A couple of weeks ago, my Chiweenie, Gus Gus, started developing strange patches of missing fur in his coat. The patches were so small at first that they looked more like small scratches or minor injuries. It was easy to believe this was the case because Gus never learns his lesson when it comes to Ivan — an outside cat who got the name Ivan at the shelter I rescued him from, short for Ivan the Terrible of course.
Gus and Ivan’s interactions are both predictable and comical. Ivan finds his way back into the yard from the woods and makes his way towards the garage. Meanwhile, Gus comes charging and barking out of the garage towards Ivan like he is going to do something. Gus stops a foot or two short of the cat and continues barking. Ivan sits down and waits for Gus to get closer. Gus inches closer and takes a paw to the snout.
When I saw the missing patches of fur I thought Ivan had bested Gus a time or two and taken some fur when he dished out those lessons. However, upon closer examination, clumps of fur came loose when I attempted to assess his wounds, and right away I knew it was most likely mange.
Determining what type of mange
Mange is a skin disease caused by mites. I recognized it when his fur fell out because I recalled similar symptoms in a bloodhound we had growing up that ended up with a slight case of mange.
There are two different types of mange common to dogs — sarcoptic mange (also known as scabies) and demodectic mange (also known as red mange or Demodex).
Sarcoptic Mange or canine scabies is caused by a circular-shaped, eight-legged mite called the Sarcoptes scabiei. It is highly contagious and can be passed from dogs to humans.
Symptoms of canine scabies will appear about 10 days to 8 weeks after exposure. The first signs of infestation will appear on the margins of the ears, chest, elbows, hocks and stomach. If left untreated, scabies can spread quickly. Here are the most common symptoms:
- Extreme itchiness
- Redness and rash
- Thick yellow crusts
- Hair loss
- Bacteria and yeast infections
- Thickening of the skin (advanced cases)
- Lymph node inflammation (advanced cases)
- Emaciation (extreme cases)
Demodectic Mange, or Demodex, is caused by a cigar-shaped mite, Demodex canis, which are a normal part of a dog’s skin flora, always present and generally harmless. Demodex can not be passed to humans. It will usually go away on its own or with a topical treatment.
- Patches of hair loss and red, scaling skin.
- Sometimes redness, infections, scaling, swelling and crusts appear over a dog’s entire body. In these cases, the dog loses most, if not all, hair.
Determining which type of mange your dog is suffering from will help you determine the best course of treatment as well as the necessity of isolation.
If you suspect your dog is suffering from sarcoptic mange, isolate your dog from any other animals and call your veterinarian to coordinate collecting and dropping off a skin sample to come up with a treatment plan. It’s important to get your veterinarian in the loop as soon as possible because even mild cases of mange can spread quickly.
If you suspect your dog is suffering from Demodex, it’s also a good idea to contact your veterinarian but you may be able to clear it up on your own at home. I knew Gus was suffering from Demodex because he hadn’t been exposed to any sick animals and none of our other dogs were showing signs of patchy fur or skin sores. I was able to determine home treatment would be safe for Gus because he didn’t have any open sores, infections and other than the hair loss his skin looked healthy.
I treated his Demodex with Happy Jack’s Kennel Dip II for Flea, Mange Mite, and Ticks. You can purchase the product online or at your local Tractor Supply Co. Make sure to fully read the application instructions before use. You do not apply the formula directly to your dog’s skin. You dilute it in water at a ratio of one part formula and 32 parts water. Then you mix it well in a spray bottle (make sure to mark the spray bottle so others know it was used for pesticides) and spray it on your dog’s fur, soaking its fur in the mixture. The directions say to cover your dog’s entire body with the mixture, but I didn’t do that. I just sprayed down Gus’ affected area. However, I didn’t spray around the first couple of bald spots enough, to cover all the fur around them, and the mites kept moving to new patches until I soaked all of the blad spots and all the healthy fur around the bald spots in a 1-2-inch buffer. I soaked his bald spots and adjacent fur twice a day for a week and his bald spots started regrowing hair. I made sure no new blad spots cropped up before I stopped treating him completely. I will continue to check his spots daily until all of his fur has grown back.
Some other treatment methods to manage mange include:
- Trimming hair/fur.
- Bathing dogs in medicated shampoos weekly to heal and soften skin.
- The use of topical medications more long-term, over a period of several weeks. Oral treatments are also sometimes used. Consult your veterinarian before use.
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