Mange is a generic term for skin conditions caused by certain species of mites in animals. When these mites affect people, the name for the issue is scabies.
Mites are microscopic, eight-legged parasites that can live on animals, including dogs, cats, and humans. To lay their eggs, they either burrow into the skin or hair follicles.
Various types of mites affect different species, including humans, in different ways.
In this article, we look at the distinctions between mange and scabies in people and other animals. We also describe the symptoms, treatments, and prevention of mite infestations in humans.
Mange is a skin condition caused by mites. It typically affects dogs, but some forms can also affect humans.
The most common type of mange in dogs is sarcoptic mange, also called canine scabies.
Humans can catch sarcoptic mange from dogs, but the mites involved cannot complete their life cycle in human skin. As a result, the issue can cause some skin irritation in humans, but it does not last long.
After contact with an affected animal, a person may develop itchy welts like mosquito bites, which may be reddish. They should fade shortly. In the meantime, a cortisone cream can reduce the inflammation and itching.
The other type of mange that dogs contract, demodectic mange, is fairly rare and more serious. A dog may develop it if they have compromised immunity. Experts do not believe that this form is contagious for other animals, including humans.
If a person suspects that their dog has sarcoptic mange, they should keep the dog off shared furniture, wash the dog’s bedding, and avoid very close contact.
Sarcoptic mites of the subspecies Sarcoptes scabiei var. canis cause mange in dogs. However, a different subspecies, Sarcoptes scabiei var. hominis, causes scabies in humans.
Scabies can spread quickly from person to person through physical contact.
If a person gets mange from an animal, the issue is usually short-lived.
Mites from animals typically cause an allergic reaction in human skin. This leads to irritation, intense itching. The affected skin may be reddish in people with lighter skin tones.
The itchiness of mange can last several days, but a person does not need treatment to get rid of the mites. A cream that contains cortisone can help ease the symptoms while they last.
Human scabies, on the other hand, does require treatment. It is common throughout the world and more problematic in areas that are overcrowded, have poor sanitation, or both.
If a person has come into contact with human scabies mites for the first time, the symptoms may not appear for up to 8 weeks. However, the mites can spread to others, even when no symptoms are present.
A person who has had scabies before may experience the symptoms of a new infestation in as few as 1–4 days.
Symptoms of scabies in humans include:
The symptoms may be more apparent in skin folds, such as those of the fingers, palms, buttocks, beneath the breast, and in the inner knee and elbow.
If a person gets mange from an animal, the symptoms should disappear after a few days without treatment. However, the animal needs medical attention.
For scabies, a person needs to use medication to kill the mites and destroy their eggs. These medicines are called scabicides, and they come as creams and lotions.
Effective scabicides are not available over-the-counter a person needs a prescription. Common options include:
Once a person has the medication, they should:
Sexual partners and anyone else in close contact with someone who has scabies should also get tested and possibly treated — scabies is highly contagious.
Everyone should have treatment at the same time to prevent a reinfestation.
If any of the above medications are not appropriate or effective, a doctor can prescribe others, such as sulfur compounded in petrolatum.
Just like dogs, cats can be afflicted with mange, but thankfully it is far less common. The most severe form of this problem will leave your pet practically hairless and with terribly irritated skin. While mange is more often seen in stray animals, cat owners should be aware of the symptoms so that they can seek help for their cats before the condition ever gets that extreme.
Scott Gavaletz, a veterinarian and owner of Branford Veterinary Hospital in Branford, Connecticut, describes mange in cats as "the single most itchy disease a cat can get." That description alone should motivate cat owners to do what they can to keep mange from affecting their pets.
This rare, highly contagious disease of cats and kittens is caused by Notoedres cati, which can opportunistically infest other animals, including people. The mite and its life cycle are similar to the sarcoptic mite. Pruritus is severe. Crusts and alopecia are seen, particularly on the ears, head, and neck, and can become generalized. Mites can be found quite easily in skin scrapings. Treatment consists of both topical and systemic therapies. Nonapproved but effective and safe treatments include selamectin (6 mg/kg, spot-on) and moxidectin (1 mg/kg, spot-on, in the imidacloprid-moxidectin formulation). Ivermectin (200 mcg/kg, SC) has also been used. Another effective topical therapy is lime sulfur dips at 7-day intervals.
Discovering your pet has mange can be frightening, but this skin disease is very treatable and there are simple steps you can take to safely treat a pet with mange without risk of worsening or spreading the infection.
The first step in safe, effective treatment of mange is to be sure that, in fact, your pet does have mange. Different skin conditions and diseases, as well as infestations of fleas or ticks, can have similar symptoms, and it is important to get a proper diagnosis from your veterinarian before you start any mange treatments. Furthermore, there are two different types of mange, and understanding each type is essential for correct treatment.
Demodectic mange, also called red mange, is generally the milder form of mange. It results from mites that are naturally on pets' skin, but for different reasons the mites may multiply out of control and cause mange. Hair loss and bald spots, particularly on the face, feet and legs are characteristic of demodectic mange, along with increased itching. Very acute cases may lead to sores or a strong odor from the skin. Fortunately, demodectic mange is not considered contagious, and does not typically spread to other animals, even in more severe cases.
Sarcoptic mange, or scabies, is more severe, though the early stages can be as mild as demodectic mange. More severe scabies cases can lead to intense, frantic itching and red, inflamed, moist sores on the skin that may even develop scabs. These sores may appear on the ears, face and legs. This type of mange is highly contagious and can not only spread to other dogs and cats, but also to humans, where it may appear as small red bumps, similar to mosquito bites.
Because of the similarity between mange types, especially in mild cases, it is critical that a veterinarian properly diagnose the condition for correct treatment. A skin scraping is usually all that's needed for diagnosis, though trickier cases may require a simple biopsy.
Once mange is properly diagnosed, it is wise to isolate the infected animal to minimize the risk of spreading the condition to any other pets or animals, though this is not usually necessary with demodectic mange. Keep the pet away from any other pets as well, including neighbors' animals or local parks where more pets may visit, and it may be necessary to treat other household pets as a precaution to ensure the disease does not spread. Cleaning all bedding and whatever comes in contact with the infected pet's skin, such as a collar, grooming tools or soft toys, can also help eliminate mange.
The veterinarian will likely prescribe oral antiparasitic medication to control the mites and eliminate the mange. Topic skin ointments or creams may also be useful to ease the skin's itchiness, which can make the pet more comfortable. Some dietary changes for better nutrition can support healthy skin and lessen the effects of mange, and reducing stress in the animal's environment can also help treat mange. Bathing the pet with antibacterial shampoo can help, and sulphur powder on the pet's fur can also reduce the mites that cause mange.
As a pet's mange treatment is ongoing, the veterinarian will want to perform skin scrapings every 1-2 weeks to check the progress of the disease. Once two successive scrapings show no further presence of mange, treatment may be discontinued, though if the infestation was severe, another week or two of medication may be a wise precaution to prevent a recurrence.
All pets naturally have some mites on their skin, and it isn't always clear what can cause one pet to develop mange while another has no difficulties. There are steps every pet owner can take, however, to help keep their pet's skin and coat healthy and minimize the risk of mange.
Mange can be a challenging disease, but fortunately, there are good ways to safely treat a pet with mange. With proper care and treatment, this skin condition can be overcome and your pet will once again have a lush, healthy coat.