Mange: The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly

9 02 2009

Mange is a skin disease caused by mites so small they can only be seen under a microscope.  There are two different types of mange, caused by different kind of mites.  One type of mite lives just under the surface of the skin, while the other type makes their home in the hair follicles.  It is important to know that each type of mite has different causes, thus different treatments.


The most common type of mange is demodectic mange.  This is the less invasive type of mange that lives in the hair follicles.  All dogs have a few of these mites, as do some humans.  The immune system of the body keeps these mites in check, provided the immune system is functioning correctly.  When viewed through a microscope, these mites look like an alligator with eight legs!  This mange occurs mostly in dogs less than eighteen months of age.  Demodectic mange is not a contagious condition, but rather  genetic defect.  An infected dog comes from a litter of other infected dogs.  This can be eliminated by preventing affected dogs from reproducing.

Infected dogs will lose hair in patches, and this hair loss typically begins on the face around the eyes.  Luckily, this type of mange is not severely itchy.  If there are only a few patches of hair loss, it is considered localized to those areas.  When it spreads to many areas, it is termed generalized.  Localized demodactic mange can be treated with topical medications.

In a situation with generalized demodactic mange, the mange can be treated with shampoo therapy and special dips, but could possibly require oral medication.  Sometimes generalized mange can cause a secondary skin infection that requires antibiotics.  If the secondary infection is present, their skin is red and inflamed.  That is where the term “red mange” originated.  Treatment of both deodactic mange types are usually successful.

Since a dog’s immune system does not fully develop until 12 to 18 months of age, demodectic mange may reoccur until the dog reaches that age.  It may also occur in older dogs due to the decline in their immune systems.


Like demodectic mange, sarcoptic mange is also caused by mites.  Sarcoptic mange mites burrow just underneath the skin.  They may also crawl around on the skin.  They feed on material on the skin.  This type of mange causes severe itching, causing an infected dog to scratch and chew their skin constantly.  Large amounts of hair are lost especially on the belly and legs due to sarcoptic mange.  In time, the affected areas of skin will darken and become thick.

Sarcoptic mange is very contagious, both to dogs AND humans.  These mites are unable to complete their life cycle on humans, but they do cause itching.  To assist in treating sarcoptic mange, your dog’s bedding can be washed in scalding hot water, but it is better to throw the bedding away and start anew.

When diagnosing sarcoptic mange, a vet will need to get a scraping of your dog’s skin to confirm.  Usually a diagnosis is made due to the typical signs.  Age is not a factor, like with demodactic mange, but it is more common in puppies.  Dipping is the accepted form of treatment for sarcoptic mange.

It is recommended that any dipping be done by a professional.  If it is not done properly, it can be dangerous to both you and your dog.

Do not forget about





5 responses

10 02 2009
Karina A.

You are not kidding! These mites are so odd looking under a microscope they pretty much resemble spiders! The horrible thing about the sarcoptic type is the way these parasites live: they mate on the surface and then the female actually digs (as in, eating the flesh) “tunnels” under the skin to start laying eggs. They hatch in less than 2 weeks and grow quickly, leaving the skin, mating, and then going “back in”. The sensation’s got to be horrible on the host and parents really need to understand what’s happening and take action. Thanks for bringing such a good topic up!

11 02 2009

I had a dog with mange once. It’s so sad for the dogs to go through that.

13 02 2009

Please share a little more, Veronica. Thanks for commenting!

13 02 2009

Excellent, yet incredibly and appropriately graphic, addition to the conversation, Karina. 🙂

16 03 2009

my dog has mange as we speak to her to vet and is now clearing up with meds also dog weighs 3 pounds and took several trips to vet and lots of money. good luck . amy

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