I’d like to adopt a puppy, but apparently she has mange, which is being treated at the shelter. They say there will be some after-care required. I would like to give her the best possible care but am uncertain what this involves. What causes mange, and is it contagious to my other animals? And could the mange return?
Chris Sheridan – Cape Town
Dr Duncan Stevens of Plumstead Animal Hospital answers…
There are two types of mange (‘brandsiek’ in Afrikaans) that the puppy may have, namely demodectic (caused by Demodex mites) or sarcoptic (caused by Sarcoptes mites). It is even possible that she may have both types simultaneously. The shelter will be able to tell you which she has if a skin scraping has been done.
Demodectic mange is usually not itchy and will not spread to humans, or indeed to other animals, but sarcoptic mange is extremely itchy, may also cause humans to itch, and can be contagious to other animals, although it isn’t as common in cats. Puppy demodectic mange is usually localised to a few areas, like around the eyes, the tips of the ears, and some patches on the body, although it can spread.
Both types cause hair loss and can lead to secondary infections, although the latter is more common in sarcoptic mange. Dogs with severe sarcoptic mange may also lose weight, be feverish, and have hot, red skin.
The treatment and aftercare is not as arduous as you may think. Sarcoptic mange is relatively easily treated by applying a topical treatment. Some animals may need antibiotics for concurrent skin infection.
Bathing and dipping dogs with amitraz (Ectodex®) is common in welfares because of the relatively low cost; ivermectin (Dectomax®) injections may be given concurrently. However, these are contraindicated for puppies or herding breeds, so they’re treated with other medications which your vet can recommend.
In a healthy, happy environment like your home, it’s unlikely to recur. Poor diet and stress weaken the immune system; feeding your puppy good-quality food, and supplementing with B vitamins (for stress and to restore healthy gut bacteria), omega 3 fatty acids (for skin health), and probiotics can help to support the immune system and healing process. Regular baths with a good-quality pet shampoo may be recommended by your vet.
In a nutshell, mange is very treatable and can be cured, without a great deal of work.
So, please go ahead and adopt the puppy!
Note: Never use any medications without consulting your vet and confirming a diagnosis of mange, as other illnesses can have similar symptoms and some medications are toxic to some animals.