You have probably heard the phrase, “That mangy dog!” as a way of expressing annoyance with a member of the canine family. But did you ever stop to think about where that phrase comes from?

Though you don’t hear about it too often these days, mange is a skin disease that many have described as “scabies for dogs.” The condition is caused by microscopic mites, and whether it’s a big deal largely depends upon the type of mange — sarcoptic or demodectic.

Demodectic mange

All pups that are raised naturally by their mothers have demodectic mites, because they are passed on during cuddling in the first few days after birth. Despite this, the vast majority of dogs live in complete harmony with their demodectic mites and never experience a problem.

However, that isn’t always the case. If mites proliferate, they can — and do — cause mange infections that vary from mild to severe. There are three types of demodectic mange:

  • Localized
    When too many mites live on a specific patch of your dog’s skin, it can cause bald, scaly patches to form. Typically, localized demodectic mange is found in puppies, and it often clears up on its own.
  • Generalized
    As the name implies, generalized demodectic mange can affect your dog’s entire body. It often leaves dogs smelly and incredibly itchy due to secondary bacterial infections that occur and can be a sign of bigger problems, like hereditary issues, a compromised immune system, and so on.
  • Pododermatitis
    This form of demodectic mange may only affect your dog’s feet, but it is also one of the hardest to get rid of and often comes with bacterial infections.

Sarcoptic Mange

Generally speaking, when people share horror stories about mange, they’re talking about sarcoptic mange. While demodectic mange is not contagious, sarcoptic mange not only can be passed from dog-to-dog, but also to cats and even people.

Sarcoptic mange tends to start in areas that don’t have as much hair, but without treatment will quickly spread to the rest of the body. Affected skin becomes scaly, red, and extremely itchy, and hair loss is also common.


There’s really only one thing that you can do to prevent mange in your dog, and then it only works for sarcoptic mange: if you know that another dog has it, don’t take your pup near him or her. You may even want to stay away yourself. However, sarcoptic mites can’t live long on people, so the chances of you infecting your dog are small.


There are several things to do after your dog suffers a mange outbreak, most of which involve cleaning or replacing anything he uses that could have become infected, such as his collar, bedding, and possibly even some toys.

Make sure to isolate your dog to prevent the contamitionation of other dogs or humans. A vet will generally prescribe antiparasitic oral medications to treat mange and topical oiments to ease itching. But the dog may also need to be treated for general inflammation and other skin conditions associated with mange. Limit the treatment to your vet’s recommendations as certain medicines for skin conditions may actually have toxic side-effects depending on the dog.

Vets also recommend not breeding dogs that suffer from demodectic mange, because it is believed to be hereditary.

Have any of your dogs suffered with any skin problems? Tell us about it in the comments.


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