Mange doesn't limit itself to dogs and cats. It causes itching, infection and fur loss in nearly every mammal domestic and wild. It spreads rapidly, as one diseased animal is capable of passing it on to dozens of others. Prevention begins with keeping your pets away from infected animals; treatment, luckily, is simple.
What Is Mange?
Mange is caused by mites that burrow into an animal's skin to reproduce. This burrowing provokes intense itching, inflamed skin and hair loss. There are different types of mange, including sarcoptic, demodectic and notoedric. Sarcoptic mange is caused by one type of mite; notoedric by another. Demodectic mange usually manifests only in animals with compromised immune systems. The symptoms of each are similar. Scratching at the infested areas creates open wounds that become infected. Severe cases of mange can be slowly and excruciatingly fatal. It's an unnecessary circumstance, since cheap medicine is readily available. Infected animals receive oral anti-parasitic paste, such as ivermectin, or an insecticidal dip. Supplementally, antibacterial and itch-relieving baths soothe the skin.
Mites that cause mange are most frequently transferred between hosts through direct contact. Mange is highly contagious; animals that sleep, eat and play together are likely to share an infestation. Any contact, even a friendly sniff between two dogs, can spread the problem. If one animal in a household becomes infected with mange, all the others should receive treatment, even if they don't yet have any symptoms of infestation.
Bedding and Surfaces
The mites that cause mange don't live long once they leave a host -- up to 36 hours -- so infestation from bedding and common surfaces is not as frequent as through direct contact. It remains possible, however; shared bedding and sleeping surfaces, play areas, grooming tools and gear can be sources of infection. Spray or wash these items with an insecticide designed to kill mites. Alternatively, keep them out of contact with all animals for well more than 36 hours, enough time for all the mites to perished, to stop mange from spreading.
Mange can spread to humans, both through direct contact and infested surfaces, however, the infestation does not continue in humans the same way as in other animals. The mites are unable to reproduce on humans, and so their life cycle is broken. They must either find another host or die. For the few days they can survive on human skin; however, they can cause intense itching and redness. Treatment usually focuses on easing the symptoms, such as anti-itch ointment, instead of killing the mites.