Scabies in Dogs

Written By hannah hollinger
Published: 12/17/2015Updated: 08/29/2023
Veterinary reviewed by Dr. Linda Simon, MVB MRCVS
Scabies in Dogs | Wag!

Introduction

Scabies - or sarcoptic mange - is typically associated with stray dogs. But, any dog can get it, the same way humans can. If you know what to look out for, you can get your pup treated as soon as possible to prevent that painful itching from becoming more severe.

In this guide to scabies in dogs, you’ll discover:

  • What scabies is 
  • What causes scabies
  • The symptoms of scabies 
  • Scabies treatment for dogs


My dog has scabies, is this normal?

What is scabies in dogs? It’s caused by small mites known as Sarcoptes scabiei. Dogs in any climate, anywhere in the world, can become infected with this contagious parasite. 

The mite has a life cycle that is spent entirely on the dog and lasts no more than 21 days.

  • Adult females will burrow into the skin to make a tunnel, laying a few eggs per day for up to 3 weeks
  • Eggs hatch within 5 days
  • Larvae go through a molting cycle
  • Nymphs mature to adults
  • Adults mate on the skin, and the female burrows to lay eggs

Scabies on dogs causes intense itching (pruritus) which can result in hair loss and scabs. If it’s not treated, it can become severe, leading to thickening of the skin and weeping sores. 

What is mange?

Scabies in dogs is officially known as sarcoptic mange. Mange is the skin disease that is caused by mites. There are two types of mange in dogs but scabies is the most common and the most contagious. The other type is demodectic.

Scabies must be treated as soon as possible to stop it becoming more severe.  Compare the best pet insurance plans and make sure you’re covered should your dog start itching. 

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What are the symptoms of scabies in dogs?

Dog scabies symptoms will usually start with sudden and intense itching. This is usually related to sensitivity to the fecal matter and saliva of the mites.

The mites prefer the skin where there is no hair so the first place you may notice them is in their ears. It could be that your dog’s ear has scabies, but ear mites in dogs are also common, so if you notice them itching just their ear it’s not necessarily scabies. Check other hairless areas, such as their tummy and armpits as well as checking the rest of their body. 

But, what do scabies look like on a dog? Well, you might not be able to see the mites themselves. They are miniscule and burrow beneath the skin. But other symptoms to look out for, include: 

  • Red skin or a scabies rash on dogs
  • Inflammation of skin
  • Hair loss (alopecia) which may be first noticed on the legs and stomach
  • Self-mutilation
  • Bleeding
  • Small bumps that will evolve into crusty sores
  • There may be an unpleasant odor due to the sores
  • The sores will mainly be found on the abdomen, legs, ears, chest, and elbows
  • Thickening of the skin due to damage
  • Secondary bacterial or yeast related sores can develop
  • If untreated, the scabies will spread to the entire body
  • Badly infected dogs may lose their appetite and begin to lose weight

If you notice any of these symptoms - particularly severe itching - then you need to take your dog to the vet straight away.

Causes - why does my dog have scabies?

So, how do dogs get scabies? It’s very contagious and is transmitted through contact with infected dogs. But could also have come from wild foxes and coyotes. 

Although not as common, it could be indirectly transmitted from the bedding of an infected dog. The mites can also be spread through grooming tools if use from one dog to another is within a relatively short time.

The reaction will also depend upon how many mites were transmitted but dogs in poor health will have a more intense reaction. 

Can you get scabies from a dog?

Yes, humans can get scabies from a dog. However, dog mites can’t complete a life cycle on a human. It will, unfortunately, cause intense itching but this will only last for about 5 days before they die. If you think you’ve got scabies from your dog, you should see your doctor who can prescribe something to help with the itching.

Can dogs get scabies from humans?

We know scabies is very contagious between dogs - and dogs can even get scabies from cats. So if we can get it from our dogs, can dogs get scabies from us? 

The answer is yes - dogs can get scabies from humans. But, in the same way canine scabies can’t complete a life cycle on a human, human scabies can’t reproduce on a dog. This means it won’t affect them in the same way, it may just cause a small rash.

