The skin infection referred to as “mange” is really at least three different conditions. All forms of mange are caused by microscopic insects called mites that inhabit the outer layers of the skin to cause a superficial or deep dermatitis. Mange can leave the pet with thick and crusty scabs, varying levels of slight to severe discomfort, and local or generalized hair loss.
Mange due to the demodex mite is not contagious to people or to other pets. It is suspected to have a congenital basis but is frequently activated by some other latent medical problem such as internal parasites or viral incubation. Mange due to the sarcoptes mite is transmittable to people although the condition is self-limiting and usually does not require treatment. Sarcoptic mange is also contagious between dogs.
Mange is diagnosed by scraping the surface layers of the skin with a scalpel blade. This allows the identification of mites under the microscope so that the appropriate treatment measures can begin. Demodex is easily revealed while sarcoptes is difficult to find. In some cases, skin biopsy is required to confirm a diagnosis by revealing mites in deeper layers of skin. Treatment can be complicated and prolonged, particularly when there is secondary bacterial infection. Any related medical disorder must also be identified and resolved. New medications for and treatments of the mange complex are available, and, administered with patience and love, the pet’s recovery can be expected.