Is Dog Mange Contagious?
Posted by Volhard Dog Nutrition on Jul 31st 2022
Is your dog exhibiting some severe itching? Does your dog's skin show signs of scaly skin and missing fur? Chances are, he might be dealing with mange, a skin infection that, unless promptly treated, can spread quickly among the canine population. Although any dog can contract mange, especially by coming into contact with other canines at the dog park, this skin disease is both preventable and treatable, as long as you utilize the right tools for a thorough healing and recovery process. Unfortunately, scores of DIY mange treatment options are flying around on the Internet — dangerous treatment options such as dipping the dog in motor oil or nail polish! Please do not do any of those!
Today's article will provide you with sound, research-backed information on mange in dogs (both sarcoptic and demodectic mange) and teach dog parents how to alleviate the symptoms of this treatable skin disease in an effective, natural manner!
What is Dog Mange?
Mange is a skin disease caused by the proliferation of mites (i.e., tiny arachnid parasites related to ticks) in the dog's skin under certain conditions, e.g., a weakened immune system or dog-to-dog transmission. This skin condition manifests itself in two main ways: sarcoptic mange and demodectic mange.
Dog Mange Types
#1: Sarcoptic Mange
Although sarcoptic mange might not ring a bell, its second name, scabies, is sure to bring nightmares to memory. This dog mange variant is caused by the Sarcoptes scabiei mite and can wreak havoc on your dog's skin unless promptly diagnosed and treated. These microscopic parasites thrive on the dermal tissue, feeding and burrowing for laying eggs, which hatch after just 10 days, thus multiplying the source of the problem. And if that wasn't enough, sarcoptic mange mites are zoonotic—unless adequately eliminated, they can put you and your family's health and well-being in jeopardy!
How will you recognize the signs of sarcoptic mange in your dog? First, check the skin around the ears and under the belly, where you will notice the first signs of infection. Unless promptly treated, this infection will quickly turn into a rash and develop a yellow crust, followed by hair loss—the skin becomes so tight that it starts resembling luggage leather! And, as if these symptoms weren't enough, the sarcoptic mange mites make room for secondary skin infections, particularly Streptococcus pyogenes or Staphylococcus aureus, with a high risk for complications!
#2: Demodectic Mange
The second type of dog mange, demodectic mange, has nothing to do with foreign invaders but normal skin flora. The mites causing this skin condition, the Demodex mites, are always present in the canine skin without becoming a health hazard. In fact, they are passed from the mother dog to puppies shortly after birth. Luckily, demodectic mange is not zoonotic, meaning it will not pass to you or your family.
Demodectic mange can occur in two forms:
- Localized demodectic mange usually involves two body regions and as many as four spots. This form of demodectic mange is quite common among puppies, with 90% of cases resolving spontaneously. Close to 10% of cases develop into generalized demodectic mange.
- Generalized demodectic mange implies broader body regions and more than four spots.
The secret behind keeping Demodex mites in check is your dog's immune system. Demodectic mange can't thrive as long as dogs boast a strong immune system. However, a weak immune system will allow the mites to grow out of control, which we see especially in juvenile dogs. In addition, older dogs and dogs with weakened immune systems due to diabetes or cancer are also at risk of demodectic mange.
Does Your Dog's Diet Promote a Strong Immune System?
As we've just learned, demodectic mites need a weak immune system in order to thrive and cause demodectic mange. But what weakens the immune system to the point where Demodex mites can run amok on the skin?
Here at Volhard, we believe that a proper diet is the immune system's strongest line of defense against dog mange. An imbalanced, nutrient-poor diet will only upset your dog's digestive system and, consequently, throw his gut microbiome into disarray, leading to a weakened immune system. From there on, dogs are only one step away from contracting parasitic infections, developing inflammations, and, you've guessed it, making way for mange to affect their health and well-being. Commercial dry foods, with an emphasis on kibble, will do nothing but provide poor-quality nutrients while leaving dogs susceptible to all sorts of diseases!
