite Sarcoptic Scabiei. It can also be known as sarcoptic mange. It can cause intense symptoms, such as itching frenzies, baldness, thickened or red skin, and self-trauma. There are no home treatments that successfully treat this condition, and waiting to see if it improves has welfare implications on your dog. If you think your dog has scabies, you should take him to a vet for treatment.

What are the symptoms for scabies?

The symptoms of scabies include extreme itching and baldness on the margins of the ear flaps, belly, chest and elbows. This can be accompanied by a rash or scabbing, due to 25% of cases developing a secondary bacterial infection. Licking and scratching leads to self-trauma and further inflammation of the skin that, if left for a long-time, results in thickening of the skin and increased pigmentation.

Talk to a vet online. Visit myfamilyvets.co.uk

What is the treatment for scabies?

The most effective scabies treatment is from a veterinarian. Prescription-strength medications are needed to clear the condition. There are both topical and systemic options for treatment. Topical treatment includes clipping the hair, bathing with moisturising shampoo and then dipping in Amitraz solution weekly for at least three repeats. Other topical spot-on treatments include ivermectin, moxidectin and selamectin pipettes, but this requires at least two months of repeated treatments to resolve the condition.

Systemic medications include milbemycin tablets or ivermectin injections, but not all of these treatments are suitable for all dogs, so the vet will need to determine which is best for your dog. Scabies is 100% curable with veterinary treatment, with itching reduced by 75% in 15 days, and it's usually fully resolving in six weeks.

Talk to a vet online. Visit myfamilyvets.co.uk

Is there a home treatment for scabies?

There are no home treatments that cure scabies, Yet a spray made from 50% apple cider vinegar and 50% water will help to soothe the skin of your pet. Clipping all the hair away will also aid in the resolution of the scabies, as it will enable topical products to contact the skin more effectively.

Is there scabies in humans?

Scabies is a zoonotic disease, which means it is transmissible to humans. Like with dogs, it causes a skin condition that is intensely itchy. Humans seem to be itchier at night than during the day, in comparison to dogs who are itchy all hours of the day.

How can I treat scabies?

Scabies must be treated with prescription veterinary medications. There are many options, from dips to spot-on treatments, to injections and pills. Not all treatments are suitable for all dogs, and if your dog is a Collie-type, under three months, pregnant or nursing, or has a compromised immune system, you must take advice from a vet about which is the best option for your dog.

Talk to a vet online. Visit myfamilyvets.co.uk

Can I get scabies from my dog?

You are able to contract scabies from your dog and therefore it is vital that you adhere to strict hygiene measures. You should wash your hands after touching your dog, and clean your dog’s bedding and places where they sleep (such as the sofa or your bed) regularly with hot water. If you think you might have contracted scabies from your dog, speak to your doctor as soon as possible.

How do I know if my dog has scabies? 

If your dog has scabies, you will notice them scratching and licking their skin due to the itchiness they're experiencing. The places most affected are the margins of the ear flaps, elbows, chest and belly. There are other conditions that also cause these symptoms though, and therefore you should take your dog to the vet to confirm that they have scabies. This can be done with a skin scrape examination, which is when a vet takes the top layer of a small area of skin and examines it under the microscope, looking for mites or mite eggs.

Talk to a vet online. Visit myfamilyvets.co.uk

How do you treat a dog for scabies?

There are many different ways to treat a dog for scabies. But effective treatments are prescription medications and there are no home treatments that are curative for scabies. You should not try to treat scabies by yourself, as it is important that a vet first confirms it is scabies that your dog has. He or she will then be able to prescribe the most appropriate treatment for your dog, as some of the treatments can have detrimental side effects, if your dog is of a certain breed, young, old, ill or pregnant.

Is scabies in dogs curable?

With appropriate treatment, scabies is 100% curable. It will usually take about six weeks with the right treatment.

How do I treat a dog with scabies?

Your dog can be treated for scabies with medication from a vet. Drugs such as amitraz, selamectin, ivermectin, moxidectin and milbemycin have all shown efficacy at killing the mites. Not all of the drugs are suitable for all dogs. Therefore you must discuss the most appropriate treatment with a vet. The treatments range from spot-on pipettes and injections to dips.

Talk to a vet online. Visit myfamilyvets.co.uk

Can I use permethrin cream on my dog?

Permethrin is not licenced to treat scabies on dogs, even though it can be effective. Therefore, it is not usually used as treatment as there are safer and more effective treatments available. Permethrin can be used as a dip or a home-made cream to help kill the mites. The problem is that if it is ingested due to licking, or if a cat comes into contact with it, it can be fatal. Therefore, permethrin-based treatment is usually reserved for use in areas of the world where there is poverty and high numbers of scabies cases, and financial difficulties are a concern.

What home remedy kills scabies on dogs?

There are no home remedies that kill scabies on dogs and delaying veterinary treatment to try home remedies can have implications on your dog’s welfare, if they have scabies. A spray, constituting of 50% apple cider vinegar and 50% water, can improve your dog’s comfort though. Also, washing in chlorhexidine scrub, leaving on for 10 minutes before washing off, will help kill secondary bacterial infections, which can also improve your dog’s comfort.

How did I get scabies?

Scabies can be contracted directly from other animals, as well as the environment, where infected animals have spent some time.

Talk to a vet online. Visit myfamilyvets.co.uk

What can be mistaken for scabies?

There are many skin conditions that cause itchy skin and can be mistaken for scabies. These include other parasitic conditions, such as Demodex mites or fleas, bacterial infections, yeast infections or skin allergies. A veterinarian can do tests on the skin to determine the underlying cause.

Is scabies caused by poor hygiene?

Scabies is highly contagious and therefore even with the best hygiene in your household or on your dog, your dog can still pick up scabies if he comes into contact with another who is infectious. Yet diligent hygiene of the environment where your dog lives can certainly speed up the recovery of the infection.

Is scabies hard to get rid of?

Scabies is not hard to get rid of with appropriate veterinary treatment. Having said that, it takes a long time to fully recover from the infection, as the treatment does not kill mite eggs. Therefore, repeated treatments over a number of weeks, as well as excellent environmental hygiene, is really important to tackle the infection, and kill newly hatched mites until they are all gone.

Talk to a vet online. Visit myfamilyvets.co.uk

Will Benadryl help against scabies?

Benadryl is an anti-histamine and will not help with the treatment or the relief of symptoms of scabies, as scabies is not an allergy.

How do you get rid of scabies naturally?

There is no natural way to get rid of scabies in Europe and therefore prescription medication is needed to kill the mites. In North America, lime sulphur is sometimes used, but this will stain, has a bad odour and is not available in Europe.

Does hot water kill scabies on skin?

Hot water does not kill scabies on skin, and will have implications to the comfort of your dog. But boiling water can be used in washes to kill scabies on bedding and fabrics that your dog has been in contact with.

Can scabies get in hair?

Scabies can infect any part of the body, including in the hair of humans. Unlike demodex mites, it doesn’t specifically target hair follicles though, so the infection will not preferentially live in hair.

Talk to a vet online. Visit myfamilyvets.co.uk

How can I get rid of scabies fast?

There is no fast treatment for scabies, and most infections will take around six weeks to clear up, even with prescription medication. Without medication, your dog may have the infection for months or even years, which will be detrimental to his health and welfare. The fastest way to get rid of scabies is with treatment from a veterinarian.

Can you get rid of scabies by showering?

Showering does not remove scabies, as the scabies mite burrows into the skin and is resistant to being washed off. Prescription medication is needed to kill the mites to resolve the infection.