What is sarcoptic mange? Demodectic mange?

April 13, 2012

Mange would not only be the worst enemy of your dog – it will be your enemy as well. Wounds, blisters, scabs and unprepossessing bald patches are the symptoms of this kind of skin disease. Mange can be the worst skin disease your pet can have. You love your dog but because of the horrid appearance you may not want to have the pet inside the house. Canine mange is caused by two types of microscopic mites – the sarcoptic mite and the demodectic mite. Of these two parasites, mange caused by the demodectic mite is the most common.

Demodectic mites also known as demodex canis are a microscopic parasites that live in the hair follicles. These eight legged parasites that are shaped like an alligator would cause a skin disease that is not contagious. Furs of affected dogs would take on a moth-eaten appearance. The thinning of the hair around the eyelids, mouth, lips and front legs will progress into patches of hair loss that are about an inch in diameter. The localized mange would progress into generalized skin disease if the mite removal treatments are not administered or if the treatments given are ineffective due to an immune system defect of the affected dog.

Demodex mites are found virtually on all dogs. Puppies would get the mites from their mothers. Demodectic mange though is believed to be non-contagious. The reason why some dog would be affected and others would not is not fully understood. The tendency of some dogs to get the disease appears to be hereditary. This skin disease commonly affects young dogs because the immature immune system cannot inhibit the rapid growth of the parasites. However, as the dog matures and the immune system develops, the pet would recover from the disease even without medication. Although the dog would have an unsightly appearance, the skin disease would not really make the pet uncomfortable. Surprisingly, the bald patches would not be itchy. Prompt treatment is necessary to prevent the localized form to progress into generalized mange which would need prolonged treatment. Mite removal dips and shampoos, topical ointments and antibiotics would be effective in treating the skin disease if the affected dog does not have an immune system defect.

Sarcoptic mange is caused by the sarcoptic mite that burrows beneath the dog’s skin. This parasite affects dogs of all ages. The mite would also crawl on the surface of the dog’s skin to feed on skin material. Unlike demodectic mange, sarcoptic mange is a very itchy skin disease. It is also highly contagious. Scabies is the very itchy skin condition that these parasitic mites cause in humans. The dog will develop the skin disease when it comes in contact with infected dogs and also with infected humans. Dogs are predators and they are inclined to chase prey in thickly wooden areas. These parasitic mites that infect wildlife can be transmitted to the dogs. Dogs infested with these mites would have reddened flaky skin that is very itchy. Constant chewing and scratching will lead to large amount of hair loss that usually develops on the belly and legs. The dog may also have crusty ear tips. At the onset of the parasitic infestation, the dog’s condition may be misdiagnosed as allergic dermatitis. Wrong medication will be ineffective in treating the skin disease. Usual diagnosis method is to examine skin scrapings under the microscope but the procedure may yield negative results especially if the infestation is not severe. Oftentimes the vet would need to make a presumptive diagnosis and give treatments for sarcoptic mange. Parasiticidal treatments would have to be administered weekly or twice a week depending on the severity of the mange. It is necessary to isolate affected dogs from other pets and even from family members. The home must be treated as well. The beddings and the toys of the dog must be washed in hot water.

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