Causes of Sarcoptic Mange
Sarcoptic mange is caused by the tiny parasitic mite, Sarcoptes scabiei. The clinical signs of infestation by these mites are caused when the mites burrow through the outer layers of the dog’s skin and cause intense itchiness (pruritis) from mechanical irritation and from the release of irritating, allergenic substances. Infection by Sarcoptes scabiei mites is extremely contagious. Close direct contact by an unaffected dog with an infected dog, especially in animal shelters, boarding kennels, dog parks, grooming facilities or veterinary clinics, almost always causes the development of symptoms within 2 to 6 weeks after exposure. The mites also can be transmitted indirectly on “fomites,” which are inanimate objects such as bedding, grooming equipment, pooper scoopers, food or water bowls, shoes, collars and feces.
The female mites tunnel into areas a few millimeters under the dog’s skin and lay their eggs there. The eggs usually hatch within 3 to 10 days. The immature mites develop into adults and begin to lay eggs of their own within only two to three weeks. Then, the process repeats itself. The entire life cycle of these parasites is only about 17 to 21 days and is spent entirely on the dog. All aspects of the life cycle of sarcoptic mites cause extreme itchiness in the host animal.
Prevention of Sarcoptic Mange
The only way to prevent a dog from becoming infected with Sarcoptes scabiei mites is to keep that dog away from dogs or people that are infested with this highly contagious external parasite.
Sarcoptic mange is zoonotic, which means that it can be transferred from dogs to people and from people to dogs. People who are in close contact with a dog that has sarcoptic mange may develop a very itchy, red rash on their arms, chest or abdomen. This rash commonly develops around the belt-line on the waist. These mites usually do not live on humans for more than three weeks.