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What is Mange?

L. S. Wynn
By L. S. Wynn
Updated Mar 05, 2024
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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.

Treatment

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.

Frequently Asked Questions

What exactly is mange in animals?

Mange is a skin disease caused by microscopic mites that burrow into the skin of animals, leading to irritation, hair loss, and sometimes severe infections. There are different types of mange, with sarcoptic mange (scabies) and demodectic mange being the most common. The condition can affect wild and domestic animals, including dogs, cats, and livestock.

How do animals contract mange?

Animals typically contract mange through direct contact with an infected animal or contaminated environment. Sarcoptic mange is highly contagious and can spread quickly between animals in close quarters. Demodectic mange is not as contagious and is often associated with an underlying issue in the animal's immune system that allows the naturally present mites to overpopulate.

What are the symptoms of mange in pets?

Symptoms of mange in pets include intense itching, redness, rash, hair loss, and the appearance of scaly or crusty skin. As the condition progresses, animals may develop thickened skin and sores from scratching. In severe cases, secondary infections can occur, exacerbating the animal's discomfort and complicating treatment.

Can humans get mange from animals?

Humans can contract a temporary form of mange from animals, particularly sarcoptic mange. The mites responsible for sarcoptic mange in animals can burrow into human skin, causing itching and red bumps. However, these mites cannot reproduce on humans and the condition usually resolves on its own once the source of exposure is removed.

How is mange treated in animals?

Treatment for mange depends on the type and severity of the infestation. It often involves topical medications, dips, or shampoos to kill the mites. In more severe cases, oral medications or injections may be necessary. Veterinarians may also prescribe antibiotics to treat secondary infections and anti-inflammatory drugs to reduce skin irritation.

Is it possible to prevent mange in pets?

Preventing mange involves maintaining good hygiene, regular veterinary check-ups, and minimizing exposure to infected animals or environments. For pets at higher risk, certain monthly flea and tick preventatives also offer protection against mites that cause mange. Keeping your pet's immune system healthy through proper diet and care is also crucial in preventing demodectic mange.

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Discussion Comments

By anon298710 — On Oct 21, 2012

My dog is a teacup chihuahua, who is 4 months old. She has boils under her stomach, or at least they look like boils. I picked her up and my hand smelled and was also kind of wet. It is spreading to her feet and she looks like her skin is peeling. I went to Morenos and bought her Hot Spot spray and a dip as recommended by the workers there. What should I do and what's wrong with her? I want to help her as much as I can.

By dog — On May 20, 2011

can mange be passed down in breeding from a dog that once had mange and no longer does?

By anon152718 — On Feb 14, 2011

When one of my cats or my dog got the mange, all I did was soak cotton balls in cooking oil and rub it where ever hair was missing. I heard about the car oil but I was not about to do that! Mange is from mites under the skin and the cooking oil smothers them and if they lick it, it will not hurt them. For the crusty places, I used peroxide! Always worked!

By anon131202 — On Dec 01, 2010

I grew up on a farm and ranch. Used motor oil is fine and works wonderfully. Do not leave it on the dog for more than 30 minutes though. It is a messy fix, but it works.

[1] Soak the dog with the stuff, but do not rub or scrub it into any raw or exposed areas - just soak him with it. I advise you be attired appropriately.

After 30 min, bathe the dog with unscented dawn until all oil is gone, rinse thoroughly. Dry well. You're done.

[2] For severe cases, follow up with medicated Selsun Blue. Make sure it says medicated on it. Use the Walmart brand, its cheaper.

Allow this to stand on the dog 15 minutes or more and use it very liberally. Suds well, making sure infected areas are well covered. Rinse well.

Now remove the dog from the washing area as the ground is now soaked with emulsified oil, and allow him to shake free. Dry him well.

For the next few days, apply vaseline to the affected areas to kill any remaining mites. Also apply vaseline to the dog's ears inside or give an ear mite treatment, as skin mites eventually make their way there. If he licks off the vaseline, put a drop of quinine in the vaseline, mix, then apply. He won't lick it again -- ever.

If the dog is bleeding or the skin infected, substitute a topical antibiotic cream for the vaseline. Use quinine as above if needed.

If you simply cannot bring yourself to use the motor oil, go to a feed store and ask them for the sulphur/coal liniment used on horse for the 'summer itchies'. They will know what you mean. It works well also, is not toxic, and although it is meant for horses, it works on any furred animal, especially dogs. And it rinses off with water. But use it same as above, and be sure you soak the dog with it and it stays on him for 30 min.

