Scabies in dogs & humans

Written by jasey kelly
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Scabies in dogs & humans
Both dogs and humans are susceptible to scabies. (shepard dog image by The Blowfish Inc from Fotolia.com)

Scabies affects many different species of animals, dogs and humans included. The disease is also known as sarcoptic mange (dogs) and human mange (humans). Human scabies mites are very small, though just visible to the naked eye. The disease can be of great concern in both dogs and humans as it quickly spreads in ideal conditions.

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Types

Scabies, also known as sarcoptic mange in dogs, is an irritating, itchy disease for both humans and dogs. The mites that cause these diseases have species-preferred hosts. Dog scabies mites, for example, can feed on humans but do not prefer humans as a host. Scabies mites cannot typically complete a life cycle on the wrong host. Varying types of scabies exist for humans; Norwegian (crusted) scabies is more dangerous than common scabies.

Features

In dogs, the disease is most apparent--and commonly begins--around the belly, ear flaps and other hairless areas of the body. The mites produce red, itchy, flaky skin that cause great discomfort to the dog. In humans, the mites typically infect the hands and wrists and can produce rashes in areas such as the armpits, belly, shoulder blades and groin. In young children, scabies may persist over the head, neck, palms and soles of feet.

In humans, the burrows of the female mites may be visible under the skin. Commonly, the first symptom in humans is severe itching at night, with small pimple-like bumps appearing. Norwegian scabies causes a thick crust, particularly on the hands.

Scabies in dogs & humans
Humans typically are infested at the fingers and wrists. (hand image by cegli from Fotolia.com)

Susceptibility

Scabies mites inhabit many areas of the world. People of every race, gender and age are susceptible. Human scabies are not transmitted from animals, they are transmitted most commonly through sexual activities. Although dogs with scabies mites can transmit the disease to humans, the dog mites leave the human willingly after a short time.

Human scabies is also prevalent where many people share close quarters; nursing homes are a prime example. Although scabies mites are not discriminatory, areas with poor hygiene are also at risk for spreading the disease. Those with suppressed immune systems, such as the elderly and those infected with AIDS, are more susceptible to developing Norwegian scabies.

Scabies in dogs & humans
Scabies is commonly transmitted by close contact. (holding hands image by Jale Evsen Duran from Fotolia.com)

Prevention/Solution

Good hygiene in humans is an effective preventive measure against scabies. Also, thoroughly washing any bedding, clothing or furniture an infected person has had contact with may remove the mites. For those with Norwegian scabies, only brief contact is needed to transmit the disease to another.

Scabicides--prescription medication used to treat scabies--come in creams and lotions and are applied over most of the body--from neck to toes. As of 2010, no over-the-counter medications are approved for the treatment of scabies.

For dogs, preventing contact with other infected dogs proves beneficial. Thoroughly washing the dogs bedding, collar and other materials used in close contact with the canine can also help prevent infestation and prolonged exposure to the mites, according to Mar Vista Animal Medical Center. Several medications are available through prescription for the treatment of sarcoptic mange in dogs.

Effects

Because the disease is spread through contact, large outbreaks may occur. For humans, institutional outbreaks, such as in hospitals and nursing homes, require quick treatment to contain the disease. Any person with scabies, particularly Norwegian scabies, should have their room thoroughly cleaned and vacuumed to prevent further transmittal of the mites, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Dogs are also prone to outbreaks of the disease, particularly those living in close quarters with each other. When not treated, the disease spreads over the entire body of the dog, and the mites will continue to complete life cycles many times over.

Scabies in dogs & humans
Dogs will transmit mites easily when kept in close quarters. (dogs image by muro from Fotolia.com)

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