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Scabies in Dogs

Scabies is highly contagious between dogs.

Scabies, or sarcoptic mange, in dogs is caused by microscopic mites that burrow into the skin. They cause intense itchiness and the condition is exceptionally contagious between dogs and to humans.

Signs of Scabies in Dogs

The main signs a dog exhibits when suffering from scabies include:

  • Extreme scratching and chewing at the skin
  • Redness, swelling, bumps, oozing, and crusting of affected areas of the skin
  • Hair loss

The mites that cause sarcoptic mange often like to hang out on skin that doesn't have fur, so many times, a dog with scabies shows the most itchiness and other skin signs in those spots. That includes elbows, ear flaps, and the abdomen. However, signs don't have to be limited to those areas of the body.

Cause of Sarcoptic Mange in Dogs

Scabies is caused by the mite Sarcoptes scabei. These tiny parasites spread between dogs in close quarters really quickly. It might happen in kennels, grooming facilities, dog parks, and veterinary facilities, where direct contact between dogs is common.

Dogs can also be infected by scabies mites when they encounter them in the environment (such as when another dog with scabies has come through the area, and some mites have been left behind). However, mites don't live too long off their host, so this isn't as commonly the method of transmission as direct contact is.

Scabies mites live on the surface of a dog's skin. When a female is ready to lay eggs, she burrows into the skin and lays them in the tunnel she makes.

Diagnosis of Scabies in Dogs

Many other conditions can cause the signs seen when dogs have scabies, including food, inhalant, and flea allergies and other types of mites. Therefore, a veterinarian will need to examine the affected dog thoroughly and do some testing.

A skin scraping can reveal mites under the microscope, but it's not always possible to find them. That's because they're killed when the dog scratches at them. Therefore, it sometimes takes ruling out other conditions, noticing that other dogs and/or humans in the home are also extremely itchy, or treating for scabies because it is suspected and watching for resolution.

Treatment of Scabies in Dogs

There are several treatments for scabies in dogs.

  • Ivermectin. This is a medicine that is most often given by injection once a week or every other week, usually four times. This medicine hasn't been approved by the FDA for this use, but it's highly effective against scabies. Some dogs can have a severe, even life-threatening reaction to ivermectin, usually when they are a member of a breed that has a known mutation that makes ivermectin toxic for them. Those breeds are usually in the collie family and include Australian shepherds and shelties.
  • Revolution. This is a topical flea, tick, and heartworm medication that is made from an ivermectin derivative. It's quite effective against scabies but usually needs to be applied every two weeks instead of the four that prevents heartworm to kill the mites. Revolution should be safe for collie breeds.
  • Sentinel. This monthly heartworm preventative is also effective against scabies and should be safe for collie breeds. Your veterinarian may recommend a different dosing schedule than is used to prevent heartworm infection.
  • Lime sulfur or Mitaban dips. These are medicated baths that can be used to kill scabies. The baths are given weekly, usually for four to six weeks. With the advent of medications other than ivermectin that are effective against scabies in dogs, dips aren't used as much because they're labor intensive. Some dogs have adverse reactions to the medication, also.

These are only some of the effective treatments against scabies. More are being developed all the time. Your veterinarian is best suited to choose a treatment that is most likely to be safe and effective for your individual dog.

Many times, other medications are used during scabies treatment to help control the intense itch and treat any secondary infections going on due to skin damage from the scratching.

Scabies in Humans

Humans can contract scabies mites through direct contact with a dog that has them. Because people aren't the natural host for the mite, they don't thrive on humans, and the infection is self-limiting, meaning that it goes away on its own. However, if you suspect that you have scabies, visit your doctor right away and let him or her know your suspicion.

If a dog in your home is diagnosed with scabies, keep his bedding and any areas he hangs out on washed daily. Don't forget his harness or collar.

You May Also Like These Articles:

Flea Allergy Dermatitis in Dogs

Ringworm in Dogs

Is It OK to Let Your Dog Lick Your Face?

Dealing With Canine Scratching and Licking

Skin Scraping Test in Dogs

Food Allergies in Dogs

Atopy: Inhalant Allergies in Dogs

My Older Dog Sleeps a Lot: Is He OK?


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