I have used these methods for decades, on cattle, sheep, dogs, horses, cats, you name it. - Robert

Do not worry about the dog licking it off. Because the motor oil is used and burnt, it tastes horrible to the dog and he will try it only once.

By anon119368 — On Oct 17, 2010

Some 40-50 years ago, dogs with demodectic mange were dipped in used motor oil as a popular home remedy. Exposure to motor oil can cause rashes and skin destruction in severe cases. The hydrocarbons can be absorbed through the skin and cause a dangerous drop in blood pressure.

If motor oil is licked, the resultant vomiting can lead to aspiration of motor oil into the lungs, and pneumonia. Kidney and liver damage can result from motor oil dipping.

By anon113147 — On Sep 23, 2010

Demodectic mange is the common in dogs. It is not contagious to people or other animals. They are tiny mites that can only be seen under the microscope. A vet usually performs a skin scrape, where they literally scrape the skin until it bleeds and look at it under the microscope. Treatment varies.

Vets used to use a dip, but over the years they have realized it is sometimes more harmful than helpful so now most vets use Ivomec. You usually have to continue to take mediation until you get three negative skin scrapes. These mites are very common and are on most dogs but usually only puppies get mange because their immune systems are still very frail.

Before you start treating your dog, i would suggest to take the dog to the vet first so you can be sure it is mites and not another type of skin infection.

By anon94686 — On Jul 09, 2010

i have the sweetest pit bull you have ever known and we live in ky and she is in a pen in the yard. the other day my son had her out for her daily run about the yard and he noticed her fur was raised in two different places so he raised her fur. as he did the fur fell out, then the same thing happened yesterday so now she has three nickel size bald spots along her back. is this mange?

By anon93740 — On Jul 05, 2010

I have a 10 year old akita with a fairly moderate mange issue. He is still very healthy so the disease wasn't too bad.

Before you try any chemical based treatments (most likely prescribed by your vet) cross check to see if it causes reactions with your breed/type. I almost used selamectin, but found out it can harm akitas.

After doing some research for natural remedies (do your own too), I found out about borax and 1 percent hydrogen peroxide. I have done two applications (three days apart) and while he is still sensitive, the skin is now turning pink again and the hair is growing back.

By anon92229 — On Jun 26, 2010

my poor little baby duce is starting to lose fur and is bleeding but he does not have fleas because i give him a dip almost every month. does he have mange? i hope not and can it spread to my other dog sugar? i really don't like this at all. T-T

By anon89475 — On Jun 10, 2010

There are plenty of articles on the internet about this subject, and I have found very detailed information. If you suspect mange symptoms you need to ask the vet to do a skin scrape. The sooner the better, because there are different types of mange one of which can be passed to other dogs and possibly humans. So read up about the symptoms and then act promptly if required.

By anon88648 — On Jun 06, 2010

can my dog get mange from cats?

By anon63655 — On Feb 02, 2010

We have squirrels in our backyard. Two have had the mange. An adult died last summer, and a very small one visits the feeding area on my patio. Will he spread disease touching the seeds I put out, or will the food help him fight the disease?

He is looking stronger, no longer starving, and his face is growing hair again. He and the other squirrels do not fight. I use a mix of peanuts, sunflower seeds and corn, and dry bread and cookies.

By anon63115 — On Jan 30, 2010

there is a product called cedarcide that will knock out the itching and mange mites, any mites, and i would suggest if there is itching or redness or any problem to treat for mange and expect it.

By anon60020 — On Jan 11, 2010

Some people may want to try a home remedy of using betadine, the brown liquid most used in surgery for cleaning infected areas. this often can at least slow the spread of mange. It often dyes the fur a little but it can buy time to make it to the vet without a full outbreak. Make sure to do this once a week to soothe the skin and prevent spread on your pet.

By anon57756 — On Dec 27, 2009

I'd like to hear more about the motor oil. i will be taking my dog (which I have had for 2 weeks) to the vet tomorrow. despite several baths, her skin looks prickly in certain areas, and I just noticed a red spot on her leg. when i mentioned these to a friend, he said something about used motor oil. since it sounded so bizarre i didn't pay much attention. to now learn someone else has used with success, i am interested to know in the event that the vet cannot readily address the situation.

By anon57720 — On Dec 26, 2009

My dog is itching, scratching and losing fur. I have spent hundreds of dollars so far for them to be told they don't think it is mange after one skin scrape. I read that sometimes one scrape is not enough. Is this true? Could it still be mange? I can't afford the bills. Will treatment be expensive?

By anon56731 — On Dec 16, 2009

My cat has this red like rash on him and his lower back right by his tail has really fine hair. He itches a lot. It might be fleas, since this is something new and he is not young, but could it be mange?

