What is a Mange?Mange is an inflammation caused by mites.
Actually there are several "types" of "mange". There're two common types - Scarcoptic (called "Scabies" when humans get it) and Demodectic ("demodex"). There are also ear mites and nasal mites that cause their own particular kinds of 'mange', as does a 'puppy' mite -- treatable after identification by the vet. Tho the conditions they cause are mange, they're not commonly referred to that way. Your vet might say "ear mites" but probably wouldn't refer to that as "mange."
DiagnosisUsually to diagnose mange, the vet will do a "skin scraping". A pinch of skin is squeezed (hopefully to push the mites up out of the skin and/or hair follicles) and the surface scraped with a blade. The residue is examined under a microscope.
Demodex can be readily diagnosed - the mites live in hair follicles and are usually very evident when a skin scraping is properly done. However, scarcoptic mange is very difficult to actually "diagnose" because those particular little buggies move fast ON the skin and burrow deeply. It's actually hard to capture them! The rule of thumb is "if you suspect it's scarcoptic mange, treat for it!".
What's the Difference and how to treat it?
Scarcoptic mangeScarcoptic mange mites burrow literally into the skin (the males stay on top, the females burrow and lay eggs). They secrete a poison that causes that mind-numbing itch. Actually, it's often called "itch mange." The animal scratches, spreading the mite and inflammation - the area gets red, hair falls off in patches and small blisters develop. Hair may fall out in large spots. There is a foul odor associated with the inflammation/oozing of the skin.
An animal literally can die from the complications caused by scarcoptic mange.
CAUTION: This type is "zoonotic" (*grin* your 'word for the day') -- meaning an animal problem transmittable to humans. These mites often originate in a dirty environment (suspect it in an animal you don't know - particularly if it's apt to have been living outside or somehow "in filth").
The 'good news' is scarcoptic mange is fully cureable. It takes some serious effort and harsh, prolonged treatment, but all that's necessary is to get "rid" of the mites and stop the reproductive cycle. It's not "age specific" - any animal is at risk if it's infected by the mite. You often find litters of puppies picked up under dire circumstances tho, so sometimes it looks like age is a factor when it's not. Puppies however, probably have a higher mortality rate just because they're weaker. Also, if your current dog comes in contact with a dog that has mange, it's SO easy for it to be transmitted just animal to animal.
I can't emphasize enough:
Demodectic Mange or "Demodex"
Demodex has to do with a dog's lack of immunity to a mite that is literally just everywhere. Puppies aren't born with these, mites, but they usually get them from mom the first days of life. But, they're also supposed to receive the "immunity" from her passed on thru mother's milk and hopefully genetically backed up with an immune system that will mature and develop normally. Unlike scarcoptic mange, demodex is not caught from "filth" or "dirt". It's caused by the lack of immunity to the demodectic mites which are everywhere. In fact, and not to upset you or gross you out, right this very second, you have these mites on your OWN skin! Particularly in humans, demodex mites thrive in the inner eyelid!! (Oh great! Learning wonderful things here aren't we??). But - the "up" side is that humans are unaffected by them!!