Managing Mange Menace in Dogs!

Ever wondered why your pet keeps scratching himself so frequently? It might be because of the agents inhabiting his body that cause irritation. The most common ones are ticks, mite, and fleas. Find out how ticks and mites intrude your pet’s body and become a perennial problem for your beloved pooch!


Sarcoptic mange is a skin condition caused by infestation with the Sarcoptesscabiei mite that resides inside the skin layers of your pet. These mites are microscopic in size, unlike ticks and fleas which the human eyes can detect. Hence, mites aren’t visible while grooming the pets.

Lurking life cycle of mites

Adult Sarcoptesscabiei mites live for nearly a month in the host’s skin. Female burrows into the skin layers creating tunnels and deposit eggs in the tunnel. The eggs hatch inside the tunnels to produce larvae which grow into mature adults. The stage of our concern is the larva owing to its active feeding and high metabolism. They actively feed on the dermal layer of the skin and eat up the skin bit-by-bit.
While growing up they excrete out metabolic products that irritate your pet’s skin and cause rashes and itching. Initially it starts with mild irritation and gradually it intensifies. The skin turns reddish and becomes thickened, thus developing to a dermal hypersensitive reaction. In cases where the mite inhabits for a pretty long time, skin thickening is prominent and it leads to an unpleasant scaly appearance of the body coat.

Mites prefer hairless skin and thus the ear flaps, elbows, and abdomen are at highest risk of developing red itchy skin that characterises sarcoptic mange. Initially, a dog with sarcoptic mange scratches constantly due to extreme itchiness, making the skin under the fur to become red and swollen. Over time, your pet might starts to smell foul. Lose hair, open sores or scabs and crusting of the skin evident as white flakes on the skin is also commonly seen. Open wounds may get invaded by secondary bacteria producing irreparable skin damage.

Be cautious & stop the spread

Unfortunately, mange due to sarcoptic mites can spread to other pets in the household and even humans. Mites do pass from diseased to healthy dogs while playing together at places like a boarding facility or shelter. Dogs also pick up infestation from accidental sharing of the bedding of infested dogs. It’s important to isolate your pet from other infested pets until the infested dog is free of mites. Make sure to keep your pet off furniture and clean all material it has been in contact with.

Special precautions are necessary to keep the infested pet from infesting other inhabitants in the home since mites are easily transmittable to people. Mite infestations on humans are selflimiting (i.e., they go away on their own) as the mite is not able to complete its life cycle on the “wrong” host. Even on a wrong host, mites can lead to allergic reactions, itching, and redness. Warm and moist conditions are most favorable for mites to grow and spread.

Guards up with detection squad!

Detection of any ailment is best done by a veterinarian. It is advisable to visit your vet when your pet exhibits early signs of skin rashes and itching. Usually mite infection is diagnosed by scraping the skin surface and visualisation of the skin debris under a microscope. Pet parents should opt for routine health checkup which is inclusive of skin examination as well.

Amalgamation of treatment with prevention for best results

There are several medications that are effective against Sa rcoptes m ites. Your veterinarian will advise the best treatment based on your pet’s condition and lifestyle. Treatment varies from medicated baths and dips to injections and oral medications. Many pets will require a combination of treatments to resolve this infestation which will encompass oral medication, bathes, and diet alterations.

Improvement in the overall skin condition is not always indicative of the cause being eliminated. In majority of the cases, it happens that improvement in the skin is seen as an effect of the ongoing drug regime, but the root of the cause may still persist, i.e., the mite may still be present in skin tunnels. Pet parents need to be extremely cautious to follow the treatment regime up to 2 weeks after the skin test has been found negative.

(Dr A Sangaran, Veterinary Parasitologist working as Professor and Dr Neelakshi Deka is veterinary parasitologist at Madras Veterinary College, Chennai)