By anon50700 — On Oct 30, 2009

Go to a vet's office!

By anon44718 — On Sep 10, 2009

yes it's mange. itching is a result of mange. go ahead and get your dog treated.

By anon41639 — On Aug 16, 2009

one of my neighbors is an older person. her dog has dirt-type looking stuff mostly on her face and on some parts of her body. i went down to her house and brushed the dog, seeing that there were orange-colored bugs on her. i'm not sure what it might be, but the woman is incapable of washing and treating the dog, i believe. what should i do? and is it mange?

By anon37724 — On Jul 21, 2009

I got a kitten yesterday from my neighbor. He acts very healthy too. He runs around all over the place like a kitten should, the other kittens that he was with had bald spots on them, and he was the only one that we didn't see any bald spots at all on him. But he does have a little bit of yellow crust under his fur. Is it mange? And also can a cat give a human the mange?

By anon37589 — On Jul 20, 2009

My puppy has had bald spots on her head near her ears since I got her about a year ago but I didn't think anything of it. Lately she's been sheding a lot and I've noticed little spots of hair missing throughout her body. i have an appointment with the vet tomorrow but after reading this I'm concerned about it being contagious. How would I know if any of my family members have contracted it?

By anon36767 — On Jul 14, 2009

you won't necessarily get mange if your dogs have it! My dogs are just recovering from mange. we think they had it for about 2 months and we have a lot of contact with them but none of my family have shown symptoms of mange. What your dog has sounds exactly like mange. get it to the vet right away because my dogs have lost hair that doesn't look like it's going to come back, so the earlier you detect it and cure it the better!

By anon29185 — On Mar 28, 2009

Mange is something that is transmitted either from the mother or the father. There is also a type of mange that is contagious. If your dog is losing a lot of hair please take it to your local veterinarian because it could be fatal. Some dogs will lose hair around their eyes and some will just loose hair anywhere. If you really love your dog please do something about it.

By anon25451 — On Jan 29, 2009

My dog has had a small round bare spot on her snout for about a year. She is 2 years old. The spot is the size of a pencil eraser. It appears to be getting slightly larger. She is a golden retriever. Any ideas what the spot could be?

By anon22903 — On Dec 12, 2008

i don't think my dog has mange. he keeps scratching by his lower back and half way to his tail. and when i look there i see fleas. he starting to lose his hair but just a little bit but he scratches so much that it bleeds all right there it gets all raw. if it was mange don't you think that i would have gotten it already cause i sleep with him every night. i hope you can help me.

By anon21383 — On Nov 15, 2008

can a dog get mange from an old blanket???

By anon18119 — On Sep 15, 2008

i got a dog from a lady yesterday cause it looked like she wasn't taking care of it, once i got it home i noticed that it has a red rash on its body. but isn't really acting sick or losing hair except in one small spot from what looks like just itching too much....could this be mange or does anyone know what it could be?

By anon6757 — On Jan 08, 2008

Mange (mites) are transmitted from mother to puppy. All mothers transmit mites to their puppies, however the puppies with weak immune systems will not be able to fight the mites, and they will start showing symptoms of mange (hair loss, odor, red inflamed skin). You should take your dog to the vet immediately because it can be fatal if left untreated. Medicated baths, oral medication, and a good diet and home environment will help combat the mange which is almost always curable, however be careful to keep other pets away from the mange infected dog/cat because it is contagious.

By anon6593 — On Jan 03, 2008

My dad owns a dairy farm and has his whole life so he seems to know a lot about this sort of thing. My dog has a skin condition that I have taken him to the vet for twice and the meds have done no good. My dad took him and dipped him in used motor oil (not the head of course) 3 days ago and he is almost completely healed up. His skin was horrible. He was bleeding from his sores. Im not sure what the oil has in it that would do this, but it sure has worked!!

By jonathan9633 — On Apr 24, 2007

I have no idea but my dog had dieticilitus or something like that and i think it is contagious

By anon398 — On Apr 24, 2007

how long after dog receives treatment for sarcoptic mange is he contagious? My vet gave us and anti itch pill, an antibiotic and a weekly dose of ivermecin for a total of 5 weeks.

By jonathan9633 — On Apr 19, 2007

Hey i cannot help you at all but I was wandering if mange can cause for dogs to limp because i just got in from feeding mine and my dog has it bad we took it to the vet, but they didn't give him mange shots or dip him etc. so if someone can help me I would be grateful.

By conchobhair — On Feb 22, 2007

I believe Demodectic mange is commonest in dogs, as well. I've also read that certain breeds are more susceptible to mange than others. Can someone shed more light on this?

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