Diagnosis of scabies in dogs

When you take your dog to the vet with suspected scabies it’s imperative to tell the vet that this is what you think it is straight away. That way, they can isolate your dog from any others that are there, to prevent it from spreading.  

The vet may want to obtain a stool sample for testing, or perform blood work and a skin swab to perhaps rule out conditions like allergies or bacterial skin infection. Both the blood test and the fecal sample are important diagnostic tools for determining the cause of your dog’s itchy skin.

A deep skin scrape, and subsequent observation under the microscope is the method used that most often gives a definitive diagnosis. The scrape will be done deep enough to try and reach the mites. Often the mites and eggs will be clearly visible. However, it can be entirely possible that the mites will not be seen, in which case the lesions that they produce could lead to a presumptive diagnosis.

When to worry about scabies in dogs

Early scabies on dogs - if seen by a vet and treated straight away - isn’t too much of a problem and therefore you don’t need to worry. However, if it’s left untreated then it can become more severe and there is a chance of secondary infections or complications.

How to treat scabies

Treatment for dogs with scabies may start with the clipping of your pet. Then, a dog with mange will need to be washed with medicated shampoo. Once you’ve done this, you’ll have to apply an anti-mite product. 

Mites can be difficult to remove, so you may need to repeat this, with several weekly applications being required. 

It’s also possible they’ll need oral medication and injections. A combination of products will likely be required to combat the infection. 

Unless the infection is severe and has caused threatening secondary complications that require your dog to be hospitalized, the treatment will be done at home. If you don’t see any improvements in four to five days then you should contact your vet. 

If your house has had a case of scabies, dogs need to be treated even if they don’t appear to have any symptoms yet as it’s very contagious. This includes other dogs that live in your home as well as any that have been regularly visiting recently.

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Recovery of scabies in dogs

It could take up to six weeks of treatment for your pet to be completely rid of the mites. Keep the vet updated and contact them if you have any concerns or there are any side effects you are worried about. 

You could wash their bedding with hot water and bleach, but it’s best to just dispose of it if you can. You don’t need to do anything else in your home but you should make sure your dog doesn’t get on the beds or any other furniture until they are fully recovered. 

You don’t want to leave it until your dog has health issues to think about how you will pay for the treatment. Compare pet insurance and browse wellness plans today and you’ll have peace of mind that, whether they get scabies or any other condition, you’ll be covered. 

Scabies Average Cost

From 12 quotes ranging from $300 - $1,000

Average Cost

$350

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Scabies Questions and Advice from Veterinary Professionals

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Pit Bull

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Two Years

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13 found this helpful

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13 found this helpful

My pet has the following symptoms:
Redness
My dog had gotten fleas back in july. Well he has been scratching non stop since then. Like he is digging so much it's making him bleed. He has sores all over him.

Dec. 20, 2020

Answered by Dr. Linda S. MVB MRCVS

13 Recommendations

I'm so sorry to hear this. He may well have a flea allergy and would thus need anti itch medicine to break the itch scratch cycle. I suspect the may also have a secondary bacterial infection and would also benefit from antibiotics and a medicated wash. Thus, he should be seen by a vet. With regards fleas, we need to treat monthly and also treat the home to eliminate the issue and prevent reinfestation. This means hot washing bedding, daily hoovering, a flea spray etc.

Dec. 20, 2020

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Labrador Retriever

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almost 2

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0 found this helpful

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0 found this helpful

My pet has the following symptoms:
Heavy Scratching
My dog was boarded some time ago and recently he's been scratching a lot and loosing hair on his Elbows and on the sides of his legs

Sept. 28, 2020

Answered by Dr. Michele K. DVM

0 Recommendations

Thank you for your question. Unfortunately, without being able to see the lesions that you are concerned with, it is difficult for me to say what might be going on. If it is not improving, it would be a good idea to have your dog seen by a veterinarian, as they can examine him and see what might be causing this problem.

Oct. 8, 2020

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Average Cost

$350

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