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Mange is a skin disease which is caused by several species of mites. Some mites are naturally found in our dog’s skin and hair; however, others may not. All mites, regardless of if they are naturally found or not, have the potential to cause mild to severe skin infections. The most common type of mange, Demodex, lives on dogs naturally and even lives on humans naturally.
The Demodex mite is not rare and the majority of healthy pets possess a certain number of demodex without problems. If your pet has a weakened immune system, the mites multiply quickly as the dog’s body is not able to maintain the mite population properly. The increased number of mites will results in a severe health condition which leaves the skin bald and leathery.
Dogs less than 18 months of age are prone to localized demodectic mange which often clears on its own. Generalized demodectic mange is more serious and has been found to be hereditary most often affecting:
Senior dogs who have an underlying medical condition, regardless of breed, are also more prone to developing mange. Other factors which affect mange include:
The symptoms of mange depend upon the type of mite causing the condition. Demodectic mange often leads to hair loss, scabbing and sores. Sarcoptic mange causes extreme itching and results in restlessness, hair loss, reddened skin, scabs and sores most commonly on the ears, elbows, face and legs. The skin also becomes leathery in texture and appearance after a period of time.
There are several types of mange in dogs. Sarcoptic mange, also known as canine scabies, is caused by microscopic mites and is easily transferred between hosts. All dogs possess demodectic mange mites which are transferred from mother to pup during cuddling in the first few days of life. Most dogs do not have a problem with demodex mites; however, some may experience severe cases of mange from them.
If your dog has mange, you should consult a veterinarian. The veterinarian will perform a physical examination and take skin scrapings to be analyzed under a microscope. Depending on the type of mange, medication may be prescribed to be given orally, via shampoo, topically or by injection. These treatments must be given exactly as the veterinarian prescribes them as these can be toxic to dogs in large amounts.
Amber L. Drake, a Professional Canine Behaviorist and Adjunct Professor of Biological Science, has extensive experience in the Animal Science Field. She has worked with dogs professionally for over ten years. Her clients range from private pet parents to large canine rescue organizations. In addition to accepting clients on a regular basis, Drake serves as an Adjunct Professor at Jamestown Community College and Kaplan University. Drake has earned a Doctor of Education (ABD), Educational Specialist Post-Masters, Master of Arts in Education and a Bachelor of Science in Biology. She has completed coursework at Cornell University for Pre-Veterinary Medicine and Animal Science, Biochemistry at UC Berkeley, Veterinary Technology at Penn Foster and a number of Continuing Education courses to remain up-to-date in her field.