Scabies is a bothersome skin condition. It’s a skin disease that doesn’t discriminate and affects people of any age, race, and gender. That said, it’s no wonder why we do what we can to prevent getting scabies at all. But can our pets be carriers of mites that cause them? Not exactly. Our pets cannot spread human scabies. But their own variant of mites that causes mange can make you itch. Keep reading to find out their difference and how you can prevent them.
Mange in Dogs vs. Scabies in Humans
Mange and scabies are diseases caused by mites called sarcoptic mites. Mites or Sarcoptes scabiei are microscopic, eight-legged parasites that burrow on the upper layer of the skin where it lives and lay eggs. (Eww!) They are tiny, just 1/3 millimeter in size, and produce intense itching for the host. While there are a variety of mites, sarcoptic mites are considered to be zoonotic. This means that they can be passed from dog to dog and from dogs to people. Wait up! Didn’t you say that pets cannot spread human scabies?
This is still true. This is because only a particular family of mites can cause human scabies. Dogs have their own variant of mite to deal with called Sarcoptes scabiei var. canis. This mite causes what we call mange in dogs or sarcoptic mange. They can also be sometimes referred to as canine scabies.
There are two types of mange in dogs, namely sarcoptic mange and demodectic mange. Sarcoptic mange, in particular, is the most common and the most contagious. It can be transmitted to other dogs and people.
When dogs catch the parasite, the female mites will burrow into the skin and lay eggs. After 3 weeks, the egg will hatch and the young will feed on the dog’s skin. This causes extreme itching in dogs causing him to chew and scratch on the area until hair loss develops. In some cases, scabs may also form which causes the skin to dry. He may also develop secondary infections from open sores if he has.
Other symptoms also include:
- Redness and rash
- Thick yellow crusts
- Bacteria and yeast infection
- Inflamed lymph node (severe cases)
- Demodectic Mange
Another form of mange in dogs is demodectic mange. It is also sometimes referred to as red mange and is a rarer type of disease. Demodectic mange is caused by Demodex canis mites that live in the hair follicles. The main difference of this from the typical canine scabies is that these parasites were always present. Puppies catch these parasites the first few days after their birth. Usually, the disease does not develop because the immune system keeps the parasites dormant. Problems only occur when dogs with these parasites get their immune system compromised. Or in rare cases because of their genetic predisposition. This type of scabies is not known to be contagious to humans. How is it diagnosed?
A skin scraping examined under the microscope can be done by your veterinarian. He will look for any presence of mites or eggs. Sometimes, however, no parasite can be seen under the microscope. This is because it only takes a small number of mites to cause significant itching. Additionally, mites tend to burrow deeper under the skin making it difficult to see them from a scraped skin. But a diagnosis can still be made if he is showing clinical signs of mite infestation.
Scabies in Humans
Scabies in humans is a common skin disease. It’s caused by a mite called Sarcoptes scabiei var. hominis. Much like the mites that infest canines, this variety also burrows deep into the skin where it lives and continues to lay its eggs. It produces intense itching that tends to become worse at night. It can spread quickly in crowded conditions where skin-to-skin contact is frequent. What does it look like?
Symptoms of scabies
For people who come in contact with scabies for the first time, symptoms may appear after 8 weeks. Even so, he is still able to spread the parasite within that period. For persons who have had scabies, symptoms may show as early as 1-4 days. The symptoms of human scabies are:
- Intense itching (pruritus)
- Pimple-like rash
- Small tracks of burrows
Typically, you can find these rashes in the wrist, elbows, knees, breast, shoulder blades, in between fingers, waist, belt-line, and buttocks. These rashes may also cause skin sores that could become infected by bacteria. I think I have kept you in suspense for so long. Now, it’s time to answer the question: Can we have possibly got scabies from our pets?
Can you get scabies from a dog?
No, you cannot get scabies from pets. But you can get the parasite. When you contact dogs that have mange, the parasite can crawl and stay on your skin. However, it won’t cause the same effect as when a human itch mite does infest your skin. The worst thing that could happen to you is temporary itching and skin irritation for a few days. This is caused by an allergic reaction to the scabies mites from animals. Fortunately, these mites cannot live and lay eggs on humans. The affected skin will appear reddish in color but will eventually fade after a few days.
More importantly, you can only get human scabies from a person who has scabies. A direct, prolonged, skin-to-skin contact is required to pass the parasite to you. Although for adults, scabies is frequently acquired sexually. Sometimes sharing of articles can also be a cause of transmission.
While treatment is not necessary for humans who come in contact with dogs who has mange, the dog should be treated. The mites will still continue to aggravate you and your dog unless the disease is treated.
To treat sarcoptic mange, you need to get your grooming clippers and snip the hairs short. You can do this at home or with your groomer. This is especially helpful when you give them medicated baths with a shampoo that’s recommended by your vet. Sometimes veterinarians also give you topical creams and oral medications like antibiotics for secondary infections. Allegra is best to treat itchy skin conditions like scabies. You can read more about antibiotics for dogs like Amoxicillin here.
Some veterinarians will also advise you to wash dog collars, harnesses, and dog beds or replace them altogether to avoid recurrence.
As said, the temporary itching caused by canine parasites doesn’t need treatment. However, you may like to seek medical advice from your physician on how to alleviate the itching.
For human itch mites, a person needs to use medication to kill the mites and their eggs. Unfortunately, there are no over-the-counter medications effective to kill the parasites. The same goes for home remedies as well. Only scabicides are effective and you need a prescription to buy them. Scabicides are available in creams and lotions. If you acquired scabies sexually, you need to get your partner tested as well. Scabies is highly contagious. People you live with should also do the same.
Like many diseases, mange is better off prevented than treated. But how? Here are some of them.
- Regular grooming. This enables you to check regularly for any parasites in your dog’s skin.
- Use pet-friendly shampoos
- Switch to grain-free dog food that promotes his health and boosts his immune system at the same time.
- Add healthier Omega-3 fatty acids to his diet. Fish oils are a great source of this. You can check out Best Fish Oils for Dogs here.
- Clean your dog’s toys and beddings regularly.
- Wash your hands after handling pets.
- Avoid sharing items like clothing and bedding.
- Avoid direct contact with infected persons.
Dogs cannot carry parasites that cause scabies. However, dogs with mange can cause you to itch. The parasite can crawl into your skin and cause an allergic reaction. It will cause you to itch for several days but will eventually fade as they cannot survive in humans. Most importantly, you can only get human itch parasites from an infected person through direct contact.