– Sarcoptic Mange, otherwise known as fox mange, is a very common, highly contagious skin condition seen in dogs and is caused by a mite called Sarcoptes scabei.
– The mites are microscopic and burrow into the top layers of the skin of the dog, where they feed and lay their eggs.
– Once the mites have been present in the skin for at least 2 weeks, the affected dog starts to react to the mites and becomes very itchy.
– Rashes, hair loss, yellow crusts and pustules can be seen on any area of the skin, but most commonly where the hair is less dense, eg ear tips, elbows, hocks and chest.
– Left untreated, the skin lesions can spread as the dog continues to scratch itself, and secondary skin infections can develop.
– Many conditions can cause itchy skin in dogs, therefore it is vital to get a diagnosis before treatment.
– The first step of diagnosis is taking a thorough history, since in this area, Sarcoptic mange mites are most commonly picked up when a dog comes into close contact with either a fox who has mange, or with another affected dog.
– It is important to remember, however, that the mites can survive away from their host in the environment for a number of days, and so close or direct contact is not always necessary.
– If sarcoptic mange is suspected, the Vet may perform a ‘skin scraping’, taking a sample of the superficial layers of the skin of the affected dog and examining it under the microscope to look for the mites.
– Sarcoptic mange mites are notoriously elusive however, and therefore another approach is to take a blood sample from the affected dog and look for the presence of antibodies against the mites (a serology test).
– Sarcoptic mange is a treatable condition, and there are a number of different spot-on treatments and anti-parasitic washes which can be used to great effect. The Vet will select the most appropriate treatment for each individual case.
– Many dogs with fox mange will also need antibiotic treatment and anti-bacterial/anti-fungal shampoos to help combat secondary skin infections.
– Dogs that are suffering with other simultaneous conditions causing immunosuppression may need prolonged treatment to ensure all of the mites have been killed.
– Treatment of all of the dogs in the household of an affected dog is recommended, as is appropriate cleansing of the dog’s bedding.
– Frustratingly, sarcoptic mange cannot be prevented because it is impossible to prevent dogs from coming into contact with foxes or fox areas.
– Sarcoptic mange can spread from dogs to humans, but in most cases the resulting rash and itchiness is short-lived. We would always advise you to see your GP if you have any concerns.
– Remember, our old friend the flea is not the only culprit in itchy skin disease, so if you are worried that your dog may have picked up fox mange, don’t hesitate to make an appointment here at the surgery. We would be happy to discuss appropriate parasitic treatment routines for your pets.