How do dogs get mange?

HotbotBy HotBotUpdated: July 9, 2024

Mange is a skin condition caused by parasitic mites, which can lead to severe itching, hair loss, and inflammation. Understanding how dogs contract mange is crucial for pet owners to prevent and manage this condition effectively. This comprehensive guide explores the causes, transmission, types, symptoms, diagnosis, and prevention of mange in dogs.

Causes of Mange in Dogs

Mange is primarily caused by two types of mites: Sarcoptes scabiei and Demodex canis. These microscopic parasites burrow into the skin, leading to irritation and other symptoms.

Sarcoptic Mange (Scabies)

Sarcoptes scabiei is a contagious mite responsible for sarcoptic mange, also known as scabies. These mites can infect dogs through direct contact with an infested animal or an environment contaminated with the mites.

Demodectic Mange (Demodicosis)

Demodex canis mites naturally live on most dogs' skin in small numbers without causing harm. However, when a dog's immune system is compromised, these mites can multiply excessively, leading to demodectic mange.

Transmission of Mange

Direct Contact

Sarcoptic mange is highly contagious and spreads through direct contact with an infected dog. This can happen when dogs play, groom each other, or share bedding and grooming tools.

Environmental Contamination

Mites can survive in the environment for several days. Dogs can contract sarcoptic mange by coming into contact with contaminated surfaces, such as bedding, carpets, and furniture.

Weakened Immune System

Demodectic mange is not considered contagious in most cases. Instead, it occurs when a dog's immune system cannot keep the naturally occurring Demodex mites in check. Puppies, elderly dogs, and those with underlying health conditions are more susceptible to developing demodectic mange.

Types of Mange

Understanding the different types of mange can help in identifying and treating the condition more effectively.

Localized Demodectic Mange

This type of mange typically affects a few isolated areas on the dog's body, causing patches of hair loss and mild irritation. It is more common in puppies and usually resolves on its own as the dog's immune system matures.

Generalized Demodectic Mange

Generalized demodectic mange affects larger areas of the body and can lead to severe skin infections. It requires medical intervention and is more challenging to treat than the localized form.

Sarcoptic Mange

Sarcoptic mange can affect any part of the dog's body but often starts on the ears, elbows, and abdomen. The intense itching and inflammation can cause dogs to scratch excessively, leading to secondary infections.

Symptoms of Mange

Recognizing the symptoms of mange is essential for early diagnosis and treatment.

Itching and Scratching

One of the most common symptoms of mange is intense itching, leading to constant scratching and biting at the affected areas.

Hair Loss

Hair loss in patches, particularly around the ears, elbows, and abdomen, is a telltale sign of mange. In severe cases, dogs may experience widespread hair loss.

Red, Inflamed Skin

Mange often causes the skin to become red, inflamed, and scaly. In sarcoptic mange, the skin may develop crusty sores and thickened areas.

Secondary Infections

Excessive scratching can break the skin, leading to secondary bacterial or fungal infections. These infections can cause additional symptoms, such as pus-filled sores and unpleasant odors.

Diagnosis of Mange

Accurate diagnosis is crucial for effective treatment. Veterinarians use several methods to diagnose mange.

Skin Scraping

A common diagnostic method involves taking a skin scraping from the affected area and examining it under a microscope to identify the presence of mites.


In some cases, a skin biopsy may be necessary to confirm the diagnosis, particularly for demodectic mange.

Clinical Signs

Veterinarians also consider the dog's clinical signs, history, and response to treatment when diagnosing mange.

Treatment and Management of Mange

Treatment varies depending on the type and severity of mange. Early intervention can improve the prognosis for affected dogs.

Medicated Shampoos and Dips

Medicated shampoos and dips containing antiparasitic compounds can help eliminate mites and soothe irritated skin. These treatments are often used for both sarcoptic and demodectic mange.

Topical and Oral Medications

Topical treatments, such as spot-on therapies, and oral medications, including ivermectin and milbemycin, can be effective in managing mange. These treatments are typically prescribed by a veterinarian.


If secondary infections are present, antibiotics may be necessary to treat bacterial infections and promote healing.

Immune Support

Supporting the dog's immune system through a balanced diet, supplements, and managing underlying health conditions can help in the recovery process, particularly for demodectic mange.

Prevention of Mange

Preventing mange involves reducing the risk of mite exposure and maintaining a healthy immune system.

Regular Grooming

Regular grooming helps detect early signs of mange and keeps the dog's coat and skin healthy. Using preventive treatments, such as flea and tick preventives, can also help reduce the risk of mite infestations.

Clean Living Environment

Keeping the dog's living environment clean and sanitized can prevent the spread of mites. Regularly washing bedding, toys, and grooming tools is essential.

Limit Contact with Infected Animals

Avoiding contact with infected animals and their environments can reduce the risk of contracting sarcoptic mange. This is particularly important in places where dogs congregate, such as dog parks and kennels.

Support Immune Health

Maintaining a strong immune system through proper nutrition, regular exercise, and routine veterinary care can help prevent demodectic mange. Addressing any underlying health issues promptly is also crucial.

By understanding the causes and transmission of mange, pet owners can take proactive steps to protect their dogs from this uncomfortable and potentially serious condition. Ensuring regular veterinary check-ups, maintaining proper hygiene, and providing a healthy lifestyle for their pets can significantly reduce the risk of mange. With vigilance and care, the relationship between dogs and their owners can remain harmonious and free from the distress of mange.

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