Sarcoptic Mange: 4 Questions to Ask About Scabies

By Simon Tong

Sarcoptic mange is one of two varieties of mange that a dog can be afflicted with. Both are certainly different, but in general, sarcoptic mange is the more troublesome of the two in terms of diagnosis and treatment.

This skin problem can affect dogs of all ages, and causes a variety of problems in a dog’s skin. This article aims to give you the necessary information about how sarcoptic mange is transmitted to your dog, the seriousness of the problem, and its underlying cause.

What exactly is sarcoptic mange?

Sarcoptic mange, or more commonly known as ‘scabies’, is a skin condition that causes severe itching and hair loss. This skin problem is different from demodectic mange (the second variant of mange); unlike demodectic mange, the sarcoptic variety can affect dogs other than the young, old or sick.

Scabies primarily cause an inflammation of the skin, as well as severe hair loss and numerous sores. Pus may also be present, which will harden and turn into flaky scabs.

Finally, thickening of the skin, as well as the development of folds can occur in advanced cases.

What causes sarcoptic mange?

The sarcoptic mite is the main culprit for the skin disease, which is a subspecies of mites that function as parasitic pests.

As with all other types of mites, they’re so tiny that you wouldn’t be able to find any traces of them without help, but get them under a microscope and you’ll see a grotesquely obese little bug trying its best to hitch a ride on a dog.

Unlike fleas, the feeding of mites is not the cause of the excessive itching and other symptoms that affects dogs on a daily basis. Instead, the lifecycle of the mite itself is the underlying cause of the problem.

I’ll try not to delve too much into biology here, but here’s how it basically goes:  the female mites first land on an unsuspecting dog and they start settling in by burrowing under the skin and forming long tunnels, where they deposit their eggs. When they’re hatched, the young mites then come out of the tunnel to form their own enclaves by digging new, shorter tunnels into the skin.

Once there, they’ll remain until they’re fully grown before they start fulfilling their life’s purpose: to make more mites. The males mature faster and they’re the first to get out, only to enter the female tunnels to fertilize them. Once that’s done, the females then reach adulthood and burrow out of their holes… before starting the lifecycle anew.

In case you haven’t pieced it together yet, the activity of the sarcoptic mite is the real cause of mange. The itch that your dog feels is due to the burrowing under the skin and the formation of tunnels, along with all the waste products produced by the mites.  Apart from that, it also causes skin irritation and hair loss, all part of a mange’s list of symptoms.

The sarcoptic mite can live for up to three or four days in an open environment, but they usually live for much longer if they find a host body to feed from – a total of 21 days. If they manage to get their eggs laid though, your dog will soon be in for a very hard time.

How do dogs get this skin problem?

The thing about sarcoptic mites is that they’re highly contagious; they are usually transmitted between dogs when they get into contact with each other. Of course, if you bring your dog out for walks frequently, there is a chance that he might get it from a passing dog while they’re sniffing each other.

This is actually one of the reasons why mange seems to appear on a dog’s face first – they usually use their heads to inspect and investigate things, which makes it a usual entry point for would-be parasites looking for a new place to stay.

They can also attack humans, although the effects are not as severe and there’s no such thing as human mange. The worst problem that one can expect is some itching for up to one or two weeks after exposure to a dog with scabies, but I would still recommend finding some protection as a preventive measure.

Are there any other problems that mange can cause?

In a word: yes. There are several complications that may arise due to scabies, such as skin infections and a weakening of the immune system. Bacterial infections of the skin can come about when your dog scratches at his skin so much that it tears and bleeds, making it accessible for secondary infections from nearby bacteria.

The weakening of the immune system acts as a gateway for more serious diseases that would normally be deflected to infect the dog. This can come about in the form of rapid weight loss, or an enlargement of the lymph nodes. Both of these conditions will subsequently give way to even more serious problems. In cases of animal neglect, some dogs have even had cases of scabies that eventually proved to be fatal.


Basically, sarcoptic mange is a skin condition that starts out mildly in the beginning, but can grow to be very dangerous if knowingly left untreated. Not only does your dog feel the unrelenting itch at all times, he also has to bear the scars of his constant scratching as long as the mites are on him, burrowing underneath his skin to produce the next generation of parasites.

It’s not impossible to cure scabies; if caught in the early stages, it’s actually pretty easy to do so. To put it simply, all you need to do is to kill off the mites and mend your dog’s skin, and everything will be fine. There are tons of resources about mange treatment nowadays, so that shouldn’t pose a problem. However, I would suggest looking up your vet if your dog is already on an advanced stage of sarcoptic mange.

Simon owns a miniature schnauzer and owns a website devoted to gathering information about dog skin problems. For more information about hot spots, just click on to find out more about other types of dog mange, and how to help your dog get better.


P.S. Don’t forget to visit us at dogs and cats

And you can follow us on twitter too

Nov 01, 2011 | 0 | Uncategorized

Leave a Reply