Scabies in Dogs


Sarcoptic mange, also called scabies, in dogs is caused by the Sarcoptes scabiei mite, a highly contagious skin parasite. The mites burrow into the skin and cause severe itching, which can result in the formation of scabs and hair loss. It is a nonseasonal parasite that can be found in dogs of all ages and breeds

Symptoms of Scabies in Dogs

Scabies symptoms will usually start with sudden, intense itching (pruritis). If you notice that your family pet is experiencing episodes of acute, severe itching, you will want to take him to the vet right away. Sarcoptic mange can be passed to other animal and human members of the household. Though canine scabies cannot complete a life cycle on humans, they will cause intense itching for about 5 days until they die.

  • Uncontrollable scratching, most likely related to sensitivity to the fecal matter and saliva of the mites
  • Red skin or rash
  • Inflammation of skin
  • Hair loss (alopecia) which may be first noticed on the legs and stomach
  • Self-mutilation
  • Bleeding
  • Small bumps that will evolve into crusty sores
  • There may be an unpleasant odor due to the sores
  • The sores will mainly be found on the abdomen, legs, ears, chest, and elbows
  • Thickening of the skin due to damage
  • Secondary bacterial or yeast related sores can develop
  • If untreated, the scabies will spread to the entire body
  • Severe cases can produce loss vision and hearing
  • Badly infected dogs may lose their appetite and begin to lose weight


The sarcoptic mange mite has a life cycle that is spent entirely on the dog and lasts no more than 21 days.

  • Adult females will burrow into the skin to make a tunnel, laying a few eggs per day for up to 3 weeks
  • Eggs hatch within 5 days
  • Larvae go through a molting cycle
  • Nymphs mature to adults
  • Adults mate on the skin, and the female burrows to lay eggs

Causes of Scabies in Dogs

Scabies is transmitted through contact with infected dogs, and also wild foxes and coyotes, who are considered to be reservoir hosts. Keep in mind the following points in regards to your dog’s sarcoptic mange infestation.

  • Indirect transmission can occur from bedding, though less common
  • Dogs in poor health will have a more intense reaction
  • The reaction will also depend upon how many mites were transmitted
  • The mites can be spread through grooming tools if use from one dog to another is within a relatively short time

Diagnosis of Scabies in Dogs

When you make the appointment and decide to bring your canine companion to the clinic, it’s imperative to inform the veterinarian of your suspicions right away. You may already know that your dog has scabies, because perhaps you have a friend with a dog who alerted you to possible contagion. Whether confirmed or not, warn the veterinary team of the possibilities so they can be sure to isolate the dog away from other canine visitors, until the team is ready for the examination.

The veterinarian may want to obtain a stool sample for testing, or perform blood work to perhaps rule out conditions like allergies or bacterial skin infection. Both the blood test and the fecal sample are important diagnostic tools for determining the cause of your dog’s itchy skin.

The skin scrape, and subsequent observation under the microscope is the method used that most often gives a definitive diagnosis. The scrape will be done deep enough to try and reach the mites. Often the mites and eggs will be clearly visible. However, it can be entirely possible that the mites will not be seen, in which case the lesions that they produce could lead to the diagnosis.

Treatment of Scabies in Dogs

You may have other canine family members in your household; they must be treated as well, even though the mites may not yet have made an appearance or caused symptoms. Sarcoptic mange is very contagious between dogs.

The clipping of your pet may be necessary in order to effectively treat the mites. Then the crusty skin should be gently treated with a medicated shampoo. The next step is to apply an anti-mite product such as lime sulfur. Because the mites can be difficult to eradicate, several weekly applications may be needed. Oral medications and treatment by injection are possible, too. Most often, a combination of products are needed to combat the infection.

As the treatment will be done at home (unless the infection is severe and has caused threatening secondary complications that require your dog to be hospitalized for a time), you must contact the veterinarian if you do not see improvement in your pet’s state of health within 4 to 5 days.

Recovery of Scabies in Dogs

Full resolution of your beloved pet’s mite infestation could take up to six weeks of treatment. Keep the veterinarian informed of the progress. Don’t hesitate to contact, via phone or email, the clinic with any questions or concerns about the treatment, especially if you feel there are side effects.

There is a definite chance that you could contract the scabies from your dog. The human reaction to sarcoptic mange will be intense itching and possible redness or lesions. Because the life cycle of the mites cannot be completed on humans, the mites will die in less than a week. You may want to see your doctor in order to have relief from the itch.

Discard or at the very least, wash your pet’s bedding with hot water containing bleach. Contamination of your home is not required, but do not allow your dog the freedom to climb on beds or furniture, just in case, until the mite situation has been settled.

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