Sarcoptic Mange

Sarcoptic mange, also called scabies, is an intensely itchy skin disease caused by a Sarcoptes scabei, a microscopic mite that burrows into the skin. Although dogs, cats, and humans all have a similar condition known as scabies, the mites are different for each host. Scabies in dogs is not the same as scabies in people.

Signs
Red, crusty lesions are most commonly seen on the ears, elbows and trunk of infected dogs. The lesions are extremely itchy, helping to distinguish sarcoptic mange from other skin conditions like ringworm and demodectic mange. The skin irritation is caused by the burrowing mites, which also release allergens and toxins into the skin. Constant scratching makes the skin susceptible to secondary infections with bacteria.

Diagnosis
Although the areas of hair loss may lead the veterinarian to suspect sarcoptic mange, the final diagnosis is made by performing a skin scraping test. The skin is scraped in several areas to loosen cells and mites which are then examined microscopically. Because the mites are difficult to find, repeated scrapings are often indicated. Other tests may be performed to make sure the hair loss is not due to a cause other than mites.

Treatment
Treatments may include dips or medications given by mouth or by injection. Treatments are usually given every two weeks until the symptoms have resolved and the pet tests negative for mites.

Prevention
Sarcoptic mange is highly contagious among dogs. Infected dogs should be separated from other dogs until treatment is complete. Most other mammals, including humans, can be infected with a type of Sarcoptes, but the mite is different for each host. Mites from animals may get on people and cause itchiness for a few days, but will not actually cause an infection. However, until the pet is treated, mites may continue causing problems for their owners. People with skin irritations caused by canine scabies should consult their doctor for treatment to reduce the temporary itching sensation.

Cats do not get Sarcoptes, but have a similar disease caused by a different mite, Notoedres cati. It spreads easily among cats. Infected cats should receive prompt treatment and should be separated from other cats until treatment is complete. Like Sarcoptes, Notoedres does not cause scabies in people but may occasionally cause temporary, itchy skin lesions.

True scabies in people is always contracted from close contact with other people. Children, the elderly, and immunosuppressed individuals are at higher risk. Infection is usually the result of prolonged, direct contact between sexual partners or members of the same household. The organism can live for about 72 hours in the environment, so it is possible to spread scabies via sharing of unwashed clothing or bedding.

The video below show a case of severe sarcoptic mange in a stray dog.

Allergies in Cats

Allergies are a major cause of skin disease, discomfort and distress in cats. Pruritis, or intense itching, is the most characteristic sign of allergies. This itching is caused by the release of histamines from mast cells located throughout the body. Hair loss, redness and skin infections may result secondary to the allergy. Over time, the hair coat may become stained from excessive licking and the skin may become dark and thickened. Ear infections may also result from allergic conditions. The two most common types of allergic conditions exhibited by cats are those of inhalant allergies and food allergies.

Allergies in Cats

The treatment of allergies can be achieved by using three methods; removal of the allergen source, suppression of the itch with antihistamines, or corticosteroid administration and gradual desensitization of the immune system to the specific allergens affecting the pet. The removal of the offending substance is appropriate if the allergen source is a food item, flea saliva or something that is easy to remove from the environment. Elimination of certain diets and food trials are often implemented if food allergies are suspected. If flea bites are the problem, it will be necessary to eliminate fleas on the cat. Your veterinarian will suggest the appropriate flea treatment for your cat. Many allergens, however, are difficult or impossible to remove, such as pollen in the air or dust in the home.

The use of antihistamines or corticosteroids is the second method. Antihistamines act by reducing the release of histamine by the mast cells and are often very effective in controlling allergy symptoms. Corticosteroids act in many ways to suppress the allergic reaction before and after the allergy develops. Steroids are very effective, but must be used with caution. If used excessively, adverse effects can be seen. Because of the often-extensive self-trauma associated with allergic conditions, antibiotics are often administered to control the secondary infections that are frequently present.

The final treatment option is the process of desensitizing the patient over time. This densensitization process begins by identifying the allergens that the cat is sensitive to through specialized intra-dermal tests or blood evaluation. Once the allergens are identified, specialized mixtures of these substances are combined into an injectable form that is given at regular intervals. With time, the cats immune system response to these allergens diminishes and many cat owners note measurable improvement in their pets.

When ingestion or food allergies are suspected, a food trial lasting 6-12 weeks may be done. This involves changing the diet in an effort to eliminate possible allergens that may be present in the current diet. Complete compliance to the trial diet is needed for the trial to be of any value. Your veterinarian will likely be assessing your cats allergy symptoms and will form a therapeutic plan that suits your cats needs. A combination of the different therapies discussed is often needed. The management of highly allergic pets can be a very challenging undertaking, but the results obtained dramatically improve the quality of life for both you and your cat.