When we see animals with large bald spots, looking pretty crappy overall, we tend to understand it's "mange". But what is mange? Should we be worried? How serious is it? Can I get it? There are two parasites at the heart of what we refer to as mange, Demodectic mange and Sarcoptic mange.
(one of our worst cases of Sarcoptic Mange)
Demodectic mange can infect just about every animal, and every animal has their own species of Demodex. It is found worldwide. They are a "permanent parasite", which means once they are on their host, they don't leave. Very unlike fleas, who jump around. So a dog with Demodectic mange.. his horrible parasites will stay on him and not leave his body to find another host, at any stage of the life cycle. The female burrows into the hair follicle and lays 40-50 eggs and then she dies. Because they are infested at the hair follicle, this is why we see the loss of hair. There are two kinds, localized and generalized. With localized, they affect usually younger animals and cause loss of hair. Often these animals can recover on their own. They tend to contract this parasite from nursing off of their infected mother. With generalized, "Demodecosis", the animal also has a purulent skin condition caused by a Staph infection, and we can see oozing pustules. It is common to see this affecting the face, head, and limbs of our dogs, and in older dogs this condition can be fatal. We humans *cannot* get this from our pets. Every species has their own version of this parasite. To diagnose, your vet will do a skin scraping to evaluate under a microscope, and then a medicated dip can be performed.
Sarcoptic mange is far scarier, because we can get it directly from our pet. If a person becomes infected, we have to report it to the USDA. Unlike Demodex which burrows into the hair follicle, this infests under the skin. Our pets form lesions around their head, ears, elbows, armpits, and groin areas. The treatment is the same as Demodectic mange.
While mange is treatable, often older dogs, with bad immune systems, will have a hard time recovering from it. I have never personally known a dog who didn't recover. Dawn got an entire litter of puppies into the rescue, and they were a mess. They had tapeworms, were malnourished, and all suffered from Demodectic mange. With her loving care and a bunch of dips, they all recovered and were adopted into homes!
When Clyde was first rescued, he had SEVERE Sarcoptic Mange (as you can see in the photos above)! He was completely covered with fleas and other various sores. Even through all his suffering, this sweet boy wagged his naked little tail through his whole exam.
This is a few of the "A" litter
Angie, Abby, Angelo, Antonio, Applebee, Ashton, & Austen
While, not a very good depiction, all of these babies had Demodectic Mange (among other issues)