Mange in dogs – What is it? Is it contagious?

When people think of mange in dogs, they tend to think of poor hungry stray dogs with patchy hair and sore skin. But mange is a condition that can affect any dog, no matter how well it’s looked after.

And as a dog owner, it’s important you know what mange is and how to spot it and treat it. So let’s take a closer look at mange in dogs.

What is mange?

Mange is a nasty skin disease that’s caused by tiny little mites that live on the skin. If it’s not treated, it can lead to severe skin infections. And this can obviously be uncomfortable and distressing for your dog.

Types of mange in dogs

There are two main types of mange in dogs, each caused by a different type of microscopic mite…

Sarcoptic mange

Sarcoptic mange is also called Canine Scabies. It’s caused by the Sarcoptes scabei mite – a tiny, oval-shaped, eight-legged mite. While the male remains on the surface of your dog’s skin, the females will dig tunnels in the skin and burrow their way in. This is obviously not pleasant for your dog!

Once the females have burrowed under the skin, they’ll lay their eggs. These eggs will hatch and grow into more female sarcoptic mites which will again dig their way into your dog’s skin. They live for about four weeks.

Because of all this digging and burrowing and the resultant scratching and itching by your dog, your dog’s skin can get crusted, sore and infected.

And the secondary infections can make your dog seriously ill. This type of mange usually responds well to treatment though.

Demodectic mange

Demodectic mange is caused by the Demodex mite and shows up as hair loss and bald patches. It’s also often known as red mange.

In many dogs, demodectic mites are naturally present anyway and don’t normally cause any problems. In fact, dogs get demodectic mites from their mothers in their early days of life. It’s only when the mites multiply in great numbers that they start to cause mange.

The demodectic mites usually show up first on the dog’s face and don’t normally itch or cause scratching.

Demodectic mange will usually easily clear with treatment, although in older dogs treatment may not be so effective and may take a long time.

Symptoms of mange in dogs

Sarcoptic mange symptoms

The symptoms of sarcoptic mange in dogs include:

  • Red streaks in your dog’s skin.
  • Hair loss.
  • White, crusty skin.
  • Intense itching and scratching.
  • Skin sores and scabs.
  • Skin inflammation.

Demodectic mange symptoms

There are two main types of demodectic mange in dogs:

  • Localized mange – this is where the mites are restricted to small areas. Typical symptoms are bald, scaly patches, usually on a dog’s face. This is very common in young dogs and nearly always clears without needing treatment.
  • Generalized mange – this is where demodectic mange affects much larger areas of the skin, or indeed the whole body. Symptoms typically include crusty red skin, hair loss and if a dog develops a secondary infection they may show signs of lethargy, fever and loss of appetite.

Is sarcoptic mange contagious to other dogs?

Yes, sarcoptic mange is highly contagious to other dogs, pets and people.

Is demodectic mange contagious?

Demodectic mange in dogs is not as easily transmitted to other dogs as sarcoptic mange.

The current opinion of experts is that the demodectic mange mites can be transferred between dogs but that this doesn’t create problems as long as the recipient dog is healthy. It’s thought that the transferred mites simply add to the mite population that the dog naturally carries anyway. Demodectic mange is not believed to be contagious to humans.

How do dogs get mange?

As described above, sarcoptic mange is very contagious to other dogs. This means your dog can easily get mange from other dogs if they’re in close proximity. So you’ll often find it in dog shelters and kennels where lots of dogs are kept close together.

Just like is the case with fleas, the sarcoptic mange mites can live in an infected dog’s sleeping area and bedding. This is something to keep in mind if you’re planning on putting your dog into a kennels for a period of time. You may want to take your own dog’s blankets and bedding to reduce the chances of your dog being infected.

What does mange look like on a dog?

The picture below shows what severe sarcoptic mange looks like on a dog:

Image of a dog suffering from sarcoptic mange

And this picture shows what demodectic mange looks like:

Demodectic mange in dogs

How to treat mange in dogs

There are a number of different treatments a vet may prescribe to treat mange in dogs. Some mange treatments are topical while others are oral medicines or are injected. Your vet will often prescribe two sets of medication – anti-parasitic medication to treat the actual mange and other medication to ease the symptoms of it.

The first thing that will be done is to isolate your dog to prevent them spreading the mange to any other animals. It’s important you still talk to you dog and play with them and exercise them as normal during this period, as it can be very stressful for your dog.

Don’t try to treat the mange yourself – always consult with your vet and administer the medications they prescribe in the way that they advise. You may want to wear gloves while giving your dog their medication to lessen the chances of you catching it.

After your dog has finished the course of medication, they’ll have to go back to the vets for regular check-ups to make sure the mange has completely gone and hasn’t returned.


Mange isn’t just restricted to stray dogs, any dog can be affected.

There are two main types of mange in dogs – sarcoptic mange and demodectic mange. Sarcoptic mange is highly contagious to other dogs, pets and people, much more so than demodectic mange.

You should always consult your vet if you think your dog has mange.

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