For most people, the word ‘mange’ brings to mind a body with severely damaged and horrendously itchy skin, and being highly contagious. The first two qualities are more or less correct, but the phrase ‘contagious mange’ is a little misunderstood.
Sarcoptic Mange is contagious, but not demodectic mange
The main reason why the misunderstanding exists is because there are two different types of mange, and their facts often get mixed up together. We’re not going into a deep discussion about the exact differences between the two, but to put it simply, Sarcoptic Mange (or scabies) is the one that’s contagious, while demodectic mange isn’t. This is the sort of information that will determine your strategy in removing your dog’s skin problem, so it’s important to distinguish between the two before you start any treatment.
Now that the question is adequately answered, let’s throw a little wrench in the works. What if I said that…
…However, demodectic mange is contagious in a sense
Okay don’t panic, I’m not trying to confuse you. Hear me out:
Between sarcoptic and demodectic mange, it is true that one is contagious and the other isn’t. But what we’re really talking about here is that scabies is contagious between a human and a dog. And that demodectic mange does not have this particular form of interspecies transmission.
On the other hand, demodectic mange is contagious… between dog and dog. Do you see what I mean now?
You may be wondering why there’s such a distinction. Here’s a short explanation:
The main troublemaker in this whole demodectic mange deal is the Demodex Canis, a version of demodex mite that lives exclusively in dogs. These guys do not prefer other animals for some reason, including humans, so they generally stay away from them. That’s why it’s almost impossible for a human to infect a dog, and vice versa*.
However, the Demodex Canis can be found practically everywhere on dogs, and it’s the reason why a dog that’s recovering from demodectic mange shouldn’t be allowed near another dog with a bad case of it – the mites can easily jump over to the recovering dog’s body and re-infest it, triggering another case of mange.
So there you have it. Demodectic mange isn’t contagious in that it doesn’t transmit between humans and dogs, but it’s highly contagious between dog-and-dog. Question answered.
*Note: I say ‘almost impossible’ because there have been several reports of such a thing happening, but it’s so rare that you’d win the lottery long before you get infested by good ol’ Demodex Canis, so don’t start panicking just yet.