You may see photos or videos online of stray dogs with terrible mange. But mange can happen to your dog too. If your dog is scratching away at himself, he could have mange.
What Is Mange In Dogs?
Mange is a parasitic skin disease that most dogs are susceptible to. The 2 most common types of mange in dogs are demodectic and sarcoptic. Both are caused by mites. Demodectic mange. is known as red mange or demodex. Sarcoptic mange (called scabies in humans) is very contagious. Symptoms and treatment are very similar. But it’s the type of mites that cause mange that is the difference.
Symptoms Of Mange In Dogs
Symptoms for both types of mange are very similar. Your dog gets infested with mites, which create an irritation that leads to severe itching. Mites thrive in hairless areas so you’ll find them on the inside of the ears, armpits, and belly. You’ll also see these signs:
- Extreme itchiness, intense scratching and flaky skin
- Skin rashes
- Skin will be red and inflamed
- Bumps as the mites burrow under the skin
- Patches of hair loss through chewing and scratching
- Scabs and crustiness
- Open sores and secondary skin infections
- Possible swollen lymph nodes
Other signs mange is causing your dog’s itching is…
- Treatments for allergy relief or skin irritations don’t work
- In sarcoptic mange, small bites or track marks on your dog’s skin
- Demodectic mange has a yeasty odor and you may see blackheads or an acne-like rash
What Is Sarcoptic Mange In Dogs?
Microscopic female mites, sarcoptes scabiei, burrow beneath the skin surface to lay eggs. Eggs hatch in 3 to 10 days and rise to the surface where they develop into adult mites and reproduce. The sarcoptic mite can survive 5 days without a host. Adult mites live for 3 to 4 weeks. And the cycle repeats.
A 2010 University of Nottingham study by Feather et al found that young dogs are more susceptible to sarcoptic mange, suggesting age-related immunity (1).
RELATED: How to tackle sarcoptic mange in dogs …
Is Sarcoptic Mange Contagious?
Yes. Sarcoptic mites spread on the skin surface, so this type of mange is highly contagious among animals and can be spread to humans. It spreads from direct contact and common areas. But the mites can only complete their life cycles on dogs and some animals, not humans.
To minimize the spread, isolate your dog, keep him off furniture and wash his bedding. Put his toys and bowls through the dishwasher. Isolate and treat other pets in your home in case it has spread.
How Is Sarcoptic Mange In Dogs Diagnosed?
It’s hard to get a definitive diagnosis for sarcoptic mange. That’s because it’s a microscopic mite that moves quickly, so skin scrapings can be negative. Several skin scrapings might be needed before the mites or mite eggs are captured for viewing under a microscope.
But because it’s very contagious, among people too, if you and other dogs in the home begin itching, chances are it’s been passed on. Then everyone has a case of sarcoptic mange. And if you’ve got it, you’ll notice a purple rash too. Sometimes, for lack of a better diagnosis, a vet will simply prescribe Ivermectin (the same as the popular heartworm medicine). If it treats the mange, then the diagnosis is confirmed.
Demodectic Mange in Dogs
Demodectic mange is the most common form of mange in dogs. It often occurs in puppies who have immature immune systems that allow the number of skin mites to increase rapidly.
Unlike sarcoptic mange, this cigar-shaped mite, the demodex canis, is a normal part of the flora of canine skin and is usually harmless. They’re passed to pups from their mothers a few days after birth. Demodectic mites grow deep in hair follicles and stay there without trouble.
A dog with a healthy immune system keeps them under control. Dogs at risk of demodex include:
- Adult dogs or puppies with weak immune systems
- Young dogs may develop patches that can go away with or without treatment
- Elderly, sick, neglected or stray dogs with weak immunity
- Diseased dogs with cancer or diabetes
A dog with demodectic mange loses hair in patches but doesn’t usually have severe itching. Hair loss begins on the face, especially around the eyes. It can be localized in a few areas or generalized in many areas.
RELATED: Demodectic mange in dogs …
Is Demodectic Mange Contagious?
No, demodectic mange is not contagious to other animals or humans. Demodex mites travel to puppies from their mothers shortly after birth. Since the mite is found on virtually all dogs, when a healthy dog comes into contact with a dog with a demodex infection, he likely won’t get infected.
How Is Demodectic Mange In Dogs Diagnosed?
Like sarcoptic mange, your veterinarian will take deep skin scrapings to diagnose this disease. But because these mites are naturally present, she’ll need to determine if there are larger numbers present than expected. Sometimes, a skin biopsy is done as a last resort for dogs with chronic skin infections that haven’t responded to allergy treatments. It’s the clinical diagnosis that determines if she’s treating a parasite like mites or an allergy.
Veterinary Treatment For Mange In Dogs
Your vet will probably prescribe oral medications for a mite infestation in dogs. Topical treatments often include drugs for heartworm disease like Ivermectin and Interceptor. Selamectin is a spot-on treatment used to kill flea and ticks. But if you’re following natural methods to raise your dog, you’re already aware of the dangers and toxicity associated with both of these types of drugs. In just a bit, there’s more info on how to stop the spread of mange with natural methods.
RELATED: Find out how flea and tick meds rank for safety …
There is a lime sulfur dip used but it’s corrosive, can cause chemical burns to your dog’s skin, harm his respiratory tract, damage his eyes and even kill him if he drinks it! And there’s an anti-seborrheic shampoo that provides temporary relief but will suppress symptoms. Amitraz is an insecticide used. It’s a systemic treatment with side effects that include sedation, incoordination, slow heart rate, vomiting or diarrhea as well as swelling, redness, and itchiness … the very things you’re trying to eliminate.
