What is Sarcoptic Mange in Dogs?
Sarcoptic mange, often referred to as scabies, is an infectious skin ailment brought about by mites that nestle within hair follicles, and it can spread between animals and people. If not addressed, this condition can become severely incapacitating and, in some cases, lethal.
The microscopic culprit behind this condition is the Sarcoptes scabiei mite. These parasites exhibit a tiny, round, pale appearance when observed under a microscope. Mature mites possess eight legs, whereas their younger counterparts have only six. Both male and female mites have terminal suckers on their legs, facilitating their feeding on the host's epidermis. These mites are minuscule, measuring between 0.2 to 0.4 millimeters, making them invisible to the unaided eye.
These parasitic nuisances transfer easily among animals and can also affect humans. While foxes are a common carrier, these mites pose a significant risk to domestic dogs. An allergic response is triggered in dogs by even a minute number of these mites, leading to pronounced symptoms.
The mating ritual of the adult mites takes place on the skin's exterior. Post-mating, female mites delve into the deeper layers of the skin to deposit their eggs. Upon hatching, the young larvae journey towards the epidermal surface to nourish themselves. These larvae grow into nymphs and, in due course, evolve into adult mites, their lifecycle wrapping up in about 21 days.
Scabies predominantly affect malnourished dogs, those in neglectful conditions, and those with weakened immune defenses. Healthy dogs from nurturing households are less likely to encounter this ailment.
Symptoms of Sarcoptic Mange in Dogs
Symptoms of sarcoptic mange encompass:
- Alopecia (hair loss)
- Excoriations (self-inflicted superficial or deep wounds)
- Severe itching
Often, one can observe elevated nodules, known as papules, predominantly on the chest or dispersed across the body. The edges of the ears, around the ankles, underarms, and elbows frequently showcase thickened, crusty skin, as these mites prefer areas with scanty hair. However, they are capable of impacting the whole body.
Due to the skin abrasions, subsequent skin infections are likely manifesting as crusted blemishes or oozing sores.
The relentless itchiness and skin discomfort can lead to mood swings, diminished hunger, and tiredness. The constant scratching can be energy-draining, potentially causing weight reduction. When the infection is widespread, swollen lymph nodes might be observable. In some instances, scabies might be localized, affecting a specific body part, evident from the restricted area of lesions and hair shedding.
For dogs, especially younger ones, experiencing abrupt and intense itchiness, it's crucial to consider scabies as a potential cause and ensure timely intervention to prevent symptom escalation.
Causes of Sarcoptic Mange in Dogs
Sarcoptic mange is transmitted through direct interaction with an afflicted animal or person. These minute mites depend on a host for nourishment and cannot survive extended durations in the environment, remaining infectious for 36 hours.
Scabies typically spread among dogs through proximity. Commonly, mites thrive in places frequented by infected dogs and foxes. Locations such as doggy day cares, canine playgrounds, shelters, and certain breeding establishments are hotspots for the spread of scabies among dogs.
While scabies aren't a result of poor cleanliness, their severity can intensify due to neglect or a compromised immune system. Animals with underdeveloped or weakened immunity, or those with concurrent health conditions, face a heightened risk of contracting mange.
Diagnoses of Sarcoptic Mange in Dogs
Scabies are frequently suspected in dogs presenting with abrupt and intense itching, hair thinning, or flaky lesions, particularly in young pups and older, ailing canines.
The primary diagnostic approach for sarcoptic mange involves skin scraping and cytology. This gentle procedure employs a scalpel blade to scrape the skin, causing minor discomfort lightly. Microscopic examination of the collected sample can reveal mites' presence, indicating a positive diagnosis.
Detecting sarcoptic mites can be challenging, necessitating multiple sample sites for conclusive identification. When mites aren't seen but the clinical symptoms are significant, treatment might commence based on the dog's age and clinical evaluation, with a keen observation of the treatment response.
Sometimes, mites may be identified during fecal analysis, as dogs can ingest them while grooming their skin.
While Polymerase chain reaction (PCR) tests are an option, they can occasionally yield false negatives. Hence, they are only sometimes required if the diagnosis is evident through observed symptoms and treatment outcomes.
A skin biopsy might be considered in certain situations, especially when other diagnostic methods fail or when the dog doesn't respond to treatments. This step is particularly relevant if there are persistent sores, skin inflammation, or raised bumps, both to diagnose the presence of mites and to rule out other potential causes of these symptoms.
Treatment of Sarcoptic Mange in Dogs
When treating scabies in your dog, isolate them from other animals and limit human contact to prevent spreading and potential re-infection. Maintain this isolation until your vet confirms the absence of scabies.
Addressing systemic diseases, immune system deficiencies, and secondary skin infections is vital for dogs with scabies. Incomplete treatment or premature cessation of therapy often leads to treatment failure.
Sarcoptic mange necessitates medical treatment. Available treatments include
If one doesn't work, vets may switch to another.
However, avoid using ivermectin in breeds like collies, Shetland Sheepdogs, and others carrying the MDR1 gene, as severe adverse reactions can occur. Instead, opt for safer alternatives.
Supplemental treatments, such as antibiotics and anti-itch meds, can help alleviate symptoms. For dogs injuring their skin, a pet cone might be suggested.
Environmental cleanliness is crucial. Though mites die quickly outside hosts, they can rebound. Infected or potentially contaminated items like bedding, toys, and bowls should be cleaned with bleach or replaced. Dispose of contaminated items safely, ensuring they're sealed and kept away from animals and people.
Recovery of Sarcoptic Mange in Dogs
The time it takes for a dog to recover from scabies varies based on the extent of the infection. Dogs with mild infestations often heal faster compared to those with intense cases. In extreme instances, itching and skin recovery might take several weeks to months.
To minimize the risk of a sarcoptic mange recurrence, it's advisable to administer oral or topical treatments against fleas, ticks, and mites either monthly or every three months. Maintaining a clean living space and regular housekeeping is essential in managing scabies. Well-groomed dogs receive proper nutrition and rest in regularly cleaned bedding and enclosures and tend to have a lower susceptibility to mange.