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Health & Wellness

A guide to dogs and scabies skin infections

You’ll want to avoid the dog park if your pup has scabies.

There’s nothing unusual about your dog scratching themselves now and then. But if your pup’s itching becomes constant — you’re right to wonder what’s happening.

Scabies, a type of skin infection, could be the culprit behind your dog’s itchiness — here's how to know.

What’s scabies in dogs?

Scabies, also known as sarcoptic mange or mange, is an infection caused by Sarcoptes mites, Dr. Aliya McCullough, Fetch’s on-staff veterinarian, says. 

These highly contagious, microscopic parasites like to burrow in your dog’s skin — thriving in areas with less hair like their underarms, belly, ears and elbows — and can cause severe itching if left untreated. 

How do dogs get scabies?

When your dog is exposed to another animal with scabies, they risk catching the infection themselves. And the spread doesn’t stop there: Dogs with scabies can pass the itchy condition onto humans, so it’s best to get it treated as soon as possible. 

All pups are at risk for catching a scabies infection (especially if they're a puppy or a senior dog), so it’s helpful to know the signs and symptoms to get your dog the proper treatment.  

RELATED: Can you give a dog Benadryl?

Scabies symptoms in dogs

It’s normal for dogs to scratch behind their ears or dig a little deeper to satisfy an itch. But dogs with mange can be found incessantly scratching themselves, which can lead to more skin issues as the condition worsens. 

“As the infection progresses, dogs have skin crusts, hair loss and self-injury due to severe scratching,” Dr. McCullough shares.

Dogs who remain untreated with long-term mange may develop oozing skin sores. In worst-case scenarios, dogs can even become emaciated. 

To figure out if your dog has scabies, veterinarians will usually perform a skin scraping, examine your dog’s current symptoms and ask questions about their mange history and your dog’s response to previous treatments. 

Scabies treatment for dogs

The good news is that dog scabies infections are treatable. The vet will prescribe your dog either a topical medication, a lime-sulfur dip (which is a leave-in solution that alleviates inflamed skin) or an oral flea and tick preventative medicine to help lessen their symptoms and treat the underlying issue. 

Multiple medications at once might be necessary to kick the infection if your pup’s scabies case is severe, Dr. McCullough adds. 

“In some cases, anti-itch medications or antibiotics may be needed if there's a secondary bacterial infection present,” she says.

While your dog is being treated for scabies, it’s best to limit their exposure to other pets and avoid common social areas like the dog park or daycare until your vet says it’s OK for them to return to normal activities.

The Dig, Fetch Pet Insurance's expert-backed editorial, answers all of the questions you forget to ask your vet or are too embarrassed to ask at the dog park. We help make sure you and your best friend have more good days, but we’re there on bad days, too.

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