What Is Mange?

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My Pet Has "Mange"

Recently I had a friend show me her dog and asked if her hair loss over her rump could be Mange? This is a common question for veterinarians as the false idea that any skin itching or hair loss is "mange"

What Is Mange? True mange is actually caused by one of two different types of mites that affect the skin. There is Demodex Mange which is a tiny mite that crawls into and lives in the hair follicles themselves. This type of mange is usually seen in puppies or immune suppressed animals as the immune system usually fights it off. It can be localized to a small area such as a spot on the leg or around the eyes or can be generalized and cover most or all the body. The second is definitely more serious. Demodex mange causes hair loss, itching and following that redness and secondary infections.

The generalized form may indicate a severe underlying disease and tests to search for anything that could suppress the dog's immune system must be done if this type is found.

The other type is called Sarcoptic Mange and this one is severely itchy and CAN BE PASSED TO HUMANS as well. It can be just at the ear tips, causing very itchy scales, or all over the dog's body. Sarcoptic mites live on the skin or just under the skin cells. This mite can be hard to find and therefore diagnose the disease.

The most common test for either of the above is a skin scraping which removes some of the cells of the skin and hopefully the mites so they can be seen under the microscope. To find Demodex you have to scrape pretty deep and it may even cause slight bleeding. Sarcoptic, again, can be harder to pick up even though they live more superficially in the skin. Rarely, one can find the mites in a stool sample when doing a check for parasites such as worms. The dog licks and chews and sometimes they swallow the mites and they pass on through.

In any really itchy dog that hasn't respnded to typical allergy treatments and still no Sarcoptic mites were found, they should be treated for Sarcoptic Mange as a trial as they are so hard to catch.

Other causes of itchy skin and hair loss are numerous though most commonly are fleas, allergy or infection (bacteria and/or yeast) related.

Treatments for either type mange may include topical therapy in the local area for the mites themselves and/or any secondary irritation and infection. There are topical parasite killing drugs which will kill them off and there are also, injections or pills that can help. Each situation is individual depending on the severity of the disease caused by the mites and also the overall health of the dog. Your veterinarian can provide that which is correct for your pet.

Here's hoping you never have to deal with either type of mite, but I wanted to be sure to give you the data on this disease.

RECOMENDED ENTERTAINMENT: Pick up a classic video, Disney's The Jungle Book. Great fun for all and the animals are a ball.

Until next time,

Dr. Jan

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