What Does Mange on a Dog Look Like?

The word "mange" brings to mind a scruffy, down-on-his luck dog; however, just about every dog experiences mange in his life. Puppies reared by their mother develop demodectic mange, which usually clears up on its own. Other types of mange in dogs include sarcoptic mange and otodectic mange. Each is caused by its own type of mite, so each type of mange will look different on your dog.

Puppy dog looking straight to the camera
Close-up of hairless pup looking into the camera.
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Sarcoptic Mange, or Scabies

When Sarcoptes scabei take up residence on your pup, he's got sarcoptic mange, also referred to as scabies. Highly contagious, this mite will spend its short life cycle on its host, making your dog's life miserable. The male mites stay on the skin surface while the females burrow into his upper layers of skin, forming long tunnels. Sometimes the females lay clusters of eggs in the tunnels, which hatch into larvae that mature into nymphs; female nymphs grow to create their own burrows. All that adds up to an intense itch for your dog, causing him to scratch. And scratch. And scratch. All the intense itching and scratching leads to skin inflammation, red streaks and crusty skin. Sarcoptic mange tends to show up first around the edges of a dog's ears and his face, as well as his elbows and belly. You'll notice little red bumps and welts in the infested areas, often accompanied with a strong odor. Untreated, sarcoptic mange may lead to thick wrinkled or folded skin.

Demodectic Mange -- AKA Red Mange

Demodex canis mites are the culprit behind demodectic mange. These mites are part and parcel of being a dog, and under normal circumstances aren't a problem. Within three days of giving birth, a mother dog will pass these mites along to her pups as she nurses them. If your dog's immune system is functioning properly, this mite won't bother him; however, if the immune system is depressed or not fully developed, such as a puppy's, the mites can rapidly reproduce, causing this most common form of mange. Demodectic mange can be localized or generalized. Localized demodectic mange usually shows up on your pup's face in isolated bald patches, giving him a polka-dotted appearance. It may also appear on a leg, but if it's localized mange, it won't appear in more than two different places. Generalized demodectic mange can affect the entire body, presenting with bare, scaly skin, resulting in patchy fur. Unlike the localized version, generalized demodectic mange is itchy because of additional bacterial infections that often accompany it.

Trombiculosis and Other Mites

Eutrombicula alfreddugesi are mites from the family Trombiculidae a dog can pick up when he unknowingly encounters them outside. These parasites live in rotting debris in temperate parts of the country; if your dog enjoys a walk in the woods with you, he may pick up one of these guys. Signs he's hosting this mite include hair loss, pimples and skin that may be irritated, red or crusty. Other mites to be on the lookout for include Otodectes cynotis mites, which cause otodectic mange, and Cheyletiella yasguri mites, responsible for cheyletiellosis, more commonly known as walking dandruff. Ear mites present in ear scratching and head shaking, while walking dandruff presents as skin scaling along the back. You'll also notice the mites actually moving on your dog, as the name implies.

Treating Mange

Getting rid of your pup's mange depends not just on the type of mite he has, but also his breed. Antiparasitic medication is prescribed by the vet and includes ivermectin, selamectin and moxidectin. Some herding breeds, such as border collies and sheep dogs, are sensitive to ivermectin, requiring a lower dose or a different medication. Localized demodectic mange isn't usually treated because it tends to clear up on its own. If you suspect your dog is showing the effects of mite infestation, he should see the vet to confirm your suspicions and determine the proper treatment plan for him.