The canine skin disease known as mange can cause skin sores, itching and hair loss. Take precautions to prevent mange from passing onto other dogs and even humans in rare instances.
Of Mites & Mange
Mange is caused by mites, tiny arachnid parasites that burrow into a dog's skin or hair follicles. Two specific species of mites are responsible for the two different types of mange found in dogs. Most cases of mange are demodectic and are caused by the Demodex canis mite. These mites occur naturally on dogs and are often passed onto puppies from their mothers. Normally, the dog's immune system can prevent the mites from becoming too numerous, but if the immune system is suppressed or immature, mite numbers increase. Sarcoptes scabiei mites cause the second form of mange, known as sarcoptic mange or canine scabies. This type of mange spreads from infected dogs and causes serious skin irritation and discomfort.
Effects of Mange
With demodectic mange, your dog loses some of his hair but probably will not suffer from severe itching. In some cases, the hair loss is localized, usually around the eyes or on the face at first. In other dogs, the hair loss may affect the dog's whole body. Sarcoptic mange, on the other hand, causes dogs to scratch intensely because of the severe irritation from the mites burrowing through their skin. This scratching can lead to skin rashes, crust formation on parts of the skin and hair loss.
Mange & Medicated Bath Time
In cases of generalized demodectic mange and sarcoptic mange, baths with medicated shampoos may be part of the required treatment. Dogs with sarcoptic mange, for example, are sometimes dipped into baths of shampoo designed to kill the mites on their skin. Generalized demodectic mange is often treated with shampoos containing benzoyl peroxide. These shampoos remove scaliness and greasiness from the dog's hair -- both sometimes seen with mange -- while cleaning out the hair follicles where these mites live. Veterinarians often bathe the dog with benzoyl peroxide shampoos before dipping them in mite-killing solutions so the chemicals can more easily reach their targets in the hair follicles.
Non-Medicated Bath Time & Mange
While medicated baths may be part of the required treatment for mange, additional bathing can help, too. Bathing your dog with a gentle shampoo, such as a hypoallergenic canine shampoo, can keep the skin from drying out -- although shampooing too much can have the opposite affect -- and keep the dog's skin clean, which reduces infection risks. However, do not wash infected and non-infected dogs together, especially in cases of sarcoptic mange, because the disease is highly contagious among canines. Humans can also contract sarcoptic mange from their dogs. The disease causes a rash of red bumps on the skin, so bathe these dogs carefully. Since transmission to humans requires direct contact, wear long rubber gloves while washing a dog with sarcoptic mange. Also, wash any clothing that comes in contact with the mites in warm, soapy water. Demodectic mange can pass to other dogs but not humans.