Mange is a skin disease found in many mammals and is caused by a mite that burrows beneath the skin. Most people are familiar with it because of its presence in their pets, often cats and dogs. There are a variety of mites that cause the disease, but only a handful of them affect pets.
Mange mites themselves cannot be seen with the naked eye, but the effects of their burrowing can be very dramatic. There are several different types of mange; some types look like dandruff, but the effects are often short-lived:
- Notoedric mange: A scaly skin disease that usually starts on the ears but can spread to the rest of the face and body if left untreated. This type can be spread between cats, dogs, rabbits, and humans.
- Sarcoptic mange: An extremely itchy skin disease that is sometimes referred to as canine scabies and is common in dogs. This type of the disease usually attacks areas without hair such as the abdomen and elbows. While it can spread to cats and humans, the mites usually do not survive for long.
- Demodectic mange: The mites that cause this type actually live in the hair follicles and are known to be very itchy. It can spread to the entire body and can be difficult to cure, but early treatment is usually successful.
Common Symptoms and Diagnosis
Depending on the type of mite causing the problem, symptoms can vary for each animal. Some pets will experience intense itching, while others do not experience any itching at all. In some cases, a red, hairless patch will develop on the pet's skin. Red bumps that look like pimples may also appear on the affected area of skin.
Veterinarians diagnose the disease by scraping skin from the animal's affected area and analyzing the skin sample under a microscope; the process is painless and is usually a reliable source to determine whether or not the animal has the skin disease. Mange mites, however, often burrow beneath the skin, and the scraping does not include actual mites; veterinarians actually inspect the skin sample for symptoms of mange rather than actual mites.
Most types of this disease can be eradicated, especially if symptoms are treated early. Treatment may include tablets, special dips, baths with medicated shampoos, injections, or a combination of remedies. Many of the medications that treat the skin disease can be purchased from a veterinarian office as many, especially the bath shampoos and dips, must be prescribed by an animal doctor. It is also possible to buy medication, prescription and over-the-counter, on the Internet.
In more extreme cases, it may be necessary to shave the pet's hair so that the medication can be rubbed directly on the affected area. Removing the hair can also reduce the amount of mites that live in hair follicles. Another possibility is to quarantine the pet until the disease has cleared up to minimize the likelihood of the disease spreading to other animals.