Cat with scabies.
Scabies is a skin disease found in many mammals and is caused by a mite that burrows under the skin. Most people are familiar with it because of its presence in their pets, usually dogs and cats. There are several mites that cause the disease, but only a few affect pets.
Scabies mites themselves cannot be seen with the naked eye, but the effects of their burrowing can be very dramatic. There are several different types of scabies; some types look like dandruff, but the effects are usually short-lived:
Notoedric mange: A scaly skin disease that usually starts in the ears but can spread to the rest of the face and body if left untreated. This type can be spread among cats, dogs, rabbits and humans. Sarcoptic mange: An extremely itchy skin condition, sometimes called canine scabies, and common in dogs. This type of disease usually attacks hairless areas, such as the abdomen and elbows. While it can spread to cats and humans, mites usually don’t survive for long. Demodectic mange: The mites that cause this type actually live in the hair follicles and are known to be very itchy. It can spread throughout the body and can be difficult to cure, but early treatment is usually successful.
Common symptoms and diagnoses
Dogs are at risk for mange.
Depending on the type of mite causing the problem, symptoms can vary for each animal. Some pets will experience intense itching, while others will not experience any itching at all. In some cases, a red, hairless patch will develop on the animal’s skin. Red bumps that look like pimples can also appear on the affected area of skin.
Veterinarians diagnose the disease by scraping the skin from the animal’s affected area and analyzing the skin sample under a microscope; the process is painless and is usually a reliable source for determining whether or not your pet has the skin condition. Scabies mites, however, often burrow under the skin, and scraping does not include actual mites; vets actually inspect the skin sample for symptoms of scabies rather than actual mites.
Shaving an animal’s coat may be necessary when mange is present.
Most types of this disease can be eradicated, especially if symptoms are treated early. Treatment may include pills, special baths, baths with medicated shampoos, injections, or a combination of medicines. Many of the medications that treat the skin condition can be purchased at a veterinarian’s office, as many, especially shampoos and bath sauces, must be prescribed by a veterinarian. It is also possible to buy prescription and non-prescription medicines over the Internet.
Mange can be carried by rabbits.
In more extreme cases, it may be necessary to shave the animal’s hair so that the medication can be rubbed directly into the affected area. Removing hair can also reduce the amount of mites that live in hair follicles. Another possibility is to quarantine the pet until the disease is gone to minimize the likelihood of the disease spreading to other animals.