Mange is a parasitic infection that is caused by mites that burrow into the skin of your dog. There are 2 main types of Mange that can affect your dog, causing a variety of symptoms between them with varying degrees of seriousness.
"Demodectic mange" is the more common type that your dog may become infected with. This is caused by the "Demodex mite" which lives and breeds in the hair follicles of the dog. All dogs have a certain amount of this parasite living on them anyway, but a severe infestation can cause hair loss and bald patches. Demodectic mange is not contagious to other animals or to people.
The more severe form of mange is Sarcoptic, sometimes known as Scabies. This is caused by the Scabies mite that burrow deeply into your dog's skin. Or rather, the female does, creating long tunnels through the upper layer of skin to lay her eggs. The male will stay on the skin surface.
The lifespan of a Scabies mite is approximately 3 to 4 weeks and the entire time is spent on the host. The effects of the burrowing and secretions that the mites release cause your dog a whole series of problems and reactions. How serious the reaction depends on your dog's immune system and how bad the infestation is.
"Sarcoptic mange" often starts on the head, ears, mouth, elbows and the stomach. These are the areas of the dog that have the thinnest hair and are also the first that will come into contact with the disease - especially if it is caught from another dog that has mange.
After burrowing a tunnel through the dog's skin the female "Sarcoptes" mite will lay eggs periodically. As each clutch hatches, the new females will then start to burrow their own tunnels and lay their won eggs. And so it goes on. If untreated, it is very easy to see how quickly an infestation can take hold of your dog.
Symptoms of Sarcoptic mange usually start with intense itching and scratching. The itching caused by these mites is like no other and can drive your dog demented with trying to relieve the irritation. The more the disease progresses and the harder you dog scratches, bites and chews at the affected areas, the worse the skin will get.
Red raw patches will appear, oozing and crusting over into scabs. Bacteria and yeast will take advantage of the condition and secondary infections can occur, such as "Seborrhoea". These infections leave your dog with a very strong smelling odor. These also cause the lymph nodes that are responsible for draining the skin, to enlarge.
In an untreated dog rapid weight loss and dehydration will follow, leaving your dog looking like he as at death's door. Early intervention by a vet can stop the disease in its tracks. However, Sarcoptic mange is highly contagious, both to other animals and to humans and can be spread very easily. Therefore, as well as treating the dog, you must also ensure that your entire house, yard and surrounding areas are thoroughly treated as well, to avoid a future infestation.
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