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Vet Talks: Mange in Cats and Dogs

Vet Talks 4 min read
Search our blog Vet Talks: Mange in Cats and Dogs

Mange in Dogs and Cats

If your cat or dog is experiencing hair loss, itching, crusts, malodorous skin, and is generally miserably uncomfortable, it could be mange. The first thing we do diagnostically when presented with a skin condition in a dog or cat is a skin scrape test and look at the debris under the microscope. With a skin scraping, along with a tape test and ringworm culture we can rule in or out mange. In our experience, most animals with mange, whether it be sarcoptic or demodectic, have secondary bacterial infections.

mange in dogs and cats
Sarcoptes scabiei Mite Under a Microscope

Types of Mange Mites

Scabies are a highly contagious mite that is easily transmitted between pets and to humans as well.

There are several types of mange in dogs and cats. In dogs, sarcoptic mange or demodectic mange are the two main mange mites. Sarcoptic mange (also called scabies) lives burrowed in the skin and causes itching, redness, and crusts on the tips of the ears, elbows, hocks, and chest and belly. It is sometimes difficult to find by skin scraping but it fits the clinical picture, treatment is recommended in lieu of finding the mite on the microscope. It is a highly contagious mite that is easily transmitted between pets and to humans as well. If you have red itchy bumps on your skin, you should consult your physician. Fortunately, the mites can only survive a short time off the dog in the environment. Cleaning your pets’ environment well and throwing out bedding is recommended. There are several ways to treat sarcoptic mange, but the main treatments are anti-parasitic medications along with addressing and treating any secondary infections.

mange in dogs and cats
Demodex Mite Under a Microscope

Demodectic mange in dogs is caused by a mange mite most commonly Demodex canis. Unlike sarcoptic mange, demodectic mange is not considered a contagious disease. These mites live inside hair follicles, and classically, Demodex mites have been felt to only be transferable from mother to newborn pup. That said, Demodex is a normal resident of dog skin in very small populations; it is only in some individual dogs that mites cause problems. Immunosuppressed, stressed, malnourished or dogs with other underlying metabolic or endocrine abnormalities are more susceptible to Demodex infections.

Forms of Mange Infection

There are three forms in which treatment and severity differ. The first is localized. Localized Demodex is the least severe and treated generally with supporting the immune system and oral medication. Treatment for localized Demodex has a much better prognosis than generalized.

A Severe Case of Generalized Demodex

Generalized demodicosis has a hereditary component, usually occurs in adults, and is much more difficult to treat. In these cases, searching for an underlying reason for the immunosuppression such as underlying metabolic or endocrine disease is necessary for a full recovery. Treatment involves addressing the underlying cause and supporting the immune system as well as treating secondary infections. There are several flea products that kill the mite, your veterinarian will choose the most appropriate. Lastly and less commonly is demodectic pododermatitis – mange confined to the paws. Bacterial infections commonly accompany this and all Demodex infections. This form of Demodex is very tough to cure and may take months of treatment and therapy.

Mange in cats is less common, in my experience, and is due to similar underlying reasons as in dogs. The two main mange mites are notoedric mites (feline scabies) and demodectic mites. As in dogs, sarcoptic mange is contagious, and demodectic mange is not. Both mites are diagnosed in the same manner as dog mites by a skin scrape and have similar symptoms and secondary infections in cats. Sarcoptic mange is treated most easily and effectively with certain anti-flea medications as well. Demodex however, is more difficult to get rid of and oftentimes requires medicated dips which are not fun for all involved. Antiparasitic medications can be curative in some cases.

Treatment of mites with antiparasitic medication in both dogs and cats involves treating secondary skin infections, balanced, wholesome nutrition, supporting the immune system with supplements. To combat mites, we recommend NHV Nature’s Immuno, NHV PetOmega 3, NHV Multi Essentials, NHV Stimmune, and NHV Ouch Away Spray for topical use.

If you suspect your pet may be suffering from a mite infection, see your veterinarian and contact our Pet Experts to discuss which supplements may be right for your pet.

Dr. Hillary Cook DVM

Dr. Hillary Cook DVM

Dr. Hillary Cook is a graduate of Virginia Maryland Regional Veterinary Medical school. She has been practicing holistic and integrative veterinary medicine for over 20 years. She certified in Veterinary acupuncture and is fully qualified in Western and Chinese herbalism. She is the owner of Animal Wellness Center, an integrative veterinary clinic in Crozet, VA. She enjoys spending time with her husband, two children, and a menagerie of pets including dogs, cats, and chickens. When time allows, you can find her in the garden or on the tennis court!

Published: October 26, 2018

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