The primary therapeutic goal of treating a dog with sarcoptic mange is to get rid of the nasty infective mites. Because infestation by these mites is highly contagious, all nearby dogs should be assessed and treated, even if they do not show signs of discomfort or distress. Treatment almost always should be done under strict veterinary supervision.
Dogs with sarcoptic mange will be washed with a specialized shampoo, probably a benzoyl peroxide product, to loosen the hair pores. Then, they will be treated with a scabicidal dip, which means a dip that will kill the mites. The obviously affected areas should be clipped to facilitate the penetration and effectiveness of the topical medication. The entire dog must be treated; simply applying the dip only to the obviously affected areas of the dog will not achieve the desired results. The face and ears must be treated in almost all cases.
There are a number of different medications that can be applied topically to kill these mites. Unfortunately, scabies mites have developed resistance to many of the traditional treatments. Still, the common dips include ivermectin, selamectin (Revolution), milbemycin (Interceptor), lime-sulfur (LymDyp), doramectin and amitraz (Mitaban), among others. The dog’s veterinarian can recommend the best treatment protocol. Many authorities suggest that the dog be dipped weekly or every other week for at least six consecutive weeks or until its symptoms resolve, under the supervision of its veterinarian. Many veterinarians recommend treating for two weeks after the signs of infection have gone away. Oral medications may also be part of the treatment protocol. Amitraz dips reportedly should not be used on Chihuahuas, pregnant or nursing bitches or puppies under 4 months of age.
All dogs that have had contact with an infected dog should also be treated. The physical environment should be disinfected to eliminate the mites that may affect dogs and their owners.
Sarcoptes mites usually die fairly quickly when they are exposed to the outer environment. However, it may take up to one or two months for them to be eliminated, and it can take several more weeks for the itchiness (pruritis) to resolve on affected dogs. Most veterinarians recommend clipping the areas where the mites have been active before treating, which can help to enhance the effectiveness of applying the topical drugs.
Traditional antihistamines and steroid medications (corticosteroids) may or may not relieve the itchiness that is always associated with sarcoptic mange. Broad spectrum antibiotics may be useful to resolve secondary infections that can develop as a result of these parasitic infestations. Topical and oral antibiotics will also help to relieve infected skin sores caused by these mites.
The prognosis for most dogs suffering from sarcoptic mange is quite good. With treatment, the itchiness usually goes away and the dog usually returns to a normal, full and good quality of life. Sometimes, dogs develop increased itchiness during the first few days of treatment. This is probably caused by their immune system’s response to the dying mites.
Oral ivermectin, while quite effective against scabies, has produced central nervous system abnormalities and even deaths in Old English Sheepdogs, Australian Shepherds, Collies, Shetland Sheepdogs and other herding breeds and crosses of those breeds. Dogs should always be tested for heartworms before being treated with ivermectin.