Diseases, Fleas, Shelter and Rescue Resources, Skin Problem Resources

How to Treat Mange in Dogs and Cats

Mange is an intensely itchy disease caused by parasitic mites. It is hard to imagine that something as tiny as a mite could cause such severe itching, but it does.

Types of Mange

  • The most common types in dogs are Demodectic mange and Sarcoptic mange.
  • Cheyletiella, known as “Walking Dandruff,” can affect dogs, cats, rabbits, chickens and humans.
  • In cats, Demodex mites are commonly diagnosed.
  • Mange in cats is often a result of FeLV suppressing the immune system.

What is Mange?

Demodex mange mites live in the hair follicles and glands of the skin, while Sarcoptic and Cheyletiella mange mites tend to burrow into the skin. The resulting irritation of the hair follicle causes severe itching, hair loss and scratching trauma.

Demodectic mange, also known as “Red Mange,” occurs when mites suddenly multiply beyond what the dog can tolerate. Demodex can occur in both dogs and cats and is not contagious. Demodex mites can only transfer during the first week of life while nursing – animals cannot get it as adults. Demodex mites are common in many species of animals, and some have suggested it is a normal inhabitant of the skin.

Symptoms of Mange in Dogs

Clinical signs may vary from dog to dog, since symptoms are related to the dog’s ability to resist the mites. Some dogs are genetically resistant and will never show signs of mange. Dogs with no resistance suffer from hair loss, itching and pain. Any dog with a suppressed immune system is at risk to show signs, and normal adult dogs with thyroid or cancer problems often break with Demodex. The primary symptom is patchy hair loss, usually occurring around the eyes or on parts of the face. With time, crusty red skin progressing to a greasy, moist appearance develops.

Treatment of Mange in Dogs and Cats

Treatment of mange in dogs and cats involves clipping the hair and removing the crusty lesions. Topical treatment involves ointments, dips or medicated shampoos.

Veterinarians often prescribe Ivermectin products orally to treat mange from the inside out (Plumb). Note: Ivermectin for large animals is NOT a labeled use in dogs. Ivermectin cannot be used on a Collie, Sheltie, or breeds containing Collie/Sheltie, and other white footed breeds. In addition, other dogs can also be sensitive to ivermectin at these high doses. An MDR1 test (at Washington State University) will help to know if the dog can tolerate this dose of ivermectin safely.

Topical Ivomec 0.5% is advantageous as we know we are getting an accurate dose in the animal. It’s used between the shoulder blades so that the animal can’t lick it. Licking it won’t hurt a dog or cat, but the alcohol carrier makes them salivate and look terrible. For breeds such as collies, Shelties and breeds that have collie and Sheltie genetics in them, consider using Bravecto for mange therapy and Sentinel to avoid giving medications containing ivermectin.

Injectable Ivomec 1% is used orally and usually mixed with Propylene Glycol to sweeten the taste for dogs, making it easier to get down them. Cats cannot have propylene glycol, so use Doc Roy’s® Forti Cal to sweeten the dose. Most take it well, but if they vomit or spit out the dose, you will have to redo as we need everyone’s parasites killed at the same time to avoid sharing back into the group.

Bravecto, Simparica, Nexgard and Credilio all do a great job with mites. They are not labeled for this use but are widely used for mites. The downside are there are dogs who have seizures on these drugs.

Goodwinol Ointment has been very successful for localized lesions, and antibiotics may be needed for secondary bacterial infections. Insecticidal dips or Vet Basics® Lime Sulfur Dip is used to get at the mites in the hair follicles – both work well. Weekly bathing with Vet Basics® Sebo Plus Shampoo to regain skin health will speed recovery and it is great for both dogs and cats. Dogs and cats that are being treated for mange will also benefit from a fatty acid supplement like Doc Roy’s® Daily Care and Doc Roy’s® Daily Care Extra. Adding it to a high quality pet food will support your pet’s natural defenses.

Mange dogs will benefit from fatty acid supplements and a high quality pet food; both help your pet fight mange by enhancing his natural defenses.

Some dogs may need regular treatment if the mange won’t clear up permanently. Using Frontline® Plus monthly after the initial treatment may help control chronic mange.

Mange in Cats

Feline Demodex is mostly confined to kittens and to the ear area. Clinical signs include ceruminous ear discharge and itching. Ear mite treatment is effective if you include the area around the ear. Insecticide shampoos or dips labeled for cats are needed to eliminate the mites permanently. Often kittens acquire ringworm, a fungal infection, in areas traumatized by scratching. A medicated shampoo or spray are helpful in treating secondary bacterial and fungal issues.

Sarcoptic and Cheyletiella mange, commonly known as scabies, infect both dogs and cats and cause intense itching. Both are contagious to adults. Contact with an infected animal or mite-contaminated grooming equipment can transfer scabies and infect your pet.

Sarcoptic attacks the skin of the ears, elbow and hocks early, but with time it occupies all of your pet’s body. The onset is sudden, with symptoms of scratching, hair loss, inflamed skin and crusty ear tips.

Cheyletiella can transfer to humans with skin-to-skin contact with your pet, but humans are a temporary host, as it does not like humans and won’t stay long.

Both are easy to acquire and easy to kill. Sarcoptic and Cheyletiella mites are very contagious, so all dogs or cats in the family should also be treated to eliminate the problem, even if they do not show signs. Remember direct contact is not necessary to contract Sarcoptic mange – be sure to wash bedding and grooming items when treatment begins. The same treatment for Demodex above is successful! You can treat the indoor environment with a residual insecticide to prevent re-infection.

Mange can be miserable for your pet but treatment is successful with a good plan! Shampoo to treat the crusty lesions; follow with a dip such as Vet Basics® Lime Sulfur Dip to penetrate the hair pores and kill the mites and you should be successful.

If you need help with how to get rid of mange on dogs and cats, call us at 800.786.4751.

Article originally written by Donald Bramlage, DVM, Revival’s Former Director of Veterinary Services.

Written by: Marty Greer, DVM

Director of Veterinary Services

Marty Greer, Doctor of Veterinary Medicine, has 40+ years’ experience in veterinary medicine, with special interests in canine reproduction and pediatrics. She received her Doctor of Veterinary Medicine from Iowa State University in 1981. She’s served as Revival’s Director of Veterinary Services since 2019. In 2023, Dr. Greer was named the Westminster Kennel Club Veterinarian of the Year.

If you need help, call us at 800.786.4751.