VETzInsight

Sarcoptic Mange in Dogs

November 30, 2003 (published) | January 16, 2023 (revised)

Sarcoptic mange, also called scabies, is an itchy disease in dogs caused by a mite (Sarcoptes scabiei var canis). Sarcoptic mites are small and not visible to the naked eye. They burrow into the skin and cause itching, redness, and skin crusts at the tips of the ears, elbows, hocks, chest and belly. In a severe infestation, Sarcoptic mites 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.

How is sarcoptic mange (scabies) diagnosed? 

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 on your dog's body can cause severe symptoms. If sarcoptic mange is suspected, your pet's veterinarian will recommend treatment for the mites.    

How is sarcoptic mange (scabies) treated?

Several prescription medicines can be used to kill mites. These medicines come in various forms including:

  • dips such as lime sulfur or amitraz
  • spot-ons such as moxidectin (Advantage Multi®) or selamectin (Revolution®, Stronghold®)
  • oral pills such as afoxolaner (Nexgard®), milbemycin oxime (Interceptor®), or sarolaner (Simparica®)

Your pet’s veterinarian may also prescribe other medicines to treat itching while the mite medication takes effect.

No matter which treatment is chosen, follow the instructions from your pet’s veterinarian. For some medicines, the amount needed to treat sarcoptic mange is different than the amount needed to treat other health conditions. If you give the medicine less often or in a smaller amount than what your pet’s veterinarian recommends, your pet’s sarcoptic mange will not get better.

Can my other pets or my family get sarcoptic mange (scabies)?

Yes. Sarcoptic mange is highly contagious and can spread from pet to pet or from pet to human. Treat all other dogs in the household. Although mites can only survive a brief time off the dog, clean your dog’s living quarters and wash or throw away the bedding. If your dog has sarcoptic mange and anyone in your family has red and itchy skin bumps, consult your family physician.

Your dog may remain contagious for two to four weeks after starting treatment. Please keep your dog confined and away from other dogs and unexposed persons until your dog’s re-check veterinary appointment.


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