Archive for September, 2011
Most of us have seen stray dogs before. Sometimes they look happy and well fed; perhaps they have loving owners and have simply wandered off by mistake. Then there are the strays who are obviously suffering. You may see a skinny dog with patches of fur missing. He scratches at his pink skin and looks very uncomfortable. That poor dog probably has one of two types of mange and is suffering greatly. If you are thinking of taking little Sparky home and you have the resources to help him, he will forever appreciate it and will repay you with immense loyalty and love. If you choose to help Sparky, approach him carefully. Handle him with gloves until you can get a diagnosis from your vet.
Two Kinds of Mange
Both varieties of mange are caused by mites that burrow into Sparky’s hair follicles and skin. Sarcoptic mange or scabies is caused by Sarcoptes scabiei canis. This mite can also infect many other animals and humans. Sarcoptic mange often starts at the elbows or ears and causes hair loss, scabbing, and infection. It can quickly spread to cover the whole body and is intensified by the his scratching and biting.
Demodectic or red mange is caused by a different mite, Demodex canis. Most dogs have this type of mite on their skin, but are unaffected by it. Most dogs’ immune systems can fight off the effects of Demodex canis. Some dogs, however, are sensitive to it, including, puppies and elderly dogs, whose immune systems are weak.
Transmission of Demodex canis
The Demodex canis mite is usually transmitted from a mother to her puppies. In fact, almost every dog mom passes these mites from herself to each one of her puppies. Most of the puppies will, like the mother, be immune to the effects of the mites. Occasionally, a puppy will lack this immunity and the symptoms of mange will appear. The mites need continuous contact with skin to survive, so transmission requires skin-to-skin contact between dogs. Because the mites cannot live off of a dog’s body, bedding and kennel areas do not need to be disinfected when one puppy has red mange. The puppies also do not need to be separated since they are all exposed to the mites by their mother.
Demodectic Mange Symptoms
Red mange can be either localized, meaning found in five or fewer spots on the dog, or generalized, extensively across the whole body. The characteristic lesions typically develop in a puppy after four months of age. What do these lesions look like? They are patches of skin with missing fur and crusty, red skin. The spots may sometimes appear moist or oily. The mites burrow into hair follicles, so the loss of fur is often the first sign of mange. Lesions on puppies often begin on the head, around the ears, eyes, and muzzle, or on the forelegs. Sometimes puppies with localized mange will develop immunity and recover, others will require treatment. Any dog that has gotten to the generalized state of red mange needs to get treatment as soon as possible.
Your veterinarian can confirm a case of red mange by scraping a little bit of skin from Sparky and looking for mites under the microscope. If he is an older dog, rather than a young pup, Sparky most likely has another health issue that is compromising his immune system. In this case, your vet will want to screen him for an underlying condition.
Treatment for localized patches of mange involves topical lotions and shampoos. For more advanced, generalized mange, your vet may prescribe oral medicine and medicated dips. This treatment can be expensive and may take several weeks to eliminate the symptoms. Your vet may also ask you to consider the Sparky’s diet. Because the root cause of demodectic mange is a weakened immune system, a healthy diet, possibly including immune-boosting supplements, can help a dog to heal with or without medication.
If Sparky has mange, he will most likely be uncomfortable. The lesions are often itchy and sore. His instinct will be to scratch and itch away at the raw spots. This presents a problem, as scratching with dirty dog feet, will only make the symptoms worse. In fact, secondary bacterial infections can arise in dogs with mange when the skin is exposed in this way. To prevent itching, you can cover up localized patches with bandages, although he is likely to bite them off. If he can’t help himself, the dreaded cone may be necessary. Consult with your vet first, but Benadryl may help to relieve some of the itching sensation.
Red mange can be very uncomfortable for poor Sparky. The mangy dog will need to see the vet immediately to determine the type of mite infecting him and the best possible course of treatment and symptom relief.