Canine Mange

by Connie on March 26, 2012

Sarcoptic and demodectic mange are the two most common forms of mange found in dogs.  While there are many similarities, there are also some differences that make each type of mange distinct.  Having your dog evaluated by a veterinarian is necessary for determining the type of treatment necessary.  Proper diagnosis allows for the best treatment to be provided.

Sarcoptic Mange

Scabies is caused by a specific mite (sarcoptes scabiei) that is transmitted among both dogs and cats.  It is also considered a zoonotic parasite, meaning that it can also be transmitted to humans.  Female scabies mites burrow underneath the animal’s skin and lay eggs; when these eggs hatch, the mites continue to live under the skin until its life stage comes to an end.  Although they are microscopic, scabies mites can cause a great deal of problems in your dog, especially in the stomach, chest, armpit, and facial area.

Symptoms of Sarcoptic Mange

* Extreme Itchiness

* Scab Formation

* Hair Loss

* Thickened, red, inflamed, and painful skin.

* Secondary skin infections caused by infected lesions.


The only way to accurately diagnose sarcoptic mange is by microscopic examination.  A scabies mite looks much like a transparent tick, whereas a demodectic mite is long and is commonly referred to as a “cigar.”


In the past, preferred treatment choices included clipping, bathing, and dipping the dog in certain chemicals.  Although this is still practiced today, many veterinarians are looking for a safer alternative for treating scabies.  Revolution, Frontline, and Advantage Multi are three types of topical medications commonly being used.  Ivermectin is another option preferred for eliminating scabies; it is an oral medication not labeled for veterinary use, but is still popular among many veterinarians.  Ivermectin is a favored treatment choice for scabies, but should be used with caution, as some dogs are sensitive to its’ ingredients.

Demodectic Mange

Demodectic mange, also known as demodex, is caused by the Demodex canis mite.  This mite is normally found in most dogs, and is not harmful if found in small numbers; they become a problem when they reproduce and infest the dog.  Pregnant, stressed, young, and sick dogs are more likely to develop demodectic mange.  This is because their immune systems are weaker and more vulnerable.  Demodex symptoms can appear identical to those of scabies, but one main difference is that demodex is not contagious.  Neither animals nor humans can contract demodectic mange from an infected dog.

Symptoms of Demodectic Mange

Demodex mainly affects dogs in two ways; local or generalized.  Local infection is when only specific parts of the body are affected, and general infection is when the entire body is affected.  Localized infection typically manifests in the head, eyelids, ears, feet, and mouth.  Generalized sarcoptic mange can affect the whole body, causing baldness, crusty skin, and inflammation.  Like with scabies, severe forms of demodex can also lead to skin infections which may cause bleeding and pus drainage.


Both sarcoptic mange and demodex are diagnosed with a microscope.  Demodex mites are usually harder to detect because they hide deep within the skin and hair follicles.  Samples are obtained by scraping a small section of the skin with a blade until a bit of blood appears.  Plucking a few hairs may also be necessary for evaluation.


Demodex is generally more difficult to get rid of than scabies and can take many months to completely clear.  The same type of treatment used for treating scabies also applies to the treatment of demodex.  In cases where the conventional treatment options fail, stronger medications may be required.  On top of medications, veterinarians also often times recommend supplements and herbs that help boost the immune system.  This can help immensely in the treatment of demodectic mange.

Canine mange may seem harmless in the beginning, but if left untreated the condition only worsens and can cause serious health issues.  Flea and tick infestation, allergic inhalant dermatitis, and mange are all possible causes of skin issues in dogs.  Getting your dog examined by a veterinarian is the only way to determine what your dog is suffering from.  An accurate diagnosis is always necessary in order to help your dog heal.


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