Discovering your pet has mange can be frightening, but this skin disease is very treatable and there are simple steps you can take to safely treat a pet with mange without risk of worsening or spreading the infection.
Be Sure It's Mange
The first step in safe, effective treatment of mange is to be sure that, in fact, your pet does have mange. Different skin conditions and diseases, as well as infestations of fleas or ticks, can have similar symptoms, and it is important to get a proper diagnosis from your veterinarian before you start any mange treatments. Furthermore, there are two different types of mange, and understanding each type is essential for correct treatment.
Demodectic mange, also called red mange, is generally the milder form of mange. It results from mites that are naturally on pets' skin, but for different reasons the mites may multiply out of control and cause mange. Hair loss and bald spots, particularly on the face, feet and legs are characteristic of demodectic mange, along with increased itching. Very acute cases may lead to sores or a strong odor from the skin. Fortunately, demodectic mange is not considered contagious, and does not typically spread to other animals, even in more severe cases.
Sarcoptic mange, or scabies, is more severe, though the early stages can be as mild as demodectic mange. More severe scabies cases can lead to intense, frantic itching and red, inflamed, moist sores on the skin that may even develop scabs. These sores may appear on the ears, face and legs. This type of mange is highly contagious and can not only spread to other dogs and cats, but also to humans, where it may appear as small red bumps, similar to mosquito bites.
Because of the similarity between mange types, especially in mild cases, it is critical that a veterinarian properly diagnose the condition for correct treatment. A skin scraping is usually all that's needed for diagnosis, though trickier cases may require a simple biopsy.
Once mange is properly diagnosed, it is wise to isolate the infected animal to minimize the risk of spreading the condition to any other pets or animals, though this is not usually necessary with demodectic mange. Keep the pet away from any other pets as well, including neighbors' animals or local parks where more pets may visit, and it may be necessary to treat other household pets as a precaution to ensure the disease does not spread. Cleaning all bedding and whatever comes in contact with the infected pet's skin, such as a collar, grooming tools or soft toys, can also help eliminate mange.
The veterinarian will likely prescribe oral antiparasitic medication to control the mites and eliminate the mange. Topic skin ointments or creams may also be useful to ease the skin's itchiness, which can make the pet more comfortable. Some dietary changes for better nutrition can support healthy skin and lessen the effects of mange, and reducing stress in the animal's environment can also help treat mange. Bathing the pet with antibacterial shampoo can help, and sulphur powder on the pet's fur can also reduce the mites that cause mange.
As a pet's mange treatment is ongoing, the veterinarian will want to perform skin scrapings every 1-2 weeks to check the progress of the disease. Once two successive scrapings show no further presence of mange, treatment may be discontinued, though if the infestation was severe, another week or two of medication may be a wise precaution to prevent a recurrence.
All pets naturally have some mites on their skin, and it isn't always clear what can cause one pet to develop mange while another has no difficulties. There are steps every pet owner can take, however, to help keep their pet's skin and coat healthy and minimize the risk of mange.
- Provide your pet a healthy, nutritious diet, minimizing fillers in their food such as grains or carbohydrates. A meat-based diet is best for both cats and dogs.
- Consider adding a spoon or two of apple cider vinegar or fish oil to the pet's food for extra nutrients that support healthy skin.
- Practice good grooming, including regular brushing and baths as needed to keep any skin pests under control.
- Reduce stress in the pet's environment, as an anxious, depressed or stressed pet is more susceptible to developing mange or other illnesses.
- Keep pets away from any other animals suspected to have mange, including avoiding public dog parks or similar areas that may foster contagious outbreaks.
- If a pet has had demodectic mange, do not breed the animal, as this type of mange is suspected to be hereditary.
Mange can be a challenging disease, but fortunately, there are good ways to safely treat a pet with mange. With proper care and treatment, this skin condition can be overcome and your pet will once again have a lush, healthy coat.