Sarcoptic mange, commonly known as canine scabies is caused by the external parasite Sarcoptes scabiei. These microscopic mites can invade the skin of healthy dogs or puppies and create a variety of skin problems, the most common of which is hair loss and severe itching. While they will infect all types of animals and even humans, they are a particular nuisance for dogs. Sarcoptic mange mites are extremely easy for any dog to catch, but also, they are very easy to get rid off. In this article, I will provide a very effective and inexpensive way to treat and rid your dog of this pesky parasite.
Sarcoptic mange can infect all ages and breeds of dogs. This particular mite infects all types of farm animals, cats, dogs, foxes, coyotes, and all other types of warm-blooded, fur bearing mammals and even infects humans. Their are several species of sarcoptic mites and each species of mite prefers one specific kind of host (e.g.; dog), but will also infect all other species within the animal kingdom. Since all of these species of mites have a similar life cycle and respond to the same treatment, I will assume that the vast majority of dog infections are caused by the mite Sarcoptes scabiei and I will explain how to treat accordingly.
The mites usually spend their entire life on a dog. The female mite burrows into the skin and lays eggs several times as she continues burrowing. These tunnels can actually reach the length of several centimeters. After she deposits the eggs, the female mite dies. In 3-8 days, the eggs hatch into larvae which have 6 legs. The larvae mature into nymphs which have 8 legs. The nymph then molts into an adult while it is still in the burrow. The adults mate, and the process continues. The entire life cycle requires 2-3 weeks.
The mites prefer to live on the dog, but will live for several days off of the host in the environment; thus, sarcoptic mange mites are an environmental problem and not a genetic problem like with demodectic mange mites (aka red mange). In cool moist environments, sarcoptic mites can live for up to 22 days in the environment and not on a host. At normal room temperature in a home, they will live from 2 to 6 days. Because of the mite's ability to survive off the host, dogs can become infected without ever coming into direct contact with another infected dog.
The symptoms are varied but usually include hair loss and severe itching on the top of the head, elbows, ears, armpits, hocks, chest, and ventral abdomen (belly). The mites prefer to live on areas of the skin that have less hair. As the infection worsens it can spread over the entire body. Small red pustules often develop along with yellow crust on the skin. Because of the severe itching and resultant scratching from the dog, the skin soon becomes traumatized and a variety of sores and infections can develop as a result. The itching seems to be much worse in warm conditions such as indoors or near a stove or heat vent. If the infection goes on untreated or is mistakenly treated as an allergy (#1 misdiagnosis by Vets), the skin may darken due to the constant irritation, and the surrounding lymph nodes may become enlarged.
Sarcoptic mange is an extremely common infection and many cases have often been misdiagnosed as severe allergy to a certain type of dog food or environmental plants. In many parts of the US and Canada including all of North and South America, there are more dogs with sarcoptic mange than their are with ticks, fleas, lice, or even ear mites. For these reasons, any time I see a dog with severe itching, and no fleas or ticks are seen on the dog's skin, I have to automatically suspect sarcoptic mange as the culprit.
The intense itching caused by the sarcoptic mite is actually thought to be caused from a severe allergic reaction to the mite. When dogs are initially infected with Sarcoptes they do not develop itching for several weeks. If the animals are treated and then reinfected at a later time, severe itching starts almost immediately, which indicates the itching may be due to an allergic reaction. However, the standard treatments for allergies generally will not decrease the symptoms of scabies, and will do nothing to cure the disease. This is again the exact reason to always assume scabies and treat accordingly.
Trying to get a diagnosis for scabies can be very frustrating to say the least. The standard method that a Vet will use is to perform a skin scraping and then identify the organism under the microscope. Unfortunately, on average, only twenty (20%) percent of the infected dogs will show Sarcoptes mites on any given scraping. Therefore, if a dog has a positive skin scraping the diagnosis is confirmed, but a negative scraping does not rule out sarcoptic mange. Therefore, most diagnoses are made based on history and response to treatment for scabies. Also, many Vets are now charging as much as $50 or more to perform a skin scraping. Therefore, it is easier and less expensive to simply be proactive and treat for sarcoptic mites rather than to pay for an office visit, skin scraping, and prescription Vet treatments.
Sarcoptes Life Cycle in a Dog There are several ways to treat scabies, and in this and the next paragraph, I will tell you how Vets treat the problem; then I will tell you how I treat the problem much more effectively and inexpensively. When I was a kid growing up on a farm in Illinois, the best treatment for all types of external parasites in all types of animals was Dursban (Chlorpyrifos), but the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has since banned this effective and inexpensive product. After the banning of Dursban, the next most effective treatment had been to clip the dog if it had long hair, bathe it with a benzoyl peroxide shampoo to cleanse the skin, and then apply an organophosphate dip (Paramite). Amitraz dips and Mitaban (also organophosphates), and lime sulfur dips (Lymdip) have also been used effectively. The animals are usually dipped once every two weeks for two to three times. While effective, these dips are very messy to apply and unpleasant for both the owner and the dog. Because the dip must come in contact with the mites and many mites live on the face and ears of dogs, great care must be exercised when applying these dips to these sensitive areas. The dips can be toxic to humans and are not suitable for very young, old, or debilitated animals. In addition, there are some reported cases of resistance to these dips in some cases of mange.
