How Sarcoptic Mange Affects Dogs
Infestation with the mites that cause sarcoptic mange leads to an intense and sudden onset of extreme skin itchiness, which is called “pruritis.” Affected dogs will scratch, bite and chew at affected areas in an attempt to relieve the discomfort caused by these bothersome parasites. There is probably no other skin disease that will cause a dog to scratch and bite at her skin as much as sarcoptic mange. The itchiness is caused by the female mites burrowing several millimeters under the dog’s skin to lay their eggs.
Symptoms of Sarcoptic Mange
Most dogs with sarcoptic mange are intensely itchy. They tend to exacerbate their condition by self-trauma - from scratching, biting and/or chewing at affected areas of their skin. The sores caused by this condition are typically most obvious on the ventral (lower) abdomen and on the inside of the dog’s thighs. Elbows, hocks and ears are also very commonly affected by these mites. Owners of affected dogs may notice one or more of the following signs:
- Scratching at areas of the skin, especially the ears, elbows, hocks, inner thighs, underside of the belly and face
- Biting at these areas of the skin
- Chewing at these areas of the skin
- Visible raw sores on the skin, especially on the underside of the abdomen, chest, inner thighs, elbows, hocks and ears
- Thickened, dark crusty ear flaps
- Patchy hair loss (alopecia)
- Crusty sores on affected areas; crusty ear tips are characteristic of sarcoptic mange
Dogs at Increased Risk
Dogs that are in close contact with strays, or those that are kept in close quarters with other dogs in animal shelters, boarding kennels, grooming facilities or elsewhere, have an increased risk of contracting sarcoptic mange. Collies, Australian Shepherds and other herding breeds often are highly sensitive to ivermectin, which is one of the drugs that is used to treat sarcoptic mange. When these dogs develop an adverse reaction to ivermectin, they display neurological signs, including hypersalivation, disorientation, dilated pupils (mydriasis), lack of coordination (ataxia), collapse, coma, and unfortunately sometimes even death.