This terrible canine skin infection is caused by the parasitic infection Sarcoptes Scabiei and is also referred to as Sarcoptic Mange (it is highly contagious and passes from dog to dog through contact – but also from an infected area – more on this later). Alongside this form of mange there is another version referred to as Demodectic Mange (Demodex Canis). This form of the disease is less contagious and is normally only passed from the mother to her offspring during feeding time.
Sarcoptic mange (Scabies) and the frantic itching that accompanies this infection is caused by the female parasites burrowing into the skin and laying their eggs as they burrow. The tunnels that are left as the female burrows into the dogs skin can reach several cms in length. Soon after laying her eggs the female will die and the remaining eggs will hatch into larvae (with six legs) within three to six days and then into nymphs (with eight legs). The nymphs will finally develop into an adult with the whole process from start to finish taking about two to three weeks.
It is also worth mentioning that the Sarcoptes Scabiei parasite can actually live unattached from the host in good conditions and the right environment for up to twenty two days so your dog can become infected with scabies without actually coming into contact with an infected dog or puppy. This is why it is vital that any area that has been infected by the Sarcoptes Scabiei parasites needs to be sterilized.
Scabies Symptoms in Dogs and Puppies
As we have discussed Scabies causes frantic itching and a mixture of other symptoms including pain and hair loss. The loss of hair can affect any area of the dogs body but it is more common to affect the belly, elbows, chest, back of the hocks and around the ears and neck. The parasites actually prefer to live and burrow in areas on the dog where there is less hair – it is quite likely that as the infection takes hold the infected dog might lose hair all over the body. The frantic itching that accompanies Scabies is actually the result of an allergic reaction to the Sarcoptes Scabiei mites.
As the Scabies causes intense itching the resulting pustules and scabs are repeatedly itched leaving the skin underneath exposed – the area will often then become further infected through sores and secondary infections. The condition can also cause the dog’s skin to become much darker as the infection and infected area is repeatedly scratched. It is also possible for the dog’s lymph nodes to become affected by disease.
It is not uncommon for Scabies to be misdiagnosed and treated as an Atopy allergy (this is an allergy caused by something that your dog has inhaled and is allergic to). If your dog starts to itch and after speaking to the vet there has not been any previous occurrence of an allergic reaction then it might be as a result of Scabies. If you are not sure then you should always speak to your vet as they can undertake tests and look at your dogs previous medical history.
Although humans can also become infected by Sarcoptic mange the condition will not always progress to the level it does with dogs and other animals – normally resulting in limited scratching. However, there is also another form of the condition in humans that passes from person to person and can result in the disease causing redness and a nasty rash anywhere on the body.