Signs and Symptoms of Scabies (Sarcoptic Mange) in Dogs & Treatment Options

The disease, scabies, is caused by a contagious mite. This mite is found on domestic and wild dogs or canids (coyotes, wolves and red foxes).  Mites most often are transmitted through intimate or close contact such as in doggie daycares, grooming parlors, or dog parks. The mite survives only short periods in the environment although some dogs may pick it up in this way. The scabies mite is NOT caused by bad hygiene. Sometimes the cause may not be obvious.

Dogs who become infected with this mite become severely itchy! The itching may be near constant and interfere with your dog’s sleeping and eating habits. You may notice a very fine rash or just the itching at first. Over time the skin becomes very red, there is hair loss and flaking skin. Areas where hair is thinner (ears, elbows, ankles, belly) tend to be the most severely affected. However, some dogs may have a different pattern or no symptoms at all.

The severe itch from scabies is believed to be a hypersensitivity or allergic reaction to the mite. The number of mites on a dog at any given time is very small. We try to find the mite with skin scraping which is the best available technique. However, the mite is found less than 50% of the time because they are so few in number.

Treatment Options for Scabies (Sarcoptic Mange)

Although the mite is very hard to find fortunately it typically responds very well to treatment. There are several different treatment options available. Occasionally, we need to try more than one treatment for optimal results.

Since the mite is contagious to other dogs, you should not allow your dog to play with other dogs or be boarded until treatment is complete.  If your dog has frequent contact with another dog they should be treated even if they do not have symptoms.

The mite is mildly contagious to human beings. A small number (between 10-20%) of people may develop a red rash on their forearms, ankles or waistband. This will resolve when your pet is treated.  However, if you are uncomfortable from the itchiness please consult your physician. Human beings can develop their own unique form of scabies which is transmitted through close person to person contact. Humans are a ‘dead end’ for dog scabies mites. The mites do not reproduce and do not cause active infection. When humans catch scabies from another person these cases will require treatment prescribed by a physician.

Because the scabies mite does not survive very well in the environment extensive decontamination of the home is not necessary. However, any bedding or blanket that is used by your pet for sleeping should be laundered with hot water and detergent. You may want to clean any furniture your dog spends a lot of time on.  It is possible to become re-infected from scabies but this is usually not from a failure to treat the home. It is just commonly present in the world of a dog.

Although dogs with scabies are some of the most severely affected dogs we see they usually make a complete recovery with treatment for the mite as well as any infections they may have developed.