For pet owners, there is a dreaded word and that is mange!


Mange is an inclusive term to describe the infestation of very tiny insects that in humans are called “scabies.” Mange can occur in newborn pups because it is inherited from their mothers. Mange can also occur in adult dogs from exposure to the contagious varieties of the cause of mange and due to compromised immune systems. Mange is common in dogs, but very rare in cats.

Insects that Cause Mange

Mange is a skin infection caused by tiny insects that burrow deep into the skin, making it very difficult to remove or kill them. There are three varieties of mange, two are very contagious and can easily pass from one pet to another and even affect humans (not very seriously). One is not contagious at all. 


Mange is caused by tiny insects called “mites” also known as “canine scabies,” when they attack dogs. These nasty, little insects can also attack cats, birds, reptiles, and even plants as well.

The surprising thing is that almost all animals have some of them and whether they cause a skin infection that is called mange depends on the immune system of the pet and its ability to fight them off and keep them under control.


When you see the evidence of mange on any animal, it is a sign that the immune system of that animal is overwhelmed and the insects are taking control. In serious cases of mange, lots of the hair falls out, leaving large red patches of exposed skin.


Here are some tips on how to recognize the differences in the types of mange:


  • Sarcoptic Mange (highly contagious) – These mites burrow into the skin causing severe itching. When the pet scratches the skin surface, this leads to infection. Pustules will form on the skin and hair loss will be evident. There is also a bad smell associated with the infections.
  • Cheyletiellosis Mange (contagious) – This is also called “walking dandruff” because you can see, with the naked eye, the tiny white insects moving about on the surface of the skin.
  • Demodectic Mange (not contagious) – This type of mange is easily transferred from a mother to her offspring. However, adult animals can get this type of mange also. About 90% of the cases of this mange, when localized (restricted to small areas on the face, legs, or torso), resolve naturally without treatment as the adult pet's or offspring’s immune system grows strong enough to contain the infestation.

Beside infestations of the skin, mites can also infect the ears of pets. There is a very simple test to see if your pet has ear mites. Rub the back of the ear for thirty seconds. If the dog starts to scratch with its hind legs, there is an infestation of ear mites in that animal.

Why Your Help is Needed

The battle to remove these insects from an animal is a long fight. Your veterinarian will assist with injections of things that kill them and a “flea dip” type of bath; however, the eggs will not be killed and once born the new insects will continue to attack your pet. This birthing of new insects requires repetitive treatments by your veterinarian, which are usually every two weeks for up to four months.


If the mange is a contagious variety, you will need to isolate the infected pet from others, clean all the bedding, and use latex gloves when handling the pet to avoid allowing the insects to pass to your skin. The good news is that these mites can only cause slight-itchy red spots on humans and die quickly within less than a week in human skin. If you wear latex gloves when handling your infected pet you will avoid this annoyance.


You can help by bathing your animal and using special medicated soap. This soap should be left on, before rinsing off, for at least five minutes to give it a chance to suffocate the insects that are buried deep inside the skin at the level of the hair follicles (which is why the hair falls out). It takes twice-weekly baths, for up to four months to finally get rid of these horrible insects. 


Be patient. Add nutritional supplements to your pet's food as recommended by your veterinarian to improve the immune system function and bathe your pet at least twice per week to finally get rid of these pests.