Sarcoptic mange, commonly called scabies, primarily affects dogs but can also temporarily affect cats and humans. Caused by a mite called Sarcoptes scabiei, scabies is extremely contagious and the mites are transferred to other dogs, and humans, by direct contact. Dogs can contract the mite by contact with foxes, wombats, rodents or a carrier dog. Symptoms may take 2 to 6 weeks to show after contact with an infected animal.
Note that Sarcoptes scabiei can be transmitted to people in close contact with an affected dog. An itchy rash may develop on the arms, chest or stomach area. The rash is usually transient and should resolve once the affected dog(s) is treated, however, if you appear to be affected you should seek medical advice.
SEVERITY: Mild to Moderate. Treatable.
The mites cause an intense itch as they burrow beneath the skin to lay eggs and secrete substances which cause a reaction in dogs. Infected animals develop a rash and hair loss, particularly in areas such around the eyes, elbows, hocks, abdomen and ear flaps. Often yellow crusts also form on these areas of the body. Long term infections of Sarcoptes scabiei can lead to the development of a deep bacterial skin infection.
Diagnosis is made by examination of skin scrapings under a microscope, or confirmed by response to treatment. Skin scrapings are always performed, however, the mites live deep in the skin and can be extremely difficult to find. If a skin scraping is negative but sarcoptic mange is suspected, medication will be used and the diagnosis confirmed, or eliminated, based upon the response to treatment.
It can take up to a month for an asymptomatic carrier to show any signs, so all in-contact dogs should be treated, even those showing no clinical signs.
Treatment for Sarcoptes is usually via a specifically designed medication such as Revolution, a liquid applied on the back of the neck. The product is very safe and highly effective. Dogs should have a repeat dose two weeks after their first. Some severely affected dogs may also need antibiotics, anti-inflammatories and/or medicated shampoo.
Response to treatment should be seen within two weeks. Dogs at high risk of becoming infected with Sarcoptes, for example, those that live in areas of fox habitat, may need to be treated monthly.