Canine skin mites, commonly known as mange, are a parasitic infection similar to scabies that affects dogs’ skin. The mites are irritating to the skin, making the dog scratch the affected area constantly, eventually causing hair loss and scabbing. In healthy adult dogs, small patches of skin mites often go away on their own, but for puppies, older dogs and unhealthy dogs, the mange can spread and eventually kill the animal.
Take your dog to the vet for immediate evaluation if you suspect it has skin mites, even if it’s a small patch and your dog is otherwise healthy. The vet will take a scraping from a healthy part of the dog’s skin to determine if there are mites and, if so, what type of mites they are. Don’t attempt to treat mange yourself with home remedies. These are, at best, ineffective and, at worst, dangerous for dogs.
Apply the insecticide prescribed by your vet directly to the affected areas three times a day. Your vet may also prescribe an antibiotic cream if the dog’s skin risks becoming infected from scratching. You should start to see improvement in the area after a month, but usually the insecticide needs to be used for three months or longer to make sure all the mites and their eggs are dead.
Return to the vet once a month for a skin scraping to ensure that the skin mites are gone. Demodectic mites are microscopic so you won’t be able to find them yourself. Continue the insecticide treatment as directed by your vet.
Use a medicated wash if the insecticide gel doesn’t take care of the mites and they continue to spread. Before washing the dog with medicine, bathe it in warm water with a follicular flushing shampoo to open the hair follicles where the mites burrow. Towel dry the dog as thoroughly as you can.
Wash the dog with the medicated shampoo. Wear gloves; the insecticide in the shampoo can be harmful, and take care to keep the shampoo out of the dog’s eyes and ears.
Continue this treatment once a week until the mange has cleared and take your dog for monthly checkups and skin scrapings. Treatment for serious cases of skin mites can take several months to be completely effective.
Treat the dog with antibiotics as prescribed by your vet. Many dogs with serious cases of mange develop secondary skin infections as a result of scratching.
Help strengthen your dog’s immune system by feeding it good-quality dog food with high meat content. Your vet may also recommend vitamin E to keep the immune system strong. A dog with a strong immune system will be better able to fight skin mite infestation. Wash the dog's bed regularly during and after treatment to prevent reinfection.
Demodectic mites can’t be passed to humans, but other types of mange can. It’s important to get a diagnosis to reduce your family’s risk of infection.