If this is your pet’s first mange infection, symptoms may not appear for four to six weeks. This period is called the incubation period, and pets are still very contagious during this time. It is a good idea to keep your pet quarantined as soon as mange is recognized. In order to recognize pet mange, it is important to recognize the symptoms so the proper treatment is applied.
The first noticeable symptom is intense scratching. An animal with mange will scratch so much that it will cause bleeding and open wounds. This itchiness is an allergic reaction to the mites causing the mange. These mites burrow into the animal’s skin and lay their eggs at the end of the burrow. The end result is a lot of little tunnels with eggs and feces, along with mites moving around on the skin and in the tunnels. Once the body recognizes what is happening, it will launch an allergic reaction in an attempt to eradicate the mites.
The next symptom will be a skin rash. The irritation from the mites along with the constant scratching by your pet will cause the skin to turn red. This symptom may be a little harder to see, but if you look in the area where your pet is scratching the most you should be able to see the rash. Typically, pet mange starts in the areas where there is dry, wrinkly skin such as the elbows and behind the ears. You can also sometimes find it at the base of the tail, underbelly or the inside of the back legs.
Once your pet has itched so much that it has broken the skin, these wounds will begin to scab over. This will cause crusty lesions in the affected area. By this time, your pet may also begin to lose hair. This is partially due to the mites and partially due to the intense scratching. This hair loss, also known as alopecia, will start at the location of the mite infestation and begin to spread as the mites spread. Because the mites are so contagious, they can be spread just by touching the area and then touching another area of the pet.
If you have determined that your pet does have pet mange, it is important to start treating it right away. Before a complete diagnosis of pet mange can be made, rule out food allergies (by switching your pet’s diet and monitoring any changes in the rash) and fleas (by checking for flea dirt and fleas on the pet’s skin). You can also take your pet to the veterinarian to confirm the diagnosis.
Start your pet’s treatment right away to avoid any complications of the mange, such as bacterial infections in the open wounds.