These methods are neurotoxic and penetrate your dog’s entire body including organs. And they are as toxic to you as they are to your dog. Most methods have gone untested and unchallenged as the only treatment of choice for decades.
Vets may also recommend steroids, in cream or tablets, to reduce the inflammation from itching. But steroids treat skin problems by suppressing the immune system. So they may stop the symptom (itching) but they won’t cure the mange.
Your vet may also recommend antibiotics to treat secondary bacterial infections from any open sores. But antibiotics are indiscriminate killers. They kill good bacteria as well as bad bacteria and harm your dog’s microbiome located in his gut. And that’s where you’ll find 90% of his immune system. So when antibiotics kill the friendly bacteria in your dog’s gut, pathogenic bacteria can take over and increase your dog’s risk of disease
RELATED: 3 problems with antibiotics for dogs …
7 Natural Ways To Manage Mange In Dogs
Once you begin treatment, your dog can remain contagious with mites for 2-4 weeks until you thwart their life cycle. It’s a big commitment to take on these home remedies for mange. And all dogs in contact with him in the home should be treated too. So you want to be consistent and diligent to ensure success.
1. Boost Immunity
It can be a fluke that your dog was in the wrong place at the wrong time to contract sarcoptic mange. But if his immune system is weak, that’s all it takes for a parasite like mites to take hold and take over. Healthy dogs with strong immunity are able to resist parasitic infections.
Homeopathic veterinarian Dee Blanco DVM, says the immune system is the epicenter of health.
“It’s really about supporting the immune system. This means giving things like mushrooms, DMG (Dimethylglycine) and vitamins (C, D, A). Of course, homeopathy and even echinacea or other herbs like goldenseal as well. It’s not an easy one, but mange is all about immune failure.”
RELATED: The immune benefits of mushrooms for dogs
2. Feed A Healthy Diet
Just as a whole food, raw meat diet supports your dog’s gut biome, a healthy diet supports the microbiome of his skin, to replenish beneficial bacteria and strengthen his immune system. And you need to include prebiotics and probiotics as a vital fresh food source of enzymes.
3. Bathe Your Dog With Safe Ingredients
Most soaps and shampoos are too harsh and drying for the irritated skin of a mange condition. You definitely don’t want to use “medicated” shampoo which can irritate the raw skin of a mange dog, as well as suppress the disease which could make the mite problem worse. Use a natural shampoo without toxic ingredients for your dog’s baths.
For sarcoptic mange, you’ll want to bathe. your dog once a week for about 3 weeks. Be careful when bathing your dog not to let the mites transfer into your clean environment. If your dog has demodectic mange, you need to bathe twice a week, usually for several weeks.
Canine herbalist Rita Hogan recommends neem shampoos for dogs with sarcoptic mange.
4. Use Anti-Parasitic Herb And Oil Blends
For sarcoptic mange, canine herbalist Rita Hogan recommends these antiparasitic remedies.
- Barbados Nut Oil (Jatropha cruces) – insecticidal, antiparasitic and antifungal.
- Neem Oil with Palmarosa and Geranium Essential Oil Blend – this combination is antiparasitic, bacterial and antifungal.
- Turmeric And Neem Oil Infusion
Find the recipes and how to use these herbs here …
Caution: Some people suggest tea tree or clove oil, but these are toxic to dogs and should be avoided.
5. Natural Mange Treatment
Mite Avenge is a chemical-free way to fight both types of mange. Its list of ingredients includes essential oils, styrax benzoin, vitamin E, sea kelp, dihydrogen dioxide, and disodium tetraborate (borax that’s blended with other ingredients for optimum results). The manufacturer provides detailed instructions on using the product for both types of mange.
Quercetin is found in many fruits and vegetables and has strong anti-inflammatory and anti-histamine characteristics. It helps suppress cellular activity associated with inflammation and that means less itching! That’s led to it being called Nature’s Benadryl … without the side effects of the medication!
7. Natural Antibiotics
If your dog has skin infections from mange, there are natural antibiotics that will help, including:
- Olive Leaf
- Oil of Oregano
RELATED: Read more about natural antibiotics and how to use them …
8. Decontaminate Your Home
If your dog has sarcoptic mange, you’ll need to decontaminate your home to stop the spread of mites.
- Wash your dog’s bedding, towels and your clothes using a cup of borax in the hottest water possible. Dry on high heat too.
- Vigorously vacuum floors, rugs, upholstery. Steam them if possible using borax to the solution. Change vacuum bags outside. If using a bagless machine, add salt to the collection cup to shred mites. Empty and wash it outside.
- Wash bare floors using hot water and borax.
- Apply diatomaceous earth in vehicles, kennels, rugs, floorboards and baseboards, furniture and mattresses where mites may be. It dehydrates the exoskeletons of insects and parasites like mites causing death.
- Bag and seal soft items, rugs and even furniture and store for several weeks so mites die off.
- If in doubt, strip off your clothes and shower and wash them again.
Within a few weeks of starting down the path to better health and following natural remedies, your dog’s skin should become healthier and his fur should start to grow back. And both you and your dog will be much happier.
1. Feather, L., Gough, K., Flynn, R.J. et al. A retrospective investigation into risk factors of sarcoptic mange in dogs. Parasitol Res 107, 279–283 (2010)