Your trusty guide to dog skin problems
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Dog Mange: Why Bugs Are Mean

Dog with mange scavenging for food.

Source: Wiki Commons

Mange is a skin disease that may occur on dogs, which are entirely caused by the presence of mites that cause harm and discomfort by being attaching themselves onto your dog to feed; in other words, they are parasites. Pretty similar to fleas, but these little guys are tiny in comparison. They’re no less deadly, though, so let’s get cracking on what makes them tick, and what makes them weep.

 

Causes

There are two types of mites that can cause mange in dogs. They’re both considered ‘mites’, but their appearance and modus operandi (ooh do I feel smart now) are vastly different from each other. Because the strategies for defeating either subspecies differ slightly due to their characteristics, it’s necessary to discuss both of them in equally great detail. Let’s start with the weaker of the two, first.

Demodex Mites

The first one we’ll talk about is called a ‘Demodex mite’. These things look like microscopic squid or maybe a cigar, and usually cause full blown mange by reproducing and exponentially multiplying their population on your dog’s fur.

Picture of a Demodex Mite. If you look closely, you can see the legs resembling a catapillar. Ew!

Source: Wiki Commons

The good news is that Demodex mites are easily beaten by a full-grown dog’s immune system. Meaning, if you have a puppy and he’s getting mange symptoms, it’s very likely that he just doesn’t have a fully developed immune system to combat them yet and that they won’t ever trouble him again once he reaches maturity. However, if you do have a full grown dog with these things being the cause of it (which will be determined when you visit the vet proper), it means that they’re not entirely healthy. If that happens, make sure to address the underlining problems while you attempt to treat the mange.

Demodex mites are contagious, but remember that unlike puppies and those that already have their immune systems weakened, most adult dogs can handle them with no problems. Transmission from dog to human is also impossible, so don’t worry about having close contact.

Sarcoptic Mites

This is the more dangerous of the two. The Sarcoptic Mite looks like a fat little creep that will dig through the skin to get what it wants. Its ‘excavations’ causes intense itchiness and crusty skin, which will cause your dog to frantically scratch in the affected region. Usually it gets so bad that dogs tend to scratch themselves raw, causing all sorts of secondary skin damage and increasing the chances of an infection.

A sarcoptic mite.

Source: Wiki commons

They are also highly contagious and can affect dogs of all ages, including humans! Therefore, if you suspect that your dog is suffering from sarcoptic mange, do your best to get yourself checked out as well, as there is a chance of you getting hit by the parasite as well.

Sarcoptic mites take extra effort to treat, due to its tendency to burrow under the skin, its contagiousness and the possibility of dog-to-human transmission, but it’s not a complete nightmare.

 

Symptoms

You’ll know if your dog has mange when he suffers from a loss of fur at some patches of his body, as well as a tendency to scratch or bite furiously at the affected parts. Red blisters may also form within the problem areas. Now granted, those symptoms describe every known dog skin problem known to mankind as well, but at the very least, this should tell you that your dog isn’t just scratching himself idly.

What you need to do next is to be sure that your dog has got mange. In order to do that, you’ll have to determine that your dog has got mites on him. To do that, you will need to get your pet to a vet and take a skin scraping test done for him.

This skin scraping test involves just that – scraping your dog’s skin to get any foreign objects hanging onto it. If your dog has mites, they’ll soon be exposed to you. One thing to note though: scraping the skin will more often than not turn up mites of the Demodex variety, as they live on the skin’s surface. However, if you don’t see any on the initial results, it may not mean that there are no mites. Sarcoptic mites will undoubtedly be harder to find as they go under the skin instead, but it’s still possible to get traces of them if you look hard enough.

 

Treatment

So, now that you’ve found mites on your dog, what’s next? Well, it depends on who’s the culprit, because there are different methods and strategies for each type of mite. We’ll start with Demodex mites, first.

The first thing you should know is that Demodex mange in puppies will slowly start to disappear as they grow older, when their immune systems start functioning to their fullest extent. If you want to be sure about getting rid of them, though, a few more skin scrapings from the vet will help to remove more of the parasites. Medicine is also available for older dogs that are inflicted with Demodex mange due to a weakened immune system.

Sarcoptic mange, on the other hand, will most likely be an uphill battle. This will be made all the more so if your dog is in a rather serious condition before starting treatment, so I really hope your dog never gets to experience that. Anyway, Because of the contagiousness of the Sarcoptic mite, you will have to undertake three phases of cleaning: your dog’s surroundings, your dog and yourself.

For your first step, you will need to sterilize your dog’s belongings, including and especially their toys and beds. Give them a good scrubbing, preferably with antibacterial shampoo made for dogs, and soak them in hot water. After that, start your dog on a tight regime of showers at least twice a week using the same shampoo that was also used to clean their stuff, as well as some medication prescribed by your vet.

Sometimes a good wash is all you need to keep the bugs away.

Source: Flickr

Your home will also have to go through a good cleaning to be safe, because those mites can appear from anywhere your dog has been lately. Vacuum it, spray something on it, give it a good wipe – whatever it takes to eradicate the bugs. Lastly, have yourself checked out for mites, as they can be transmitted from your dog without you knowing it. They could go back to him just as easily once he’s cleaned up, and you don’t want to have bugs on your body too, do you?

 

Conclusion

As you may know by now, mange is a pretty ugly symptom when you first see it on your dog, and they cause a lot of harm if left unchecked too. Lucky for you, you’ve got all the information you need here to start fighting those bugs! Hopefully, they’ll know what’s best for them and move out of dogtown before you really get to work on it, but like someone famous once said, life isn’t exactly a bed of roses, is it? Good luck with your bug hunt!

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