Sarcoptic mange in dogs is a parasitic skin disease caused by a microscopic mite: Sarcoptes scabiei . It is generally not serious but should be taken seriously because of its very contagious nature and its transmissibility to humans. It is therefore important to ensure the diagnosis and carry out appropriate treatment. The kennels and farms type communities are particularly at risk areas.
This disease can affect dogs, as well as foxes, which are a frequent vector of contamination. It more rarely affects cats.
Causes of sarcoptic mange
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The overgrowth of parasites causes scabies in the superficial stratum corneum of the skin. They feed on skin debris. They burrow micro-tunnels in the skin, where the females lodge to lay their eggs. These lesions are usually responsible for the intense itching typically seen in affected animals.
Contamination usually occurs through direct contact with another animal with mange. Sarcoptes only survive a few days maximum outdoors, so contamination is rarer from the environment. However, this is still possible, in kennels for example.
This disease affects both adult dogs and puppies and no racial predisposition exists. Dogs living or staying in a community can more particularly expose, as well as hunting dogs, in the event of contact with foxes for example. Immunocompromised animals can be more easily infested and the clinical signs are often more intense.
Symptoms of sarcoptic mange
Symptoms usually appear 3 to 4 weeks after exposure, but it can vary between 1 and 8 weeks.
Sarcoptic mange is a condition that usually itches intensely. The lesions caused by the parasite are indeed responsible for intense itching and a local inflammatory response which further accentuates them. Initially, the lesions are papules (pimples) and scabs associated with itching and hair loss. They are preferentially located on the elbows, ears, flanks and abdomen. The back is generally spared. As it progresses, redness and hair loss become general, the skin thickens, secondary bacterial infections can occur.
If the animal will not treat, repercussions on the general condition appear, with a decrease in appetite, weight loss, the lymph nodes grow and depression affects the dog.
During the consultation, your veterinarian may suspect a mange based on the appearance of the lesions and possibly on your animal’s history (stay in a refuge, contact with other animals, hunting activity).
The test of choice to confirm this diagnosis is scraping. It consists of scraping the animal’s skin with a scalpel blade and observing the material collected under a microscope. This examination is not painful for the dog. Several scrapings are usually done, in different places, in order to increase the chances of harvesting pests. However, it can happen that the scrapings are negative, that is to say that no parasite is present, while lesions and itching are still present. The inflammatory response caused by the parasite can indeed persist even after its disappearance. If the lesions are very suggestive, the veterinarian may therefore prescribe a specific treatment for the scabies, even if the examinations are negative.
Other examinations may also recommend, to differentiate scabies from other dermatological conditions, in particular skin layers, blood tests, or even biopsies.
Treatments for sarcoptic mange
If your dog has mange, it is imperative to quarantine him . He must not have any contact with other animals, because of the very contagious nature of this disease. Humans in contact with it should take precautions to limit contact and wash their hands thoroughly afterwards. It is best to avoid contact with children, the elderly, and people who will immunocompromise in general.
In the absence of impairment of the general condition, the prognosis of this disease is good. A specific acaricide treatment (anti mites) makes it possible to get rid of parasites. This treatment exists in different forms: local applications, pipettes, shampoos, tablets. It can last up to 3 weeks. Your veterinarian will prescribe the treatment best suited to your pet and its symptoms. In the event of secondary bacterial infections, an antiseptic or even antibiotic treatment may also be added.
If other animals are present in the outbreak, treatment may also be prescribed for prevention. Treatment of the dog’s sleeping areas will generally recommend. In kennels and community living areas, more important hygiene measures must take in order to avoid contagion and possible re-infestations when a case occurs.
A healthy animal will be less prone to developing mange. All the factors making it possible to maintain a good general state are therefore protective elements, in particular by regular external and internal antiparasitic treatments, against this disease which is still relevant today.