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By Traci Guthrie

Recognizing and treating mange

Nothing is more insulting to a pet owner than having someone refer to their animal as "mangy." Many people associate mange with animals that have not been well taken care of because the condition of their coat and the skin is poor. In reality, mange is a common skin disease caused by the presence of tiny mites. If you know what to look for, diagnosing and treating mange can be done quickly and relieve your pet of this miserable condition.

The four most predominant types of mange are demodectic, otodectic, sarcoptic and notedric. Demodectic mites are normal inhabitants of canine skin when present in small numbers. They only become a problem if there is an overpopulation and the animal's immune system can't handle it. Otodectic mange is commonly known as ear mites. Sarcoptic mange is canine scabies, while notoedric mange is feline scabies.

Symptoms of mange

Mange symptoms are frequently mistaken for those of allergies. The standard testing for mange is taking a scraping of the affected animal's skin and viewing it under a microscope. Unfortunately, only in about 20 percent of cases are the mites seen on the skin sample. Generally a vet will begin treatment as a diagnostic test. If the treatment results are favorable, the diagnosis of mange is made.

The visible signs of mange are as follows:

  • Persistent, aggressive scratching, biting and head shaking
  • Hair loss on the elbows, hocks and under the chest and face
  • Itchy, scaly, red sores on the skin
  • Yellow, crusty areas on bald skin especially around the edges of the ears
  • In the case of otodectic mange (ear mites), red, crusty and scabbed ears

If you notice any of these symptoms in your pet, it is very important to take them to the vet. In many cases, the population of the tiny mites cannot be controlled by the animal's immune system and can cause mild to severe skin infections. If the infections are severe the immune system could weaken and the animal can die.

Mange treatment

Treatment depends on the type and severity of the condition, and some animals must be isolated to prevent the infestation of others. In some cases, treatment can last many weeks.

Some treatments include:

  • Clipping hair away from affected areas
  • Applying a topical ointment containing peroxide gel
  • Dipping animals using a medicated shampoo once a week for up to six weeks
  • Thoroughly cleaning the ears of otodectic mange (ear mites) sufferers and applying medicated drops
  • Administering oral or topical antibiotics in the case of infection

These treatments aren't the most pleasant thing your pet will ever go through, but the relief they will get from their infestation of mange is well worth it.

Always feed your pets a healthy diet and provide them with a clean environment to reduce the risk of a mite infestation. It is important to keep your pet's immune system as healthy as possible.

With the right knowledge and understanding of the signs and symptoms of mange in your pet, this skin disease can easily be identified, diagnosed and treated, ensuring that your pet has a long and healthy life.

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