Snow Leopard

Snow Leopard
Snow Leopard cub (7 mos old) - Cape May County Zoo

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Scabies: Sarcoptic Mange

This dog's lesions were primarily on his ears.

Yesterday I posted a comment on my Facebook page expressing my excitement at finding  a scabies mite on a skin scraping.  I wanted to explain further to those of you in the non-vet world why that made my day!

Sarcoptic mange is caused by a parasitic contagious mite that burrows through the skin and causes irritation (through mechanical irritation AND releasing some substances that create a hypersensitivity/allergic reaction). This results in INTENSE and often, non-stop itching. This is a disease with a non-seasonal pattern.  

It is acquired through either contact with an infected dog OR through exposure to areas where wildlife (notably deer and fox) have been. Dogs often don't show signs of this for 6 weeks to several months post-exposure. 

Most often, we see crusty ear tips, hair loss and rash like lesions on the elbows and lower legs/chest. It can progress to the affect the entire dog. 

This is what the dog WILL look like if untreated.

 They can also often have secondary skin infections from the self trauma of scratching or biting.

The case in the first picture started out as a minor irritation or wound on the ear (seen by another vet). As it progressed over the next few weeks, it got to this point. I was sure it was scabies and was going to treat it. However, all skin lesions should be skin scraped (no matter the size/location) as part of a thorough dermatology work-up.  AND yes, I was going to treat it even if I didn't find a mite. Why? Well, it's been reported that 20% of cases will be positive on the skin scraping. Honestly, in my experience it is FAR LESS than that. I can't say that out of every 5 dogs, I've gotten 1 positive. I've scraped a large number of dogs that absolutely had it and I didn't get a single mite or egg on the slide. Interestingly, sometimes an astute veterinary technician will find a mite on a fecal flotation.

Skin scrapings basically involve using a blade to literally superficially scrape the skin and put it on a slide with some mineral oil before examining it.
This is what we hope to find when we KNOW it's scabies:

It's also very curable and easy to treat.  There are various ways to treat it. One is a topical product called Revolution, applied every 30 days (but sometimes more frequently) and the other is weekly shots of ivermectin (NOT TO BE USED in Collies and other such breeds!) for 4-6 weeks.

Also, sometimes we will put the dog on a short term, low dose steroid to help reduce some of the itching and/or antibiotics for the skin infections that often go along with scabies.

THIS mite is contagious to other dogs and people. In people, it's usually just an itchy rash like lesion that resolves on it's own. Please seek the advice of your physician or dermatologist on this! 

And yes, the can get it again and again, especially if they live in or frequent areas where we expect to find deer and fox - ie, the "back 40" or a nice wooded park. This doesn't mean you shouldn't take your dog out or let them run around on the farm.  Just be aware of any changes to your dog's skin or itching and make an appointment with your vet! For dogs that have more than one bout with this, I recommend monthly Revolution forever - it's also a heartworm preventative, flea and tick (one type only) preventative and covers a few intestinal parasites. 

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