Sarcoptic mange

Sarcoptic Mange

What are the warning signs and symptoms that a client’s dog has caught this highly contagious skin disease?

So what is Sarcoptic Mange?

Sarcoptic mange is highly contagious and is caused by mites that are almost microscopic and closely related to ticks. Their entire life cycle of three to four weeks is spent on the host.

Female sarcoptic mites are twice as big as males. Males stay on the pet’s skin surface. But female mites burrow into the upper layers of the skin forming long tunnels. The dogs’ reaction to this activity is intense itching, scratching, and skin inflammation.

Periodically the female mites lay small clusters of eggs in their tunnels that hatch into immature larva that mature into “nymph” forms (with six legs). Female nymphs mature to create their own skin tunnels creating more itching and inflammation. As the number of mites on the dog increases, its skin often becomes very crusty.

How does a dog catch Sarcoptic mange?

Sarcoptic mange is usually spread by foxes or where large numbers of poorly maintained dogs are kept in close proximity, such as at rescue centres, kennels or puppy farms. Mother dogs in recovery or in long-term balance with the parasite often transmit it to their offspring. So puppies from puppy farms are susceptible to mange.

So how can we tell if a client’s dog has mange?

It is easiest for the mites to burrow into skin that has sparse hair. So, as dogs check out most things with their head this makes the edges of the ears and the face prime areas for mange to begin. Elbows and tummies are also areas that become infected early. When they do, small red papules and welts in these areas are common.

The intense irritation these mites produce, cause the pet to scratch incessantly. No other chronic skin problem is as intensely itchy as sarcoptic mange. Balding, oozing raw skin are typical signs and these often causes off-white crusts to form that are very typical for sarcoptic mange.

Bacteria and yeast take advantage of this unhealthy situation and give the pet a strong, musty odour people often refer to as a ‘mousey smell’.

Do all dogs with Sarcoptic mange show these signs?

No. Some pets carry low numbers of mites without obvious symptoms. Sarcoptic mites cause antibodies to form in the dogs’ blood. In some dogs these antibodies appear to keep the number of mites in check.

We will very rarely see mange in a pet dog as the itching is normally so intense the owner will spot it first and hopefully take their dog to be treated by their vet. If you are suspicious of a dogs’ skin that comes into your salon on check in, ask the owner to get it checked out by a vet before it is admitted into your care.

If you associate with a pet that has sarcoptic mange, you may begin to itch (Scabies). Dog sarcoptic mites are temporary (1-2 wks) – but they are quite itchy and unpleasant. They commonly form on the arms, neck and torso near elastic waistbands that give the parasite traction. So be sure to use gloves when you handle a possibly infected pet and put all your garments in a hot wash cycle afterwards.

Sarcoptic mange is highly contagious and can be transferred in the grooming salon through towels, brushes, clippers and caging so if you do ever have to deal with a customer’s dog that has mange you must make sure everything is kept clean and disinfected. The sarcoptic mites can survive off the body of the dog, sometimes as long as a few weeks if the temperature is right, so you will need to keep up your deep cleansing regime for some time!