Instead, what your dog's immune system needs is a natural diet built with all the nutrients necessary for both a healthy body and a healthy mind. So, if your dog is in need of a healthy, nutritious boost, look no further than the Volhard Diet! Our selection of dehydrated dog foods is the epitome of wholesomeness and health in the world of canine nutrition. Volhard products use only human-grade ingredients tested three times for every known type of bacteria or virus to ensure that you feed only the best and most nutritious food to your dog! Don't hesitate to contact one of our expert Volhard nutritionists to learn more about the benefits of the Volhard Diet!
Dog Mange Symptoms
The mange symptoms dogs experience depend on the type of mange they're dealing with. For example, dogs with sarcoptic mange will constantly lick and scratch the infected area, increasing the chances of irritation. Over time, open sores, scabs, skin crusting, and hair loss will take over your dog's skin, eventually leading to enlarged lymph nodes and muscle loss. The more mange ravages your dog's skin, the more it becomes imperative to see a specialist.
On the other hand, demodectic mange manifests itself through scaly bald spots on multiple body regions. Luckily, your puppy's immune system should be sturdy enough to repel the infection. However, if the infection persists and the localized demodectic mange becomes generalized, you will notice more symptoms, such as:
- Intense itching;
- Discoloration in the skin;
- Scaly skin;
- Smelly odor;
- Hairless patches.
Mange Diagnosis in Dogs
Identifying mange in dogs requires the expertise of a veterinarian, who can distinguish between mange and other skin conditions. Therefore, they will perform a skin biopsy and take a hair sample in order to ascertain the nature of your dog's mange. Demodectic mites will quickly show up under the microscope, whereas sarcoptic mites, which burrow under the skin to lay eggs, might be harder to identify.
How are Sarcoptic and Demodectic Mange Treated?
Luckily, today's veterinary science is more equipped to treat mange than in the past. For example, topical medications and oral medications have reached a level of development where they can treat microscopic mites and other parasites (e.g., fleas) while relieving mange symptoms swiftly. Also, science approves of multiple natural mange remedies, which we will discuss shortly!
#1: Topical Medication
Topical medications such as selamectin, imidacloprid, and moxidectin are often prescribed by veterinarians for treating pets, such as dogs and cats, for parasites. Be sure to follow your vet's recommendations with regards to applying the topical medication on your dog's skin. Most of these medications only need to be applied semimonthly or monthly for full effect.
#2: Oral Medications
Next, we have different oral medication types for both sarcoptic and demodectic mange, which veterinarians can prescribe in different forms (e.g., liquid, pill, or flavored chew), depending on your dog's preference. The most common mange medications available are:
- Milbemycin (excellent for fleas, mites, and intestinal parasites);
- Afoxolaner (used as both an insecticide and an acaricide);
- Fluralaner (also helpful at preventing flea and tick infestations);
- Sarolaner (with the same properties as fluralaner);
- Prednisone (used for pain relief during treatment).
You've probably noticed that most of these medications are effective against various other conditions besides mite infestations, which is why they are classified as "off-label" medications. Aside from oral or topical medication, be sure to sweep the house clean and wash any bedding touched by your dog with a strong bleach solution. Remember that sarcoptic mites are zoonotic—you'll have to be extra careful when cleaning your home if you want to prevent a mite reinfestation.
Home Remedies for Mange in Dogs
But oral or topical medication is not the sole approach toward containing mange in dogs. Scientific research has uncovered a litany of home mange remedies with a strong soothing effect on your dog's skin! The variety of DIY treatment options is sure to help every dog parent find a soothing approach for their dog's mange, which is why we'll provide you with some of the best and most thoroughly researched DIY mange treatments available!
#1: Apple Cider Vinegar
At the top of the DIY mange treatment list sits a good apple cider vinegar bath, which can help your dog get rid of his mange mites. All you have to do is mix 1/2 cup of apple cider vinegar with 1/2 of Borax and warm water. However, be sure to let the Borax fully dissolve before applying the mixture to your dog's skin (check out our blog on Borax and other household hazards). Gently wash the infected areas (leave the mouth and the eyes aside) with the mixture while allowing it to air-dry. Don't hesitate to use a cone of shame to prevent your dog from licking the mixture.
