By Jackie Kellum
When the word “Mange” is said, all sorts of horrifying scary images come to mind. Although it is not something you would want for your cat or dog, it is manageable. There are just a few basic things to learn about this condition, so you can become an educated pet owner, and an advocate for your pet.
There are three types/species of mites that cause Mange. Sarcoptic mange is caused by mites that burrow into the upper layers of the animal’s skin, and lay their eggs. Sarcoptic mange can be passed to other animals by direct contact. Demodectic mange is cause by cigar-shaped mites normally found in the skin’s hair follicles and oil glands. This type of mange is not contagious. Cat and dogs do not pass this type of mange to each other, and it is usually seen in puppies but can occasionally develop in older dogs or cats. Cheyletiella mites are also called “walking dandruff” because they are large enough to be seen with the naked eye as they move around in the skin.
What to look for: Symptoms usually start with hair loss and severe itching on the elbows, armpits, the hock [the bones that form the ankle/heel of the dog], chest and ears. It then rapidly spreads to the face, eyelids, neck , feet and belly. As the infection worsens it can spread over the entire body. Small red pustules often develop along with yellow crusts on the skin. Because of the severe itching and resultant scratching, the skin soon becomes traumatized and a variety of sores and infections can develop as a result. If the infection goes untreated or is mistakenly treated as an allergy, the skin may darken due to the constant irritation, and the surrounding lymph nodes may become enlarged.
Making the diagnosis: The standard method is to perform a skin scraping identifying the mite under the microscope. Unfortunately, on average, only twenty percent of the infected pets will show Sarcoptes mites on any given scraping. Therefore, if a pet has a positive skin scraping, the diagnosis is confirmed. However, a negative scraping does not rule out sarcoptic mange. Therefore, most diagnoses are made based on history and response to treatment for scabies.
Treatment: Treatment consists of topical, oral, or injectable medications to kill the mites, and antibiotics to control secondary bacterial infections. Treatment may need to be repeated. If the diagnosis is sarcoptic mange or Cheyletiella mites, it is a good idea to thoroughly clean all bedding, brushes, etc.
Prevention: There are several products that have been shown to be extremely effective, safe, and convenient, such as: “Revolution” - a monthly topical application , which also provides flea and tick protection. Frontline Plus, Frontline Top Spot, and Frontline Spray are also labeled for use as aids in controlling sarcoptic mange. Discuss with your vet which product and dose is best for your cat or dog. Can you catch scabies from a dog or cat? Dogs and cats are infected by different types of mites/scabies than those which infect humans. When canine or feline mites land on human skin, they fail to thrive and produce only a mild itch that goes away on its own. This is unlike human scabies which get worse unless the condition is treated. If your cat or dog shows any signs of skin irritation, it is wise to take your pet to your vet to have him/her examined and treated, rather than guessing what it might be and hoping it will go away on its own.