What Is Mange?

what is mange?

By: Rachel Davis

You’ve just been told that your lovable little furball has mange. What’s that? What causes it? And most importantly, what can you do?

A Quick Overview 

At its most basic, mange is a skin disease that comes from one of two different microscopic mites. There are two different kinds of mange, both causing intense itching, rash, hair loss, sores, and skin bumps or crusting.


  • Sarcoptic Mange: From the sarcoptic mite; often called “scabies.” This type of mange comes from mites that bury just under the skin’s surface, and can be spread between animals (commonly wildlife) or contaminated bedding. This kind of mange is very contagious.
  • Demodectic Mange: From mites naturally present in dogs’ hair follicles. These mites are passed from mothers to pups in the first days of the pups’ lives. For most dogs with healthy immune systems, these mites are handled easily and cause no problems. This kind of mange is not contagious.

Mange is common in stray dogs, or those who’ve been sick, malnourished, abused, or neglected. But even dogs that are well cared for can get it—especially puppies, because of their immature immune systems. 


But fear not! Although mange can appear terrible and hopeless, it’s both preventable and treatable. And after the condition is resolved, you’ll be thanked by one beautiful, happy, playful, and grateful furry friend.


Treating Mange

No matter what anyone tells you, you cannot effectively treat mange without seeing a professional. While you might find over-the-counter remedies that help relieve itching, you’ll need a veterinarian to (1) diagnose the type of mange your pup has, and (2) determine how to best treat it. 


Your vet will likely take skin samples (scrapings) to examine under a microscope—both to make an accurate diagnosis of the type of mange, and to rule out other potential skin conditions. Once diagnosed, you can move forward with a treatment plan. 


Mange treatments have improved by leaps and bounds in recent decades. Oral medications often leave pets feeling relief within just a few days of beginning them. Sometimes, steroids or antibiotics are prescribed in tandem with mange’s oral medications to resolve any other potential secondary skin infections.


Wait. Can I Get Mange?!?

Sarcoptic mange is transmissible to humans, although the mites strongly prefer to make their homes on dogs and wildlife. If a human does contract sarcoptic mange, they’ll likely experience an intensely itchy—but very short-term!—rash.


As with treating any contagious parasite, isolation and elimination are necessary (and yes, frustrating) parts of the healing process. An animal with mange must be kept away from other pets until free of mites. You’ll need to thoroughly clean all the material your dog has contacted, too—including beds, blankets, carpets, furniture, etc. Ask your veterinarian for detailed information about eliminating those mites and ensuring they won’t come back.


Demodectic mange is not contagious. (Whew!)


A Final Word

While mange is not a diagnosis that anyone wants, it’s a manageable and treatable condition—and once treated, your dog can expect to live a long, happy, normal life. The relief they’ll feel after being cared for and cured is something that your four-legged friend will appreciate furever.