Scabby Pets Might Have Scabies

Itch, Itch, Scratch

Itching, hair loss — from scratching that awful itch — and inflammation are the typical signs of scabies in dogs and cats. But what differentiates it from other itchy skin diseases?

In cats, scabies is sometimes referred to as “head mange,” because the severe itching starts on the head, ears and neck. It may also affect the front paws and the belly early on. Left untreated, it can eventually spread over the entire body, leading to hair loss and red, raw, crusty or scabby skin. Feline scabies occurs primarily in the southern United States.

Sarcoptic mange, as it is also known in dogs, usually affects young dogs, but older dogs aren’t immune if they come into contact with the mites. Your veterinarian may suspect canine scabies if the itchy spots are on the edges of the ears, the elbows, the lower hind legs (hocks) and the belly.

Another difference that can set scabies apart from other itchy skin conditions is that the itch often continues round the clock. While many animals with allergies can sleep through the night, pets with scabies tend to keep themselves — and their humans — awake with their scratching.

Diagnosis and Treatment

The presence and type of mite is usually confirmed with a skin scraping examined microscopically. If skin scrapings are negative, but a dog or cat has the classic signs described above, treating for the mites with topicals or other medications usually answers the question one way or the other.

It may also be helpful to treat other animals in the home. Even if they don’t show signs, they may still have mites. Treatment is usually successful within four to six weeks.

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