Sarcoptic Mange in Dogs

November 30, 2003 (published) | April 26, 2018 (revised)

Sarcoptic mange, also called scabies, is a very itchy disease in dogs caused by a mite (Sarcoptes scabiei var canis). Sarcoptic mites are very small and not visible to the naked eye. They tend to burrow under the skin and cause itching, redness, and skin crusts at the tips of the ears, elbows, hocks, chest and belly. However in a severe infestation, Sarcoptic mites can cause problems on the animal's entire body.

Sarcoptic mange is on this dog's face and ears, causing hair loss and crusting. Photo by Dr. Kim Williams.

Your veterinarian will look for the mite by performing several skin scrapings on your dog and examining the debris under a microscope. Unfortunately, in many dogs with Sarcoptic mange the skin scrapings do not contain any mites. This is because only a small number of mites may be on the dog’s body but cause severe symptoms. If Sarcoptic mange is suspected, treatment may be the only way to diagnose and cure your dog of the mites.    

Sarcoptic mange is highly contagious and can spread from pet to pet or from pet to human. Other dogs in the household should be treated whether or not they have symptoms. Mites can only survive a short time off the dog. However to ensure that there is no reinfection of your dog after treatment, your dog's living quarters should be thoroughly cleaned and the bedding washed or thrown away.

If any people in the family have red itchy bumps on their skin, they should consult their physician.


Treatment sometimes includes clipping your dog's hair coat. This will depend upon the length of the hair coat and severity of the disease. If a dip is used, a good shampoo is recommended before dipping to remove all the scales and crust.

Several medicines can be used to kill the Sarcoptic mites. These prescription medicines are in the form of dips, oral medications, injectable medications, or spot-on products.

No matter which treatment is chosen, your dog may remain contagious for the next two to four weeks. Please keep your dog confined and away from other dogs and unexposed persons until your dog’s re-check appointment with the veterinarian.

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