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Mange in dogs and cats

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Mange is a skin condition in dogs and cats caused by microscopic parasitic mites. Three types of parasitic skin mites are common in dogs and cats:

Sarcoptic mange is caused by mites that burrow into the upper layers of the animal's skin, where they lay their eggs. Sarcoptic mange can be passed to other animals (or even people) by direct contact. The skin rash usually begins as a series of red bumps that are very itchy. The bumps can progress to crusty, raw areas with open sores.

Demodectic mange is cause by cigar-shaped mites that are normally found in the hair follicles and oil glands of the skin. For some unknown reason, these mites sometimes multiply in large numbers and cause inflammation of the skin. Demodectic mange is usually seen in puppies but can occasionally develop in older dogs or cats. The red rash if often seen on the face or legs, but it can spread to cover the whole body. This type of mange is not very itchy initially but can become so if bacteria infect the area.

Cheyletiella mites are also called "walking dandruff" because they are large enough to be seen with the naked eye as they move around in the scale of the skin. This extremely itchy condition is associated with dry crusts and flakes, usually along the back. Cheyletiella mites are most common in cats but can also be seen in dogs. They can also be transmitted to other animals (or even people).

To diagnose mange, your veterinarian will need to take a skin scraping from your pet for examination under the microscope to look for mites. Sometimes, several skin scrapings are needed, because some mites can be very hard to find. Treatment of mange in pets consists of topical, oral, or injectable medications to kill the mites, and antibiotics to control secondary bacterial infections. Treatment may need to be repeated. If the diagnosis is sarcoptic mange or Cheyletiella mites, it is a good idea to thoroughly clean all bedding, brushes, etc, to remove mites from these areas.

Q&A

What causes mange in pets?

Mange is caused by demodectic, sarcoptic, or Cheyletiella mites. 


What does mange look like in pets?

The type of skin rash depends on the type of mite infestation.  Demodectic mites cause a red, scaly rash; sarcoptic mites cause itchy, crusty bumps and sores; and Cheyletiella mites cause an itchy scaly rash that is often referred to as “walking dandruff.”


Can mange be transmitted to people?

Both sarcoptic and Cheyletiella mange can potentially be transmitted to people by direct contact.  Elderly and infirm people are most at risk for infection. 


How can I tell if my pet has mange?

Your veterinarian can look for mange mites in skin scrapings from the affected areas.  Several skin scrapings may be needed because some mites can be very hard to find.


How is mange treated in pets?

Treatment consists of topical, oral, or injectable medications to kill the mites, and (possibly) antibiotics to control secondary bacterial infections.  To prevent reinfestation with sarcoptic or Cheyletiella mites, it is a good idea to thoroughly clean all bedding, brushes, etc. with which your pet has contact.

Credit: Written and reviewed by John A. Bukowski, DVM, MPH, PhDand Susan E. Aiello, DVM, ELS
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