Thursday, December 20, 2012

Mange In Dogs: Sarcoptic vs. Demodectic

Mange is not just a mean term to describe sickly looking dogs... Did you know that it's actually a parasite? Mites to be exact. There are two forms of mange: sarcoptic and demodectic. Both mostly affect puppies, but dogs of any age can get either of these mange mites.

Demodectic Mange

Photo: Animal Kingdom Pet Hospital
Demodex is a mite that lives on every dog's body. Even your dog. That's not necessarily a bad thing though. Demodex mites can be described as looking like very tiny alligators and can be seen with a microscope. So when do demodectic mitesbecome a problem?

Sometimes, in dogs who are young or have a weakened immune system, the demodex take over. Some puppies even get it from their mothers. Older dogs who suddenly come down with demodectic mange should be checked for autoimmune diseases.

This type of mange causes hair loss and itching, as well as secondary bacterial infections. Demodex usually affects the area around a dog's eyes, muzzle, and front legs.

It is diagnosed easily with a skin scraping of the affected areas. A veterinarian will use a scalpel blade with some mineral oil to scrape the area just until a little bit of bleeding is caused. (You have to scrape hard enough in order to get a good sample.) Afterwards, the mites can be visualized under the microscope.

Photo: basykes
The most popular method is to have your dog "dipped" in a special medicine called Mitaban. Mitaban is made out of a drug called amitraz. If your dog has demodectic mange, they will have to return to the vet for multiple dips in the weeks to come. Demodectic mange can also be treated by giving ivermectin orally in some cases. Ivermectin is an anti-parasitic drug that is also used in some heartworm prevention medications.


Sarcoptic Mange

Image: Micah & Erin
Sarcoptic mange is less commonly seen than demodex. Sarcoptic mange is also known as scabies. Sarcopes are also a type of mite that cause extreme itching. It can be passed on to humans, ferrets, and cats, but they typically prefer living on their dog hosts.

These mites burrow deep into the skin laying eggs and causing severe itching all over the body. They prefer areas without much fur such as the chest, belly, elbows, and armpits. It is thought that the mites might actually cause an allergic reaction. Due to the severe itchiness of sarcoptic mange, a dog will typically cause a lot of trauma to his skin from scratching too much. This is where the term "mangy" comes from.

Scabies are also diagnosed with a skin scraping. These mites can be a little more difficult to locate under a microscope than demodex.

Sarcoptic mange can be treated many different ways, including the same methods used for demodectic mange. Some popular topical flea medications such as Revolution are also labeled for use to treat sarcoptic mange. Since dogs usually cause so much trauma to their skin, secondary bacterial or yeast infections can arise. These will need to be treated with antibiotics or anti-fungal medications.

I hope none of my readers ever have to deal with either of these types mites, as it can be a long treatment and healing process for the patient. Not to mention the amount of discomfort it can cause to the dog.

Note: I decided to write about mange mites because last week my daughter, Lily, was diagnosed with scabies... I know, I'm as shocked as you are probably! Although humans have their own species of scabies, I could not wish this upon anyone - dog or human! Just looking at it makes me itch... I feel so sorry for her and hope she is able to have a speedy recovery.


  1. This is making me itchy!

    Mom saw a Lot of mangy pups when she was at the shelter. She says the worst was 11 pups all at once that she had to dip every week -- 9 little one and 2 big ones. And that dip stuff smells Bad =P

    But it was worth it to help the pups feel all better :)

    1. Wow 11! Glad your mom was able to help them out! And yes, that stuff is pretty stinky!

  2. We have our frontline regular as clockwork. We don't want any nasty bugs. Have a terrific Thursday.
    Best wishes Molly

    1. Unfortunately, frontline doesn't protect or treat these little critters. But your chances are pretty slim of coming down with this stuff. I think you're pretty safe Miss Molly.

  3. Awwww, youz had a re- furb..Looking good :) Wez wiff Molly..Frontline, like clockwork, just like me..BOL xx0xx

    Mollie and Alfie

    1. Thanks guys! I think I like this template. Except for some little things that are bothering me! Hehe

  4. When Louise came to live with us she had terrible Demontex. Poor thing. She also had a collar imbedded in her neck. She was about 5 months old. We used ivermectin for a long time. She still has scars but she only seems to get a flare if she is really stressed. Good post. Thanks.

  5. Hey it's Jet here. Hi Miss Ann.

    Wowee, new design, whoo hoo!

    Icky mange stuff... we didn't know about the second kind, only the first. Very informative .... Miss Ann... I have a new pyoderma thingie, so, if you don't mind, I don't want to think about itching today... I'll tell you what happened this morning tomorrow. :(

  6. So sorry about Lily, hope she gets over the scabies quickly. Healing purrrrrrrrrrrrrrs to her.

    Although what you write implies that demodectic mange is not contagious, I think that needs to be stated explicitly, so potential adopters are not scared off because of it.

  7. wow, I hope Lily is feeling better and on the mend!
    Love your Blog.
    Lisa, Finn and Abigail

  8. Thank you for writing this!
    My almost 4 year old dog has been dealing with what was diagnoised as yeast infection and recently rediagnosed as Mange. He has been dealing with the severe itching for 2 YEARS! I was afraid we would have to put him to slept because of it but I am visiting with the vet tomorrow and this artical gives me hope. I dont want to lose him but I will not see him suffer much longer without significant improvements. We just switched vets and this is the second visit since he was immediately diagnosed with Mange and Staph from the mange.
    Wish us luck and I am putting my heart & soul into fixing my furbaby boy.


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