Signs and Treatment of Dog Scabies

" Sarcoptic Scabies, dog scabies or canine scabies, caused by the specie of mite Sarcoptes Scabiei. It is a contagious disease of dogs characterized by papular eruptions (bumps on the skin) that develop to thick crust from scratching and irritation. Lesions appear on the abdomen, chest, ears, elbows and legs. Chronic cases can develop in to a generalized systemic illness with symptoms such as emaciation (thin looking when the body loses fat under the skin), thickened & hardened skin, fever and other complications. Treatment primarily includes lime–sulfur dips. Other options are the use of prescription macrocylic lactones such as selamectin, Ivermectin and moxidectin. "

Scabies is caused by a severe infestation of “Sarcoptes scabiei var canis” mites.  It is contagious between dogs and is found worldwide. The mites causing this disease are host specific, i.e. only dogs are affected, although mild signs have been reported in humans as well.

The Life Cycle of this mite is 17 – 21 Days. Transmission occurs when there is direct contact of a diseased dog to healthy dog, particularly when there is a large population of dogs living together, such as in a kennel.

This American Veterinary Medical Association Podcast provides a helpful overview of dog scabies, the different types of mange or scabies that can affect your dog and treatment advice.  We highly recommend that you listen for a complete understanding of scabies and mange mites.

For more information on home scabies treatment click here.

Signs and Symptoms of Dog Scabies

Irritation and itching (pruritus) is major sign of Dog Scabies; sometimes the severity of the disease is diagnosed based on the level of  irritation observed by your veterinarian, particularly if no laboratory test procedures are available.

dog scabies
Dog Scabies and Ulceration From Biting, Rubbing and Scratching
Source: Royal Veterinary College

Lesions initially appear to be papular eruption (bumps on skin).  Dogs respond to the itch by scratching, which results in self injury, a thick crust on the skin and hardened skin. These lesions may present at the belly region, chest, elbows, legs, neck, ears & head. Dogs may experience extreme stress, depression and a decline in the overall condition and appearance of your dog due to the extreme itching that accompanies this condition.

Chronic and untreated cases of Dog Scabies may develop into a generalized form. Seborrhea (Red, itchy & Scaly skin condition) and hyper pigmentation of skin (color change in spots) is frequent. The skin gets hardened and thickened, scales and folds develop. Lymphadenopathy (enlarged lymph nodes), emaciation (looking thin and gaunt) and a decline in your dog's overall condition due to severe complications could result in death.

Diagnosis of Dog Scabies

Dog Scabies can be diagnosed by clinical history, signs and symptoms. The sudden onset of irritation, lesions, crusts and hardened skin are usually help the diagnosis. Taking a skin scraping as a sample for examination  may be helpful, but it’s a hard disease to diagnose via skin scrapping, such as in the case of what is known as “Incognito Scabies” – a type of Dog Scabies found in groomed dogs. Other options for diagnosis are and ELISA (Enzyme Linked Immuno Suppressant Assay) test which tests for specific antibodies that are associated with Sarcoptic scabiei. A fecal flotation technique may reveal mites and eggs.

Treatment of Canine Scabies

If Sarcoptic scabies is diagnosed on basis of clinical signs and history, a trial therapy is recommended initially. To be on the safe side, it is a way of checking a dog to see if there is any sensitivity to a specific dog  anti parasitic drug.

A detailed treatment plan may be followed as topical or systemic.

After bathing a diseased dog with a quality anti-acaricidal shampoo (acaricides or miticides are pesticides that kills mites) ,topical treatment may include, clipping hairs, removal of dirt and debris from lesions and the application of quality antiseptics.   Several dips of lime–sulfur at intervals of 5 days are highly recommended. Lime – sulfur dips are considered to be the safest and effective treatment option in puppies.  A quality lime-sulfur dip can be purchased over the counter from Naturasil.  There is also a natural homeopathic shampoo available called PetAlive Manage Mites Shampoo that can be used in combination with the Naturasil Lime-Sulfur dip.

Prescription medications such as Amitraz is also used for Dog Scabies, but it is not approved everywhere for use, also the efficacy of amitraz is reported to be very low.

A systemic treatment plan administered by a veterinarian includes the administration of macrocylic lactones that may be Ivermectin or selamectin. Ivermectin is considered a very effective option if administered orally or  as a sub cutaneous (Beneath skin) injection.  It is prescribed as two (2) doses at interval of 1 – 2 weeks depending upon severity of infestation. Ivermectin  has adverse effects in several breeds of dogs such as collies and collie crosses.

Selamectin, part of the  macrocyclic lactones group is considered safe in dogs and has low or no adverse effects in Ivermectin – sensitive dogs.

Supportive therapy is important. Multi-vitamins, mineral supplements and surely including zinc are highly recommended. 

Side Effects from Canine Scabies Treatment

Some breeds of herding dogs as collies and their crosses are highly sensitive to the prescription medication Ivermectin, so care should be taken while administrating Ivermectin in such breeds.

Prevention of Scabies in Dogs

Dog Scabies can be prevented by limiting  contact with other dogs that may have the condition.  Diseased dogs should be isolated, as this disease is highly contagious and wide spreading.  The use of miticidal sprays and products such as Benzarid around and in dog houses and in a dogs environment is highly effective in controlling the problem.  There is also a natural homeopathic product called Mange Mites Spray that promotes healthy skin and that can help to repel mites.

 All of the dogs belongings should also be washed with a detergent as well.

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Merck Veterinary Manual (Merck & Co. 2008)

J. Pharst., et al. Veterinary Clinician Manual (California Press. 1997)


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