By: Katie Busenkell
1. Is your dog constantly scratching?
2. Is your dog missing patches of hair?
3. Have those patches of missing hair gotten bigger and bigger?
If you answered yes to these three questions, then your dog may have what is called “mange.”
So, what is mange?
Mange is a skin disease that affects animals. On Saipan, the skin disease most commonly affects dogs, though it is contagious to humans. Common symptoms include hair loss, itching, and inflammation.
There are two kinds of mange: Sarcoptic Mange and Demodectic Mange.
Sarcoptic Mange is caused by a small parasite called a mite. The mites burrow into the hair follicle and lay eggs. When the mites invade the hair follicle, it causes an infection. The eggs and the infection basically push the hair out of the hair follicle and that results in hair loss.
Sarcoptic mange is very itchy in hypersensitive animals. So you have a better understanding of just how miserable it is to be itchy all the time, imagine being covered with mosquito bites, poison ivy, or having the chicken poxes. It is so itchy that some animals itch themselves raw.
Is Sarcoptic Mange Contagious?
Yes. Sarcoptic mange is very contagious. It is usually spread or contracted by direct contact with an infested animal, although it can also be spread, rarely, by indirect contact.
If you handle a dog that has mange, it is best to wear gloves and wash your hands thoroughly after handling the dog. Avoid skin contact. If skin contact should occur, be sure to wash the exposed area as soon as possible with soap and water.
When will I know if my dog has Sarcoptic Mange?
Well, if you don’t know already, you may have to wait between 10 days and 8 weeks after your animal is exposed to an infected animal. This is the time it takes from contact or exposure (to the disease or infected/infested animal) to the manifestation of the disease or infestation. It is not clear how long the mite can survive in the environment, detached from its host.
Watch for hair loss, itching, and lesions. Also look for a thin yellow crust or flake –that is puss and it means that your dog has a skin infection.
How Do I treat my dog’s Sarcoptic Mange?
Don’t waste your money on over the counter medications or homeopathic remedies. Sarcoptic mange is a serious disease that needs to be treated by a veterinarian as quickly as possible to prevent the disease from spreading, and to reduce the animal’s suffering.
There are chemicals or acaricides (a substance that is poisonous to ticks and mites) that can kill the mite on or off its host. Administering these chemicals is limited to licensed veterinarians by the FDA. Luckily, both of our island veterinarians are equipped to treat Sarcoptic Mange.
For more details on treatment options, contact Dr. Tudor at Paradise Island Animal Hospital (234-9669) or Dr. dela Cruz at DLNR (234-6169).
How Can I prevent Sarcoptic Mange?
The best thing to do to prevent the spread of this skin disease between dogs is to prevent direct contact with the clean (uninfested) animal. If the dogs live together, complete separation by double fencing, at least two feet apart, would be the best thing to do to prevent the "clean" dog from getting the infestation.
Revolution, which requires a prescription, can be very effective in preventing mange and heartworm, and killing ticks, fleas, and flea eggs.
Revolution can be bought at Paradise Island Animal Hospital, or on-line after obtaining a prescription from either on-island veterinarian. Prescriptions for Revolution are available at DLNR for $5.00 after an examination. If you are going to shop on-line for animal care items, try 1800PetMeds.com – shipping is free and the package usually arrives within 4-5 days.
Demodectic mange mainly affects puppies and older dogs.
Puppies get the mites shortly after birth from their mother. Some puppies cannot develop the immunity or resistance to the mites, so they have a reaction to the infestation, or mite bites.
Is Demodectic Mange contagious?
No. Unlike Sarcoptic Mange, Demodectic Mange is not contagious to humans and most dogs.
How will I know if my puppy or older dog has Demodectic Mange?
Symptoms will appear, such as hair loss. In some cases, pimples will appear around the upper portions of the eyelids and forehead.
How do I treat my dog’s Demodectic Mange?
As a puppies’ immune system strengthens, they may become resistant to the Demodectic mite’s presence. However, about 10% of puppies don’t develop a resistance, and life for these puppies can be miserable if the disease is not treated.
Therefore, although treatment may not be necessary in all cases, it is highly recommended. If left untreated, Demodectic Mange can become a general infection, which affects the entire body. Bacterial infections are commonly seen in severe cases and may require numerous treatments before the disease is cured. Therefore, it is best to start treatment early before the infection becomes severe.
Treatment, when just starting, is by spot application of amitraz (Mitaban) or rotenone every two weeks. In a generalized condition, bathing or dipping, using Mitaban, every two weeks until two negative skin scrapings are achieved, is the treatment of choice.
Ivermectin can also work, but treatment may be prolonged. Systemic antibiotics are used to control or treat the bacterial infection.
These products are available only through a licensed veterinarian.
Do Not Dump that Dog – Treat that Dog!
Not all skin diseases are mange. Your dog may have a coral allergy or be allergic to flea or tick bites. These allergens are easily and affordably treated once diagnosed.
To find out what is plaguing your dog, take him/her to the veterinarian for an examination so the animal can be promptly treated. Prompt treatment by a veterinarian is important for two reasons: (1) it stops the disease from spreading to other dogs; and (2) reduces the dog’s suffering.
If you think your dog has a skin disease, please contact:
Dr. Edgar Tudor
Paradise Island Animal Hospital
Dr. Ignacio dela Cruz
Department of Land Resources
** Information for this article was provided by Dr. Igancio dela Cruz, DLNR and Tilley, Larry P. and Francis W.K. Smith, Jr., eds. The 5 Minute Veterinary Consult: Canine and Feline. Maryland: Williams & Wilkins, 1997.