Most of us have heard someone use the phrase, "that mangy dog" from time to time without really thinking about its origins. While you don't hear much about canine mange these days, this skin condition has often been described as a kind of "scabies for dogs." It is caused by tiny, microscopic mites. How much of a problem it becomes will depend on whether your dog has demodectic or sarcoptic mange.
Both forms of mange can lead to a variety of skin conditions ranging from severe itching and hair loss to secondary infections that will require treatment. While most younger dogs will recover swiftly with the right treatment, older dogs may require more extensive and long-term therapy in order to restore their skin to good health.
Most puppies acquire the mites responsible for demodectic mange from their mothers while nursing and most dogs can live their entire lives suffering no ill effects from these mites. The condition is further broken down into three sub-types of mange.:
Localized Demodectic Mange
This type of mange tends to occur in small areas of your dog's body where the mites tend to congregate. Symptoms include small, bald polka-dot-like patches of missing hair, particularly on the face and head.
It is considered to be a typical condition of puppyhood and approximately 90% of puppies that are affected will overcome this situation without the use of any form of medication or treatment. However, you must keep your dog’s bedding, toys, and collar clean, and your vet may recommend a topical ointment if your dog displays any signs of itching or discomfort.
Generalized Demodectic Mange
This form of mange tends to affect a much larger area of your dog's skin and may, in fact, affect his entire body. It can lead to severe itching and has the potential to lead to secondary infections that require veterinary treatment.
Your dog may need to undergo a course of antibacterial and antibiotic medications. He may also recommend the use of a topical ointment to help reduce the itching and the risk of a secondary infection. Since this form of mange can also be the result of a compromised immune system or be hereditary in nature, or some other form of underlying medical condition, your vet should give your dog a complete examination to eliminate this possibility. Final treatment will be based on the age of your dog and his overall health.
Demodectic Pododermatitis Mange
Vets consider demodectic pododermatitis to be the hardest form of mange to treat. This is because it is localized to a dog's feet and is usually accompanied by a secondary infection. In most cases, the vet will need to complete a deep tissue biopsy in order to locate the mites responsible for this type of mange and allow them to make the right diagnosis.
Treatment for demodectic pododermatitis starts out with long-term antibiotics to help eliminate the secondary infection that typically accompanies this form of mange. You will need to dip your dog's feet in a Mitaban dip (this is currently the only FDA approved form of treatment) weekly after you have bathed them is a benzoyl peroxide shampoo. You will also need to keep your dog's paws as dry as possible between dips, as getting them wet makes it difficult for the dip to go its job.
Sarcoptic mange is typically transmitted from one dog to another in a confined area such as a boarding kennel, grooming facility, or pet-sitting home. It is somewhat easier to treat but there is only one true way to prevent your dog from being exposed to the mites responsible for this form of mange, which is to keep your dog isolated from other dogs. This can be almost impossible to do, but thankfully there are treatments that work quite well.
If your dog is diagnosed with sarcoptic mange, your vet may recommend an antiparasitic medication to help kill the mites. He may also recommend a topical medication in the form of an ointment that will help to relieve the itching that can lead to inflammation and a risk of secondary infections that will require further treatment, such as antibiotics. Be sure to check with your vet before using any type of mange medication as some are known to be toxic to dogs.
Importance of Preventing Mange
While many younger dogs will recover fully from mange with minimal treatment, adult dogs often require more extensive and expensive treatments in order to bring this condition under control. The good news is that as long as treatment is timely, your dog should make a full recovery and soon be back to his old self again.
As with most illnesses, diseases, and other medical conditions, the more time and effort you take to prevent both of these forms of mange from affecting your dog, the happier and healthy he will be. An ounce of prevention is worth far more than a pound of cure when it comes to mange in dogs. Doing your best to keep your dog away from others who have mange might be challenging, but your dog and your wallet are sure to appreciate it.
An added benefit is that keeping your dog free of mange means you won't have to spend hours scrubbing virtually every inch of your home and making countless trips with him to see his vet. This is something both of you are sure to appreciate. Maybe you can use some of the money you save to buy him a new toy!
Manageable, but Best Avoided
Although mange is no longer as common as it once was, it is still out there waiting to be passed from one or more dogs to your four-legged friend. It is your job to do everything you can to keep your dog clean and healthy, provide him a hygienic environment, and prevent him from coming into contact with infested dogs and the mites they carry. However, if your dog does end up with one of these forms of mange, the best thing you can do is take him in to see his vet and then follow the instructions he gives you to the letter. As long as you do this, your dog should make a full recovery and be ready to get back to a normal life.