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Sarcoptic Mange

Sarcoptic mange (“scabies”) is an itchy disease of dogs caused by the  mite Sarcoptes scabiei burrowing into the layers of the skin.

Clinical Signs

Scabies causes intense itchiness in dogs and other clinical signs include hair loss, redness, small red bumps, scabs, and dandruff. Sites most affected are the edges of ears, elbows, hocks, and the underside of the belly. 

With long-term infestations, skin changes may become widespread, but the top of the dog is usually unaffected.

Well-groomed animals may have intense itchiness, with minimal to no skin lesions.  Enlarged lymph nodes may be present, along with weight loss and lethargy secondary to the chronic itching and discomfort.

Owners in contact with infected dogs may develop and itchy patch of small red bumps but the mite cannot live on humans for more than several days.

Diagnosis

Sarcoptic mange is suspected in any dog that is intensely itchy.  Finding the mite, mite eggs, or mite faecal material on skin scrapings from affected areas confirms the diagnosis, but this evidence is found only 10-50% of the time. Often dogs suspected of infection will be placed on trial therapy and diagnosis based upon response.

Treatment

All dogs in contact with the infected dog should be treated to prevent recurring infection cycles, and in severe cases the environment must also be treated with anti-parasite sprays.

Topical therapy involves the application of selamectin (Revolution). This is licensed for use once monthly, but is more effective against scabies if applied every two weeks for a total of three treatments.

Several products, such as ivermectin injection, are not licensed for use against Sarcoptes but have been shown to be very effective. The decision on whether to use them requires discussion between owner and vet, and their use in some breeds is contra-indicated.

Secondary bacterial infections should be treated with antibiotics.

Environmental treatment is easily accomplished with sprays, often with the same products used for treating flea infestations.

Many dogs with scabies will exhibit increased itching for the first week of treatment as a result of mites dying within the skin layer, but if your pet’s itchiness has not decreased after 21 days of treatment, further diagnostic tests and re-evaluation are needed.

The prognosis is very good with adequate treatment of the mite and control of any secondary bacterial infections.