Sarcoptic Mange in Dogs: Overview, Treatment, and Prevention

The presence of Sarcoptes scabiei – commonly known as itchy mite – in the skin causes sarcoptic mange in dogs. Dogs with this condition experience hair loss and excessive itching.

What is Sarcoptic Mange in Dogs?

Sarcoptic mange in dogs, also known as scabies, develops when Sarcoptes mites burrow through the dog’s skin and multiply. These microscopic mites are oval and light-colored. Overpopulation of these mites causes irritation and intense itchiness.

It is not unusual for a dog to have mites on his skin. But overpopulation of mites can make your dog feel extremely itchy – forcing him to scratch the itchy spots profusely. Intense scratching causes the hair on those spots to fall out. For this reason, hair loss is frequently seen in dogs with sarcoptic mange.

This type of mange should not be mistaken with demodectic mange.

What are the Symptoms of Sarcoptic Mange in Dogs?

A stray dog with Sarcoptic mange.

When your dog has a severe infestation of Sarcoptes mites, he may experience the following signs:

  • Pruritis or extreme urge to scratch due to intense itchiness
  • Biting and chewing of skin
  • Red, scaly, crusty, or flaky skin
  • Bacterial infections of the skin
  • Bumps that may or may not excrete pus
  • Hair loss

Sarcoptes mites prefer skin where there is less hair, such as the elbows, belly, and ear flaps. For this reason, the skins on these parts of the body are the first to become flaky and crusty.

In severe cases, sarcoptic mange can cause death.

Is Sarcoptic Mange Contagious to Humans?

Yes, sarcoptic mange can be transmitted to humans. If your dog is suffering from this skin disease, the mites on his body can transfer to your skin and cause you to feel extremely itchy.

The good news is sarcoptic infections in humans go away on their own as the mites cannot complete their life cycle on the wrong host. These mites cannot live in humans for more than 20 days.

How is Sarcoptic Mange in Dogs Diagnosed?

Skin scraping is the most common method done to diagnose sarcoptic mange in dogs.

If the veterinarian suspects that your dog has sarcoptic mange or other skin problems, he will take a tiny sample of your dog’s skin. He will then look at the sample under the microscope to look for Sarcoptes mites. If no mites or eggs are found, the veterinarian will look for other possible causes of your dog’s skin problem.

How is Sarcoptic Mange in Dogs Treated?

Veterinarians use different methods to treat scabies in dogs. The choice of treatment usually depends on your dog’s condition and age. Here are some treatment options veterinarians use to cure sarcoptic mange in dogs.


Ivermectin is one of the most effective treatments against sarcoptic mange in dogs. The drug is administered to the affected dog typically via injection. Dogs with sarcoptic mange need 1 to 4 doses of this drug. Each dose is given every one to two weeks.

It is strongly advisable to skip this treatment option if your dog has the MDR1 gene mutation. Dogs with this mutation are usually Collies, Shetland Sheepdogs, Chinooks, and Australian Shepherds. Although with a smaller frequency, the MDR1 gene mutation is also found in German Shepherds, Whippets, and Border Collies.

If you’re worried that your dog may have the mutation, there is a DNA test you can use to determine whether your pet has it. The use of ivermectin must only be done under the recommendation of your veterinarian.


Selamectin is also effective against sarcoptic mange in dogs. This drug is the active ingredient in the flea treatment products, such as Revolution and Stronghold. This ivermectin alternative usually comes in tubes or pipettes.  This treatment option is recommended for dogs with the MDR1 gene mutation.

Normally, Selamectin is used as a once-a-month topical in dogs. It can treat and prevent parasite and skin problems, such as heartworms, fleas, ear mites, some intestinal worms, and sarcoptic mange in dogs.


Moxidectin is one of the active ingredients used as a monthly heartworm preventative. Combined with imidacloprid, the drug is also effective in treating sarcoptic mange in dogs. It is also effective against young heartworms, roundworms, whipworms, hookworms, and even fleas. Moxidectin is applied on the dog’s back, specifically between the shoulder blades. This treatment option is recommended for young puppies and dogs with the MDR1 gene mutation.

Milbemycin oxime

Milbemycin oxime, a monthly heartworm preventative, is also effective in treating sarcoptic mange in dogs.


The use of scabicidal dips is a traditional way to treat sarcoptic mange in dogs. These mite-killing dips are applied on the skin after a mild and therapeutic bath.  This treatment is done every 7 to 14 days. It can resolve sarcoptic mange in dogs in 4 to 8 weeks.

If your dog has scabies and your vet suggests this kind of treatment, it is necessary to follow the steps very carefully. Scabicidal dips can be toxic and precautions should be taken to protect yourself and prevent severe side effects on your dog.

This treatment, however, is not recommended for young puppies and hypersensitive dogs.

Supporting Care and Treatment

Veterinarians often prescribe antibiotics, supplements, and anti-allergy medications to help treat scabies in dogs.

Diphenhydramine, an antihistamine drug, is prescribed to help stop your dog from too much scratching.

Antibiotics may also be given if your dog has developed skin lesions and bacterial skin infection.

Vitamins and supplements, on the other hand, can help boost your dog’s immune system.

How to prevent Sarcoptic Mange in Dogs?

The best way to prevent sarcoptic mange in your dog is to keep him away from dogs or people who have this skin disease.

If you live in a household with multiple dogs and one of them has been diagnosed with sarcoptic mange, it is highly advisable to have all of them treated.

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