Fortunately, there are several other products that have been extremely effective, safe, and convenient in treating sarcoptic mange. Selamectin (Revolution) is a newer product, which is a topical solution that is applied once a month and provides heartworm prevention, flea control, some tick protection and protection against Sarcoptic mange. Liquid ivermectin is another alternative that is sometimes used. It is used at much higher concentrations that are found in heartworm preventives (e.g., Heartgard). Ivermectin should not be used in Collies or Shetland sheep dogs and should be used with caution in the herding breeds. In dogs that are sensitive to ivermectin, some veterinarians have been having success using milbemycin oxime (Interceptor) at an off-label dose. In addition to treating the dog, the environment can be treated with a residual insecticide (e.g.; permethrin).
The cost to effectively keep sarcoptic mange mite infestations out of your Beagles may be entirely too much if you take your dog(s) to a Veterinarian. As already stated, a Vet will charge you for an office visit plus the cost of skin scrapings, and prescription Amitraz solutions like Paramite and Mitaban. The cost for the Veterinarian treatments along with the cost of the office visits will add up to a lot of money per year, especially if you have more than one Beagle. Once again, I want to remind everyone that I am not a Veterinarian, but rather a long time Beagle kennel owner. I'll tell you what I use and do, you can use your own judgment whether you want to follow in my footsteps. This article is presented only as a documentation of how I treat sarcoptic mange mite (scabies) infestations in the Beagles that I own at a fraction of the cost that a Veterinarian will charge you.
What I do is buy Prolate®/Lintox®-HD from Lambert Vet Supply without a prescription and for a lot less money. Prolate is an extremely effective, topical insecticide that works just as good or even better than prescription Amitraz products such as Paramite® (topical) and Mitaban® (oral). Prolate is bottled and labeled for use as a topical insecticide for livestock use such as cows, pigs, horses, etc. I buy the one-gallon size jug of the Prolate solution for $50.95 (accurate price as of 04/27/2008) per gallon. Simply click on the picture to the left of this paragraph and order a gallon jug of Prolate today. (NOTE: Lambert Vet Supply is not a sponsor of BEAGLES UNLIMITED and we do not make a cent by referring them to you. They do have the absolute lowest prices available to help all of us keep our Beagles in great health while we save hundreds of dollars each and every year. Here is more information about Lambert Vet Supply.)
This one gallon jug of Prolate is enough topical insecticide to use off-label and treat a huge kennel full of Beagles for several months or even years. If you have more than one Beagle to treat with a topical insecticide for a sarcoptic mange mite outbreak, I highly recommend you follow in my footsteps and buy and use the one gallon size jug of this medication and then you can make a solution just like the expensive, prescription dips you get from the Vet.
All you have to do is mix 1 ounce (1 oz.) of Prolate per 1 gallon of water. You can then place the highly effective mix in a dipping barrel, a commercial sprayer, or even a small household spray bottle. You then simply dip or spray down your dogs being careful not to get it in the eyes or mouth of you or your dog. You can also use the spray as a kennel spray to eliminate all mites located in the kennels, dog runs, dog houses, or other sleeping areas. I directly put the Prolate on each and every dog/pup three (03) times per week for about two (02) weeks in a row. This assures that you kill any mites that are on the outer skin or hair of your dog(s). The mites that are buried under the skin will not be affected by the spray and that is why the multiple treatments, so that you kill all the mites as they come to the outer skin and hair.
This one gallon jug of prolate is enough topical insecticide to make 128 gallons of topical insecticide dip or spray with the exact same effectiveness as the Paramite or Mitaban that a Vet will prescribe at a tremendous cost savings. The Vets are currently prescribing Mitaban (oral medication) at the cost of $22.25 or more for a lousy 10.6 ml vial; often times, one oral treatment is not enough to work 100% effectively. If you only have 2 or 3 Beagles, you can buy the Prolate in a 1 quart (1 qt.) size for $18.31 (accurate price as of 04/27/2008) and that would make you 32 gallons of the mix. The Prolate dip/spray works wonders on sarcoptic mites, ear mites, lice, and even ticks. The mix will be a milky white color and it will smell like common household bug sprays such as Black Flag or Raid. Make sure you always stir dips and shake sprays to get a good mixture before each use. When dipping a dog, dip the entire body from the tail up to the base of the ears and then use a rag that is saturated in the solution to rub the face around eyes and mouth. If you are using a sprayer, make sure to saturate all hair loss areas and all healthy hair/skin for several inches around the hair loss areas and then spray regularly all over the rest of the body.
No matter how you treat your Beagle(s) for sarcoptic mange mites, the main thing is to do the treatment and follow ups correctly and in a timely manner. If done correctly and in a timely manner, you will definitely see the mange spots healing up with hair growing back into the hair loss areas. At this point you can discontinue the treatments and only start them again if you see another episode of mange developing. The Prolate dip/spray treatments are only designed to kill the mites and thus stop the hair loss and bacterial skin infections. The dog will look healthy and feel much better with no hair loss, skin infections, or itching. REMEMBER, sarcoptic mange mites are an environmental problem and these parasites are both very easy to catch from the environment or from any kind of warm-blooded, mammals, but they are also very easy to exterminate from your dog(s) and/or kennel.