Mange is a skin condition in dogs caused by pests called mites. The Demodex mite stays on a host, and in the case of dogs, Demodex canis mite. There is a fair amount of Demodex mites in the bodies of dogs, cats, and even humans without causing any symptoms.
But if the immune system of the host is compromised or if the host is stressed or suffering from other forms of illness, the mite can overcome the host’s defenses and cause mange. Mange is hereditary, and dogs that have this condition should not be allowed to breed.
Symptoms of mange
There are three types of mange, each with their specific symptoms:
- Localized mange – this is mange in only one part of the body like the face or the ear. Usually, this type will clear out without treatment, but around 10% of dogs with mange will have generalized mange.
- Generalized mange – this type will start in multiple areas such as the stomach, face, elbow, ear, and then continue to spread. Adult pets that develop mange may have predisposing illnesses that caused mange, such as heartworm infection, allergies, or hypothyroidism.
- Mange limited to the feet – mange that’s found only on the feet is a localized type of infection or may also be a part of a generalized condition. Mange on the feet is common in bulldogs.
Diagnosis and treatment
A sample of the skin is checked under a microscope to determine the presence of the Demodex mite. Sometimes, a diagnostic procedure is not needed, especially when your pet has generalized mange.
Treatment depends on the type of mange that your pet has. Only a vet can prescribe medications, so never give any drug or use any treatment that was not prescribed for your pet.
Localized type of mange may be treated using antibacterial topical solutions. A shampoo called “Be Super Clean” is an effective antibacterial product that will not kill the Demodex mites but will prevent skin infections as the dog scratches the affected part/parts. Experts say that around 90% of healthy pets with localized mange can show signs of healing after two months. Some may not require treatment.
In generalized mange, treatment is first directed on the underlying cause of the condition. Pets that are a year old or less have 30 to 50% chances of clearing generalized mange. But for pets with conditions that don’t clear up after a few months, a medicated bath or dip is used called sulfurated lime or Mitaban Dip.
Sulfurated lime is similar to medicated sulfur soaps used for skin conditions in humans. This medicated bath will kill parasites, bacteria, and fungus on pets as well as the Demodex mite. It is also effective for ringworms, scabies, and will relieve itching.
Bathing your pet in sulfurated lime should be repeated every week or until the condition has subsided. Skin scraping samples should be taken, and there must be a negative presence of Demodex mites in the tests. If the dip or bath does not help clear the infection, the concentration of the sulfurated lime should be increased.
Side effects of using sulfurated lime are that it smells bad and will also stain the coat and fur of light-colored pets. Some vets recommend using a shampoo called benzoyl peroxide, which will open the skin follicles before using the sulfurated lime dip. This way, the mites are more exposed to the medicated dip.
Owners should also help boost the immune system’s health of their pets. Any underlying illness or infection should be treated right away. Stress must also be resolved to reduce the added burden to your pet’s immune system.