Mange? Mites? What’s the difference?
Mange is a skin disease caused by tiny mites that are related to spiders. These miniature parasites quickly proliferate in a dog’s skin causing discomfort and serious health problems. Several types of mites affect dogs, but we’re just concerned with the two that are responsible for serious mange misery.
- Sarcoptes scabei, known as the Sarcoptic mite or scabies mite causes Sarcoptic mange. This nasty creature is highly contagious to humans and almost all other animals and should be dealt with swiftly.
- Demodex canis, or Demodectic mite causes demodectic mange (often called red mange or puppy mange). It’s a natural inhabitant of every dog’s skin but when it gets out of control can cause serious mayhem. Demodectic is the more common variety and the least responsive to conventional veterinary treatment.
How do I know if my dog has mange?
Tough question, crummy answers. Most of our customers find themselves digging for answers after other treatments have failed. That’s because mange mite symptoms mimic other conditions and cause a lot of confusion. The typical diagnostic procedure for mange is the vet does a skin scraping and examines the results under a microscope. The problem is, this test is notoriously unreliable. Misdiagnosis is common.
Mites either move too fast or burrow too deep to be easily detected. Skin scrapings come back negative about 80% of the time, even when mites are really there. This leads the vet off in another direction, and nine times out of ten, the diagnosis is allergies. Sometimes it’s the vague diagnosis of dermatitis. Either way this is often very wrong and a process of trial and error begins. (Oh, the stories we could tell…)
Valuable time is lost during the standard round of antibiotics, antihistamines and/or steroids that usually follows. If the problem is truly allergies, symptoms will improve. But if the problem is actually mites, there might be temporary improvement but it won’t last because the problem hasn’t been treated. Truth be told, they actually make it worse because steroids and antibiotics suppress the immune system, allowing the mite population to explode and antihistamines just mask symptoms as the problem gets worse. If you find yourself in this scenario, insist that no steroids be given. Ask your vet to instead try one of the newer drugs for the miserable itching and inflammation caused by allergies and contact dermatitis. If these don’t help, you’ll know for certain that the problem lays elsewhere. If you and/or others in your household are itching, that’s a strong indication you’re dealing with Sarcoptic mange. And if your pooch is young, a rescue, has had any health issues, stresses, shots or procedures that could affect its immune system, you’ve got a dog with strong precursors of Demodectic mange.
What Are the General Symptoms of Mange in Dogs?
Every case of mites is different but generally, the symptoms include:
- Patchy hair loss
- Scaly, reddened skin
- Irritated skin that will not heal
- Rash, bumps or sores
- Skin discoloration
- Itching, sometimes to the point of self-mutilation
- Chronic skin scratching, biting or chewing
- Agitation, nervousness or restlessness
- Obvious discomfort in the animal
Your dog may have a few or perhaps all of them.
If you’ve made it this far down the page, you’re probably searching for answers on your own. Use this site to help narrow down which type your dog might have and what to do about it. A tremendous amount of information on each particular type can be found throughout this site, in our blog and in our free e-booklet, Managing the Misery of Mange Mites. Download it here.
Is Mange Contagious?
Yes and no. Sarcoptic mites are highly contagious. Demodectic mites are not. Sarcoptic mites are transmitted by casual contact with an infected host such as another dog, wildlife, or even a person. Demodectic mites are harmlessly transferred from one dog to another with close contact. This is supposed to happen. Demodex mites are normal. Passing a few from dog to dog is not the problem. The strength of the dog’s immune system is the problem. As long as the immune system is strong, it controls the mites and no skin disease results. If the immune system is somehow out of balance, the dog can’t resist the mites and they overrun the poor dog. Therefore, isolation of dogs with demodicosis is unnecessary.
Both types of mite infestations are progressive and dangerous. Permanent recovery does not happen spontaneously except in mild cases of Demodectic mange in puppies.
Are Certain Dogs Prone to Mange?
Any dog can get mange. Popular opinion use to be that only scruffy, unkempt digs got mange but nothing could be further from the truth. Mange is becoming more common by the day and there’s nothing you as an owner did to cause it. We cover this in our blog here.
A dog can pick up a Sarcoptic mite almost as easily as a flea. However, Demodectic mange is more common, and certain ages and breeds of dogs are easier victims. Click here to read an in-depth article on the subject.
How Is Mange Treated?
Typically people turn to their trusted veterinarian first. Regrettably, the conventional treatments for mites and mange haven’t changed much in decades. Most involve risky, toxic chemicals that have poor success rates. Typically, dogs are loaded up with harsh neurologic pesticides that were invented for cows and given off-label to dogs. The chemicals turn their entire system into a poisoned food source. The success rate of such treatments is a dismal 67% and it’s no wonder there are so many side effects.
Conventional wisdom in the medical world involves rotating treatments until achieving a combination that works. It can take a while for all this to play out. For example, it’s not unusual for Ivermectin treatments to last up to a year. Click here to read a rundown on the most popular veterinary options. And if that’s not horrifying enough, click here to learn about their risks.
If you decide to take control of your dog’s health yourself, you have a better choice.
Nature provides powerful tools that have been proven effective over and over. Sadly, safe natural treatment is often overlooked in favor more questionable chemical options. Conventional veterinary medicine is grounded in pharmacology and shuns alternative treatments. (Did you know many courses in vet schools are actually taught or underwritten by drug and pet food companies?) Practitioners who cling to this mantra may simply be uninformed, threatened or perhaps protective of lucrative return visits, but whatever the reason, we can safely say that natural is not the first option unless an owner is a proactive advocate for their dog’s health and insists it be that way. Once an owner makes the decision to get out of line and look at alternatives, they may be surprised to find out many great resources they have.
Curing mange is best done naturally and with a holistic program to heal your dog.
Mite Avenge is nature’s most effective mite killer. It has worked in many cases where nothing else has because it’s incredibly lethal to mites yet nurturing to your pet. Unlike toxic poisons and chemicals, there’s nothing artificial in it and it’s designed to help with the healing process after the mites are dead. Read what’s in it here. It safe, works faster than chemical treatments and has no side effects. We’re here to help you every step of the way but the first step is to download our free e-booklet.
Mites aren’t to be trifled with.
Sarcoptic mites can overtake an entire household in weeks and drive a dog to mutilate itself. Demodex can progress from localized to generalized, eventually becoming a chronic nightmare. The least your pet will deal with is progressive hair loss and itching. The worst can culminate in death. All mites are parasites that cause your pet to suffer and few cases resolve themselves on their own. Your pet is depending on you for compassionate help.