Effects of Mange – From the Dog’s Point of View
“Mange” is a general term that refers to several different skin disorders caused by several different species of tiny parasitic blood-sucking mites. Most mange mites cause infested dogs to become intensely itchy (pruritic), which leads to skin redness, irritation and inflammation at the feeding sites. As the mites multiply, affected dogs will lick, bite and scratch, causing painful weeping wounds from self-trauma. Only demodex mites rarely cause the profound itchiness that other mange mites do.
Symptoms of Mange – What the Owner Sees
Owners of dogs with mange may notice different signs depending upon the type of mite that is causing the dog’s condition. All mange mites other than Demodex canis usually cause similar symptoms, including one or more of the following:
- Licking, scratching and biting at localized areas of skin; often frantic, frequent and sudden in onset; may be especially prevalent around the head and on the ears, belly, chest, elbows, armpits, feet, legs and groin
- Head shaking
- Small bumps on affected skin areas; may be tiny orange-red oval dots that do not move (trombiculosis mites); may be raised puss-filled pustules indicating infection
- Skin redness (erythema)
- Skin sores; often weeping, oozing and/or bleeding; can become thick and crusty; most common on face, ears, belly, chest, elbows, armpits, feet, legs and groin; can become widespread (generalized)
- White-ish flakes moving through the coat (walking dandruff; cheyletiella mites)
- Hair loss (alopecia); may be patchy (localized) or generalized
- Oily skin and dandruff (seborrhea)
- Cracked, dry, brittle skin
In severe, untreated cases, dogs may develop:
- Skin thickening and scaling
- Skin sloughing
- Depression (loss of interest in normal activities)
- Loss of appetite (anorexia)
Dogs with demodex have a different profile. Dogs with localized demodex will have patchy hair loss, usually around the muzzle and eyes but occasionally on other areas, without itchiness. Generalized demodex occurs mainly in older animals and is an extremely severe skin disease with widespread hair loss, inflammation and deep secondary infections. These dogs may develop inflamed food pads, enlarged lymph nodes, fever, lethargy, weakness, depression and pus-filled sores that go deep into the skin layers.
Dogs at Increased Risk
There is no specific age or gender predisposition for mange. However, some generalizations can be made:
- Sarcoptic mange is more common in dogs exposed to shelters, dog shows, pet stores, strays, boarding kennels, dog parks and grooming or doggy daycare facilities. Dogs living in the country and allowed to roam freely also are at increased risk.
- Cheyletiellosis and otodectic mange are more common in young dogs and, as with sarcoptic mange, those exposed to high-traffic dog areas.
- Localized demodex is most common in young dogs under 2 years of age; generalized demodex can affect dogs of all ages but is most frequently seen in older animals.
- Chiggers most commonly infest dogs allowed to range through fields and forests during late summer and into fall, when rotting vegetation is present.