Does My Dog Have Mange?

Updated on November 20, 2016
DrMark1961 profile image

Dr. Mark is a small animal veterinarian. He works mostly with dogs and exotic animals.

Demodectic mange in a puppy
Demodectic mange in a puppy | Source

Is It Mange?

The only way to tell for sure if your dog has mange is to take him in to your regular vet.

  • His skin will be examined
  • His skin will be tape tested to check for the presence of sarcoptes mites.
  • His skin will be scraped to check for demodex mites.

If the skin scraping is positive, and your dog is diagnosed with demodectic (red) mange, you will have a lot of work ahead of you but at least mange is something that can be treated. When my first dog was diagnosed, demodectic mange was often a death sentence; there were few medications that worked and many dogs continued to get worse. My dog was an accidental product of a backyard breeder (now she would be called a designer dog) but her immune system must have allowed her to fight off the disease.

What about the disease now?

What is going to be done with your dog?

Mange in a dog
Mange in a dog | Source
Demodectic mange may start with some hair loss and red skin, but most dog owners ignore this at first.
Demodectic mange may start with some hair loss and red skin, but most dog owners ignore this at first. | Source

What is demodectic mange?

This is a skin disease caused by a mite known as Demodex canis. It is normal to find a few in most dogs; for some reasons certain dogs develop infections and the mites spread through skin and maybe even through the internal organs.

What does it look like?

When the disease started out, it was probably just red skin, probably around the eyes and mouth, and you may not even have noticed it. As it grew worse hair started falling out in patches, especially around the face and the eyes, and sometimes on the body or the legs. If you didn´t start treatment at that point, the hair loss got worse and your dogs follicles filled up with pus which became infected.

A dog with a severe skin infection stinks and almost no one can ignore the disease at that point.

If the lesions are really old and the skin is thick, like old demodex infections on the feet, your vet may even need to do a skin biopsy to find the mites.

Usually it is found when the irritated areas of the skin are scraped and examined under a microscope.

How do I treat it?

Most of the mild cases of demodex will get better even without any treatment, or with some of the ointments that are sold for this disease. If the mange has already become so severe that it has led to skin infections, however, it needs to be treated more aggressively.

The first treatment recommended is usually a pesticide called amitraz. It is mixed up and poured on the dog as a dip, at least until the skin is healed up and no more mites are found on the skin scraping, and then at least another month after that. The dog needs to be bathed with benzoyl peroxide before the amitraz is poured on. The amitrax has several side effects, and even then about a third of the cases will not be cured and will need another therapy.

The next treatment is ivermectin, but this drug is so cheap now that I think it should be tried first. The dog gets 0.3-0.6 mg/kg orally, and may need to be treated for 3 to 8 months. The dose should be started low and built up slowly. If the dog shows any side effects (excessive salivating, vomiting, ataxia) then an alternative treatment needs to be tried.

Since the ivermectin cannot be used in some dogs (like Collies and others sensitive to ivermectin), they can also be given milbemycin (Interceptor) tablets at 1mg/kg, orally, every day. The dose can even be doubled if there are no side effects (salivation, vomiting, weakness) and the dog is not healed. This is an expensive treatment though so if your dog cannot be treated with the ivermectin the amitraz should still be tried first.

Demodectic mange can affect the dogs face.
Demodectic mange can affect the dogs face. | Source

This is the best ivermectin product available for treating demodectic mange in a small or medium sized dog. If you have any trouble figuring out the dose, leave me a message at the bottom of this article (with your dog´s weight) and I will reply right away.

Demodectic mange can also cause small pustules on the neck, lips, and face
Demodectic mange can also cause small pustules on the neck, lips, and face | Source

Can I prevent it from spreading to my other dogs?

Demodex is not really contagious like sarcoptic mange. If you have several dogs and only one of them was diagnosed with demodex, though, there is a possibility that some transfer can occur. You can allow them to have regular contact but just keep the healthy dog in good shape. Make sure she is eating good homemade food and keep her skin in shape by giving omega acids and antioxidants.

Will demodectic mites spread to me?

Demodex mites only live in dog skin, and really only cause problems in some dogs. Hug your dog all you want—the disease will not spread to you, and your dog will thank you for the extra attention.

© 2012 Dr Mark


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    • trish1048 profile image

      trish1048 4 years ago

      That makes me feel a bit better. I would hate to think my folks chose not to spend money.

      You are welcome :)

    • DrMark1961 profile image

      Dr Mark 4 years ago from The Beach of Brazil

      Yes, cost is an issue but back in 1953 the drugs to treat demodectic mange had not even been invented, so even if your folks had been willing to spend the money there was nothing to do. Really a shame.

      Thanks for your kind words about my hubs. I hope the information, and my (sometimes unconventional!) viewpoint helps some dog owners.

    • trish1048 profile image

      trish1048 4 years ago

      Hi DrMark,

      Cost is a huge factor for many people. Even routine veterinary care is difficult for a lot of people.

      My thoughts also go to hoarders. I think that the mindset of folks who become hoarders is that they truly believe they are saving all those animals just because they house and feed them. They fail to understand that it takes a lot more than that to properly care for a pet.

      In any case, I'm happy to see that you have put out so much useful information for all dog lovers. Your hubs are well worth reading.

    • DrMark1961 profile image

      Dr Mark 4 years ago from The Beach of Brazil

      Unfortunately back in 1953 dogs were put down for demodectic mange, so I wouldn´t have been surprised if that is what Timmy was diagnosed with. Even 10 years later most were put down, but now there are a lot of alternatives if the owner can afford them.

    • trish1048 profile image

      trish1048 4 years ago


      I was five years old (1953) when we got our first dog, a collie I named Timmy. My parents had a dog house for him, and that's where he lived. I do not remember him ever being in our house. In any case, I adored that dog. I spent hours and hours playing with him. I'd make up songs and sing to him as well. My sweetest memory is of him waiting for me to come home from school. He would greet me with those wonderful wet doggie kisses and I'd wrap my arms around his neck and hold him as tight as I could.

      Sadly, one day, he was gone. I do not know the circumstances, only that he had contracted mange, and as far as I know, my parents had him put down. I do not know how advanced veterinary medicine was in those days, but I seem to recall my parents said the doctor couldn't fix him. Needless to say, I cried my little heart out.

      Since then, I've owned many dogs as well as cats, and due to downsizing, I no longer own a dog. My life is spent with my three cats. Our newest addition is a stray neighborhood cat named Salem. He's all black with gold eyes. To our delight, we took him to the vet and he got a clean bill of health. My heart rests easier knowing he has a good home and doesn't have to fend for himself on the streets any longer :)

    • DrMark1961 profile image

      Dr Mark 5 years ago from The Beach of Brazil

      Hi ThoughtSandwiches thanks for the comment. That must have been rough; that is a LOT of hair. It only takes weeks for the hair to come back after a demodex infection, but I have never seen a smoke allergy like you described so I am not sure if the follicles were damaged, delaying hair growth. Eight months ago? Surely that must be some sort of record. I sure hope he is okay by the time your winter rolls around.

    • ThoughtSandwiches profile image

      ThoughtSandwiches 5 years ago from Reno, Nevada


      My dog developed an allergic reaction to smoke about eight months back after our neighborhood was engulfed in a wildfire. Just about all his hair fell he is a Great can imagine how much hair that was. It's slowly growing back but I am on the constant lookout for other skin type problems (since I can actually see his skin now). I will be keeping my eyes open for this new possibility.

      Paranoid in Reno,

      Thomas how long would you say it would take a dog's fur to grow back in his situation?

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