The healing properties of apple cider vinegar can also be included in your dog's diet! All you have to do is add 1 teaspoon/meal for dogs weighing less than 30 pounds and 1 tablespoon/meal for dogs over 30 pounds. The antiseptic and antibacterial properties of apple cider vinegar will attack the dog mange from multiple fronts (both topically and nutritionally) while helping the skin restore its pH balance and promote healing!
#2: Hydrogen Peroxide
Another sponge bath that will soothe your dog's mangy skin is hydrogen peroxide and Borax. The two chemical compounds work wonders for a mange-infested skin: Borax by killing mites at the skin surface and hydrogen peroxide by penetrating the outer layers of the skin and eliminating sarcoptic mites. The appropriate dosage for a hydrogen peroxide and Borax mixture is:
- 2 cups of hydrogen peroxide;
- 4 cups of water;
- 3 teaspoons of Borax.
#3: Olive Oil
Mange mites will have a harder time burrowing in your dog's skin when covered in olive oil! This natural remedy helps soothe the damaged skin while taking the fight to the mange mites themselves. All you have to do is apply olive oil to the infected areas and allow it to gradually suffocate the mites! Unfortunately, olive oil doesn't deal with secondary infections directly, but you can improve this topical treatment by mixing the oil with crushed garlic cloves, as garlic's antiviral properties will neutralize secondary bacterial infections! Does your dog suffer from an ear mite infection? The same remedy applies with similar results!
Another splendid remedy to help you treat mange in a natural manner is honey! With its antiseptic and antioxidant properties, honey will help your dog's skin fight the infection while cleaning it of mites and secondary bacteria. Just take a spoonful of honey and apply it to the infected area. And while you're at it, feed a teaspoon of honey to your dog as a tasty, healthy treat!
#5: Aloe Vera
Last on our DIY mange treatments we have Aloe vera, a topical moisturizer with a strong soothing effect to dry, itchy, and, in this case, mangy skin. Aloe vera extracts are ideal for soothing damaged skin, while its mild antibacterial properties help keep the mite number in check, mainly when dealing with localized demodectic mange. Unfortunately, if your dog is dealing with generalized demodectic mange, it's best to choose a stronger, more appropriate treatment option.
Your dog will obviously be tempted to lick the Aloe vera extract off his skin. Be sure to keep Aloe vera away from your dog's digestive system—its toxicity levels are too much for a canine stomach. Vomiting, diarrhea, and muscle tremors are the tell-tale signs of Aloe vera poisoning. Be sure to seek veterinary advice if you suspect your dog has ingested Aloe vera.
Be Wary of the Dangers of Dog Parks
Contracting dog mange is all about poor timing: being in the wrong place at the wrong time and in the company of the wrong dogs. You might think that the dog park is all about dogs socializing and playing, but you must remember that health hazards lurk in every corner. Worms, fleas, ticks, and, of course, dog mange are enough examples to convince dog parents of the essential aspects of constant healthcare. It's all about consistency: every time you return from the dog park, inspect your dog's coat and look for unwanted parasites. Don't hesitate to give your dog a bath if you want to be extra cautious. Your dog might be healthy as a horse but still contract sarcoptic mange from his playmates, so if you still want your canine companion to socialize with his friends, invest more time in disease prevention!
Mange Doesn't Have to Affect Your Dog!
Mange is a fast-spreading skin condition that thrives among canines with a weakened immune system. But with a quick diagnosis and the proper treatment, the diseases will quickly recede and no longer affect your dog’s health and well-being! For more advice on dog nutrition, health, and training, make sure that you contact us and check out our blog!
Volhard Dog Nutrition and its expert nutritionists are now offering online consultations to help more dog parents discover why, what, and how to feed their dogs the healthiest of foods! Speaking to a Volhard nutritionist will help you understand the inseparable relationship between healthy food, a healthy body, and a healthy mind. If you're interested in contacting one of our Volhard nutritionists, don't hesitate to access our consultation page!