Sarcoptic mange, commonly known as canine scabies, is a skin disease in dogs, caused by the parasite, Sarcoptes scabiei. This parasite can also invade other hosts, including humans, though it cannot live on the human skin for long. The parasitic mite exhibits different behavior for every host. It burrows inside the skin of a dog and causes various skin problems like excessive itching and inflammation.
A dog can have this disease without coming into physical contact with a parasite-infected dog. Hence, physical isolation is not helpful in preventing the infection. Moreover, once the mite burrows itself inside the skin, it starts multiplying rapidly. A single mite is enough to produce an infection which can cover the entire surface of the animal's body. Hence, treatment should begin as early as possible.
The mite induces the feeling of itching on the dog's skin. It leads to excessive scratching which results in dry, scaly, and patchy skin. The infection usually takes place in and around the ears, head, face, limbs, and abdomen. Red nodes with tiny dots are visible at the elbows, ears, and trunk of the dog. Due to excessive scratching, red pustules, and yellow crusts develop all over the body. This leads to various sores and inflammation. It also causes excessive hair loss.
The skin of a dog is the first to respond to any kind of allergy or illness. Since many allergies show similar symptoms, the diagnosis becomes difficult. Skin scraping is the most common method for diagnosis. The mite is so small that it may not be visible even under a microscope. Hence, skin scraping may not always yield satisfactory results. A negative skin scrap test does not necessarily rule out the possibility of sarcoptic mange. Hence, the diagnosis is done depending upon the medical history of the dog and its response to the treatment for scabies.
This condition should be treated under the supervision of a qualified veterinarian. The owner should not try to treat the dog on his own. A traditional method of curing scabies is by bathing the dog with a benzoyl peroxide shampoo and then applying an organophosphate dip. Amitraz, Mitaban, and lime sulfur (Lymdip) are the dips which can be used to treat this disease. Though these dips are effective, they are toxic in nature, so the owner as well as the dogs may find them offensive. Also, since mites thrive near ears and eyes, care must be taken while applying the dips to these areas. Selamectin, is a new cure for scabies and since, it is a topical solution, it is very easy to apply. It also prevents some other infections like worms, or fleas. Apart from this, the bedding and other items should also be disinfected. In fact, these items should be disinfected regularly even if there are no signs of any infection. Maintaining proper hygiene, good nutrition, and increasing immunity is the best way to prevent these infections or diseases.
This condition can be traumatic to the dog as well as to the owner. Though it is curable, the treatment is no less an ordeal for your dog. Hence, it is best to prevent the disease by taking the necessary precautions.