Maverick’s elbow before and after treatment. On the left, Maverick has sarcoptic mange and then post-treatment healthy skin.

Acute-onset, moderate to severe pruritus in a dog have you stumped? Consider sarcoptic mange as a potential cause.

What is Sarcoptic Mange?

Sarcoptic mange is a contagious, extremely itchy skin disease caused by a microscopic mite, sarcoptes scabiei var canis. This mite burrows into the superficial skin layers where females lay their eggs. The mite prefers the ear margins, chest area, abdomen, and lateral elbows and hocks, or any other thinly haired areas.

Acute onset of intense itching usually occurs within 3-4 weeks of exposure. Symptoms besides intense itching include hair loss and crusty skin lesions. The pinnal-pedal reflex (vigorous rubbing of the pinnal margin results in hind leg scratching) is positive in 75-90% of affected dogs.

The disease is highly contagious to other dogs and may even spread to their owner. Diagnosis of sarcoptic mange is made by finding the mites or their eggs on skin scrapings or fecal examination. However, since the number of mites can be minimal, a negative skin scrape does not completely rule out the disease. Thus, treatment should ALWAYS be done if scabies is suspected.

Treatment Options

Current recommendations for treating sarcoptic mange are either an isoxazoline without a combined heartworm preventative (Bravecto®, Credelio®, NexGard®, or Simparica®) or Revolution®. A few other reported treatments for sarcoptic mange include ivermectin, lime sulfur, and fipronil.

Be sure to treat any concurrent secondary bacterial or yeast infections appropriately and consider short-term systemic anti-pruritic therapies.

Recommendations During Treatment

Other dogs should not be allowed to contact affected dogs or their bedding until recovery is complete. We recommend basic cleaning of the pet’s bedding, kennels, harnesses, crates, and grooming tools.

It is important to treat all dogs in contact or on the premises with affected pets. Cats and other species are usually not treated. People who are affected should contact their doctor for appropriate treatment.

Although sarcoptic mange is extremely uncomfortable for dogs and sometimes their owners, it has an excellent prognosis, and it can be treated successfully.

How Can Pet Owners Help Their Dogs Avoid Getting Mange?

Completely avoiding sarcoptic mange is tricky, especially if pets are in contact with other dogs or spend time in areas with wild canids. However, using one of the isoxazoline preventatives or Revolution long-term for flea and tick prevention should help to prevent infestation.

Treatment Pricing

In addition to the cost of a pet’s doctor visit, medication generally costs $50-$100 depending on which option is chosen. For example, 1 dose of Bravecto resolves the problem and is around $23-72 online depending on the size of the dog.

Mange or Allergies?

It’s difficult to know if your pet’s intense scratching is caused by allergies or mange. Some allergies — especially food allergies — can cause very intense itching.

Therefore, any pet with significant itchiness should be treated for sarcoptic mange. If the itching continues despite appropriate treatment, veterinarians should consider other causes of itching at that time.

How Common is Mange?

Due to the amount of wildlife in Colorado, sarcoptic mange is a relatively common condition and one of the most frequently encountered ectoparasites. However, the prevalence of sarcoptic mange in dogs varies throughout the United States. In areas of the country where fleas and ticks are prevalent, more dogs are on routine parasiticides which decreases their chances of developing sarcoptic mange.

At Mountain Star, our goal is to heal pets’ skin and eye conditions so clients can enjoy their pets as healthy companions.

We truly appreciate your referrals. We’re here to support you, your clients, and your patients. We’re in this together.

More Pre and Post-Treatment Photos:

Maverick’s pinna (outer ear) before and after treatment.
Maverick’s paw and leg before and after treatment.