Can Dogs Carry Scabies?

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Introduction

You've probably seen a poor pup before who's skin and hair are matted, missing, and very, very itchy. Often, you see this in stray or feral dogs, and typically the cause is mange - otherwise known as canine scabies.

Unfortunately, canine scabies, or sarcoptic mange, can be easily transferred between hosts, so it's not terribly difficult for your dog to catch. Scabies in pups is caused by mites that are oval-shaped, light-colored, and microscopic. There are three different types of mange that can affect pups. 

Localized cases occur when mites multiply in or two small, confined areas and eat up your pup's skin and fur. This typically shows up on your dog in scaly, bald patches that make your dog look, well, mangy (these can sort of resolve on their own). The localized cases are the most common types of mange, but your dog may also be affected by generalized demodectic mange and demodectic pododermatitis mange, both more serious, and far more dangerous forms of mange that typically require treatments and often biopsies. Canine Scabies - or mange - is incredibly contagious, but as long as the dog is healthy, the mites will add to his natural mite population.

Signs That Your Dog Might Have Scabies

Scabies, also called mange, can have severe, physical signs that make the condition pretty obvious. For example, a pup with extreme mange will likely have very patchy fur, with tufts of it missing, giving him a polka-dot like appearance and making him look ragged and unkempt. You can typically tell where these patches are, and they're commonly located on his ear flaps, elbows, belly, chest, and hocks. 

But there are more signs than just patchy fur. In fact, your dog probably has been giving you subtle signs about his mange that you weren't aware of. Keep a look out for things like extreme itching and scratching. Sure, dogs itch and scratch pretty regularly, but mange is different. If you notice your pup has been itching like crazy, it might be time to consider mange. 

Additionally, your dog can have giant bald spots and lots of scabbing and sores. Take a look at his skin and fur closely - do you notice anything different? Do you see scratches, scrapes, and sores that weren't there before? Your dog might also seem distracted, feel lethargic, and can even be depressed. He might be reluctant to play, be around you, or do his normal, happy-dog things.

Body Language

Here are some body language cues your dog might be giving you to signify that he has scabies:
  • Head tilting
  • Shaking
  • Panting
  • Scratching
  • Ears drop
  • Pacing
  • Weakness
  • Raise ears

Other Signs

But that's not all, your dog could be trying to tell you he has scabies in a few other ways. Keep a look out for things like:
  • Loss of Vision or Hearing
  • Weight Loss
  • Loss of Appetite
  • Thickening of Skin
  • Self-Mutilation
  • Bleeding
  • Skin Sores
  • Scabbing
  • Ear Flapping or Twitching
  • Tufts of Loose Hair Around the House
  • Bald Spots
  • Itching and Scratching
  • Fever

Some Historic Causes of Mange

Historically, mange, or canine scabies, has a few different causes. Because scabies is so easily transferable, it can be transmitted and contracted from various animals. Your dog can catch scabies from other infected pups, wild foxes, coyotes, and other animals who are considered to be hosts for mites. Dogs who have poor health, weak immune systems, or are already subject to diseases are at a much greater risk of contracting scabies from other animals. 

Your dog can also catch scabies indirectly, for example, from a leash, collar, or bedding of an infected animal. The number of mites spread to your dog will also determine the rate of the infection and how badly your dog will be affected. Watch out for this with grooming your pup, because mites can be spread from one dog to another via tools like brushes and scissors in a pretty short amount of time.

The Science Behind Scabies - The Almighty Mite

Let's talk about the gross part of scabies - sure, the patchy, bald, bleeding parts aren't pretty, but the real down-n-dirty talk is about the mites themselves. Sarcoptic mange mites (the ones behind scabies) have a really short life cycle that's spent entirely on its host (aka, your dog). In fact, mites have a life cycle of about 21 days at the most, and all of it is spent living on your dog's skin. 

Adult, female mites will burrow into your doggo's skin, tunnel, and lay a few eggs every day for around three weeks. The eggs hatch at an incredible rate, about five days after they're laid. When the larvae moult, they then will go through the maturing cycle, and the adults will mate on your dog's skin, starting the whole process over again. 

That's how mites are born, mate, and spread on your dog, and hopefully, this helps explain and put in perspective just how quickly mites can spread.

How to Train Your Dog to Deal with Mange

Dealing with mange is something most dog owners have to face at one time or another, but there are ways you can prevent it. Doing that will involve training your pup to be comfortable with a few prevention procedures. 

For example, keeping your dog in good health is the first step. Train your dog to eat a balanced, well-maintained diet, keep him in tip-top shape, and always make sure he's being treated for any conditions he acquires. Also, make sure your dog isn't playing with any suspect dogs. If you think the doggo at the dog park might have mange, ensure that your pup doesn't play with him until the problem is fixed. 

Mites spread quickly, and when they do, they're hard to get rid of! If your dog has had mange before, make sure you always wash and sterilize his bedding - in fact, if you're in the position to do so, toss the bedding and get new pieces all together. You'll also have to train your dog to get used to routine skin scrapes at the vet. Make sure when these occurences happen, you give him lots of love, sympathy, treats, and attention so he associates the vet and the skin scrapes with positive memories.

How to React if Your Dog Has Mange

  • Call your vet!
  • Keep a close eye out on if you've caught scabies.
  • Relay all the signs you've noticed to your vet.
  • Talk with your vet about oral and topical medications.
  • Buy medicated shampoo to treat your dog's infected skin.
  • Wash and clean your furniture/ any items your dog has touched.
  • Discard or wash your pet's bedding, leash, and all of his belongings.
  • Take your pup to the vet and get a skin scrape test.