Has anyone ever called a dog you know a "mangy mutt”? It seems innocent, maybe reserved for a lovable dog that got itself into trouble on an outdoor adventure. But in reality, an animal that has mange is seriously ill.
Mange is a contagious skin disease caused by mites, and it can be devastating for animals. The main sign an animal has mange is hair loss. Mange can affect many kinds of mammals, including wild animals and domesticated animals we keep as pets, like cats and dogs. There are several kinds of mange, caused by different species of mites.
Common types of mange include sarcopetic mange, which effects wild and domesticated mammals; demodectic mange, which often affects deer, elk and bears; and notoedric mange, which primarily effects squirrels. In Illinois, mammals seen with mange include coyotes and foxes, which can develop sarcopetic mange.
Animals can get mange when they come into contact with mites through direct contact with an infected animal or an environment, such as a nest or burrow. The animal then becomes the host for the mites, which burrow into its skin.
Different types of mange can cause different symptoms in animals, but hair loss is the most common sign. Animals with mange may also have thickened or scabby skin, and they may be very itchy.
The mites that cause mange are not deadly, but mange does make an animal more susceptible to other infections. Mange can also make animals lethargic and depressed, and many become underweight and do not eat enough.
Mange can be diagnosed by examining skin scrapings and finding mites. The various mites that cause mange infections look different, and the specific type of infection can be determined by identifying which mites are present.
Animals with mange can be treated with medicine. Wild animals being treated for mange usually need to be in captivity, either at a wildlife rehabilitation center or with a licensed wildlife rehabilitator.
In some cases, animals may not survive a severe case of mange. Although medicine can successfully kill the mites, their body and health may have been too compromised by the infection.
The mites that cause mange can also cause disease in humans. For example, the human condition scabies is caused by the same kind of mites that cause mange in animals. In humans, scabies and mange can be treated with prescription medications that kill the mites and their eggs.
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