How does animal mange affect humans?

Updated November 21, 2016

Depending on the type of mange your pet has, yes, it can be contagious and humans can get it. Sarcoptic mange is contagious. Mange means a condition that is the result of mites that are on the skin or near the skin's surface. Sarcoptic mange is the result of tiny burrowing mites. In a dog this is called Sarcoptes scabiei variety canis.

Seven-Year Itch

Another term for sarcoptic mange in humans is the "seven-year itch." Humans have their own brand of mange that is caused by a particular type of mite; however, humans can contract mange from dogs and cats if the mites get on the humans. The result is a red welt that can be very nasty looking. The mites produce extensive tunnels that can result in advanced lesions as well as scabs that appear on the surface of the skin. The mites burrow into the skin and then die. The area of your body where the mites have burrowed will have a welt on it and become inflamed.

The Animal

When an animal has mange, it is not a pleasant sight. Sarcoptic mange causes an intense inflammation and causes animals to lose their hair. The animal also damages his skin (self-mutilation) because he will scratch and dig at the infected area. The condition can spread over the animal's entire body and make serum seep out of the tunnels to the skin's surface, which causes scabs to develop. A secondary bacterial infection usually occurs and this causes pus. The lesions that are the result of sarcoptic mange generally show on the muzzle and ears and around he eyes, because these are thinly haired areas.

Non-Contagious Mange

Demodectic mange is not contagious. It cannot be spread from animal to human or from animal to animal. It does not produce an itchy sensation. This type of mange is the result of mites that live in hair follicles. Young dogs are at risk of getting demodectic mange because their immune systems aren't fully developed. Old dogs are also at risk because they may have other illnesses that compromise their immune systems.

Do You Have It?

If you have been in contact with a dog that has sarcoptic mange and you think you have been infected, contact your doctor, particularly if you have small raised papules (bumps) that are itching and cropping up on your abdomen, chest or arms. Usually, this is a temporary condition that goes away in the human once the dog has been treated, but err on the side of caution and go see your doctor.

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About the Author

Cindi Pearce is a graduate of Ohio University, where she received her bachelor’s degree in journalism. She completed both the undergraduate and graduate courses offered by the Institute of Children’s Literature. Pearce has been writing professionally for over 30 years.