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Saturday August 17, 2013 MYT 8:25:00 AM
Saturday August 17, 2013 MYT 8:27:05 AM
by ellen whyte
If your dog has mange, should you worry? Our columnist checks out two forms of this condition.
A FEW weeks ago, one of the local rescuers told me of a pup that would soon be looking for a home, but that she wanted to wait because it had a spot of mange.
She said it came purely from stress, and that a few weeks of love and care, and a small fee at the vet’s, would fix it up nicely. At the same time, another rescuer told me she had to refuse a dog because it had mange, and she couldn’t risk all her other dogs getting it.
It got me thinking: what is mange and how do you treat it? The confusing issue about mange is that there’s more than one type.
The first rescuer was talking about demodectic mange, a skin condition caused by mites called Demodex canis, microscopic parasites that live in hair follicles. Funnily enough, people have these, too, and so do many other mammals. Normally, we don’t notice them but when the immune system weakens, these parasites can become out of control, causing demodicosis or red mange.
Things that can cause the immune system to take a dive include stress, malnourishment, an upset stomach that prevents the dog from getting proper nourishment, and being in an overcrowded place. All dogs can get this but puppies are particularly prone, especially if they have just been separated from their mums and are lonely. Furthermore, some pedigree breeds are more likely to have mange than others. These include Chihuahuas, German Shepherds and various types of terrier.
First signs are typically itchy spots with red, flaky-looking skin. These become worse and lead to huge bald areas where your pet has scratched so much that the skin is raw, bleeding and prone to infection. If left untreated, mange can kill.
“There are other conditions, like ringworm and bacterial skin infection, that can look like demodectic mange,” says Dr Chris Rain, a veterinarian based in Subang Jaya, Selangor. “So the first step is to make sure you know what you’re dealing with. Your vet will do a skin scrape and test it. This is simple and takes less than 10 minutes. If it is demodectic mange, there are various types of treatments: weekly injections, daily pills, and special baths. Your vet may suggest one of these or more in combination, depending on the case. Treatment can range from a few weeks to several months. Again, each case is different.”
The important thing is that demodectic mange is not contagious. You can handle your dog every single day, and it won’t give you a problem. If you’ve other dogs or pets, they are safe too.
The second rescuer was talking about a different type of mange. Mites called Sarcoptes scabiei caniscause a similar-looking condition called canine scabies or sarcoptic mange. These burrow underneath the skin, which is tremendously itchy.
A classic sign is “sandy-looking” ears or elbows. If left untreated, the skin roughens and darkens, looking very scaly. As the dog scratches, he or she can cause open wounds that then become infected. Like demodectic mange, scabies can eventually kill if left untreated. The test and treatment for scabies is the same as demodectic mange. However, there is a significant difference: scabies can be transmitted to other dogs. Kennel owners and rescue centres are terrified of this problem as it runs through the entire dog population, and they often don’t have the resources to cure all the victims.
Second, although Sarcoptes scabiei canis can’t live on humans, if you handle a scabies-infected dog, these bugs can cause a short-term itchy rash. How serious this is varies. Some rescuers say they don’t suffer from it. Others say it’s a mild itch that goes away by itself after a few days. Yet others say they are badly affected and have rashes that last up to a month.
“The funny things about scabies is that it looks and sounds worse than demodectic mange but actually it’s much easier to cure,” says Dr Chris. “Most cases are cured with three weekly injections. The dog will itch for about a week, but by the second week, the improvement is visible. With both types of mange, the important thing is to make sure you fully treat the problem,” Dr Chris advises. “If you stop too soon, your pet will have a relapse. So finish the course.”
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opinion, dogs, pets, parasites, Dog Talk
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