Dog: Sarcoptic Mange

General information

Other common/scientific names: scabies, Sarcoptes mange, sarcoptic mites, canine scabies, Sarcoptes

Ectoparasites are parasites that live on the exterior or surface of an animal. The common canine ectoparasites include fleas, ticks, lice and mites. They can transmit various diseases and cause hypersensitivity and skin disorders in animals. Ectoparasites can also cause life-threatening anemia in young and debilitated animals. Some ectoparasites (mites and lice) spend their entire life on the dog while other ectoparasites (fleas and ticks) spend part of their life cycle in the environment. Fleas, ticks and mites are not species specific, meaning they can infest animals of different species, i.e., canine mites can cause symptoms on humans. Lice on the other hand only infest a specific species, i.e., dog lice only infest dogs.

Sarcoptic mange mites are ectoparasites which live for 3 to 4 weeks in the dog’s skin. After mating, the female burrow into the skin to deposit her eggs. The eggs hatch and produce larvae which move about on the skin surface and mature into adults. The adults mate on the skin surface and the cycle begins again when the female tunnels into the skin to lay eggs.


Sarcoptic mange in dogs is caused by a skin mite called Sarcoptes scabiei var canis which is the canine strain of Sarcoptes scabiei. This article will refer to the canine strain . These mites cannot be seen with the naked eye because they are microscopic and burrow into the skin. While dogs are the preferred host, Sarcoptes scabiei var canis can infect cats, ferrets, humans and foxes. The scabies mite which infests people is named Sarcoptes scabiei var hominis.


Sarcoptic mites are highly contagious and usually spread by direct contact from pet to pet or from pet to human. Sarcoptes scabiei var canis prefer to live on the dog but can last for several days off the host. Because of this, dogs can become infected without direct contact with an infected animal. Sarcoptes scabiei var canis is a zoonosis meaning these mites are contagious to humans. Since humans are the wrong hosts for the canine strain of scabies, mite infections in humans are self-limiting (i.e. they go away on their own). However, these mites can cause pruritis (itchiness) in people while the infection lasts.

Cardinal symptom



The motion of the Sarcoptic mite tunneling in the skin is extremely itchy. Also, the burrowed mites and their eggs generate a massive allergic response causing more itchiness. Because Sarcoptic mites prefer hairless skin, the ear flaps, elbows and abdomen are most likely to be affected. Other symptoms include hair loss with small red pustules developing along with scabs and crusts. Secondary bacterial and yeast infections may result which can lead to chronic, generalized skin disease. If the infection is left untreated, the dog’s entire body can be affected and the skin can take on a thickened, pigmented appearance.

Abb. GSRB84TY: Sarcoptic mange.


A skin scraping should be performed on any itching dog. However, diagnosis of Sarcoptic mange can be frustrating because it takes only a few mites to cause clinical signs and the mite is difficult to find on a skin scraping. Because of this, a negative skin scraping does not rule out Sarcoptic mange. Another aid to diagnosis is a history of the owner having pruritis (itchiness) at the same time as the dog. This can be evidence of the contagious nature of the Sarcoptic mite. Many times, Sarcoptic mange is diagnosed by history, clinical signs and response to treatment.


In the past, Sarcoptic mange was treated with multiple antiparasitic dips. While effective, these dips were unpleasant to apply for both the owner and the dog. Additionally, these dips can be toxic to both humans and pets. Fortunately, there are several antiparasitic products on the market today for treatment and prevention of Sarcoptic mange. These antiparasitics come in both oral and topical forms. Consult your veterinarian for the best choice for your dog.

Because of the contagious nature of Sarcoptic mites, it is important to treat all dogs which have come into contact with the infected dog. Some dogs can be asymptomatic (showing no symptoms) and still carry the mites. Treatment should be continued for a minimum of 4 weeks. Additionally, any bedding, collars, harnesses or pet accessories should be thoroughly washed and treated with an insecticide.

And lastly, treatment for any concurrent bacterial or yeast infections of the skin will need to be instituted to allow complete resolution of clinical signs.


Sarcoptic mange is fairly easy to treat. Therefore, prognosis is good for dogs which are treated for canine scabies providing they can prevent becoming re-infected.


Many of the newer monthly antiparasitic are used for the prevention and control of Sarcoptic mange. Keeping your dog on one of these products can prevent infection and development of clinical signs caused by Sarcoptic mites. Also, avoiding large groups of dogs and foxes can reduce the risk of infection.


Sarcoptic mites are zoonotic and can infect people usually causing a rash on the wrists, elbows or between the fingers. While the disease is self limiting and will usually resolve without treatment, it does cause uncomfortable itchiness and should be examined by a human physician. If your dog has been diagnosed with Sarcoptic mange, watch for any unexplained rashes or itchiness.

Update version: 4/24/2014, © Copyright by
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