There are various diseases that are carried by wild animals that can cause harm to humans or their four-legged companions. We will be highlighting some of the most serious, common, or notorious diseases that fall into this category in a series of blog posts. Today we will be taking a closer look at Mange.
Mange is not actually a disease, but rather a type of parasite that predominantly lives off canines. It can also affect other mammals though, such as cats, livestock, and even humans! There are two forms of this parasite that we will discuss, one known as Sarcoptes scabiei which causes Sarcoptic mange, also known as canine scabies, and the other, Demodex canis, which causes Demodectic mange, also known as red mange. Demodectic mange caused by Demodex canis is common and typically harmless unless the animal is elderly or immunocompromised. These mites bury themselves into hair follicles and are easily controlled by a healthy canine’s immune system. This disease cannot spread between species, as the Demodex canis mite can only survive on canines (there are different variations of this mite for other species.)
Sarcoptic mange, on the other hand, is far from harmless. This mite can be transferred easily between mammalian species, including humans, but is particularly contagious between canines. Unlike with red mange, the Sarcoptes scabiei mite buries into the host’s skin. The first symptoms appear anywhere from 1 to 8 weeks after initial exposure. These parasites cause irritation that can result in welts or rashes, hair loss, and yellow crusting. These symptoms are exacerbated by the fact that canine scabies also causes extreme itchiness, leading the animal to scratch and gnaw at affected areas, furthering the damage. In the most severe cases, this disease can lead to emaciation and the appearance that the animal is covered in stone. These mites can also weaken the immune system of the host and lower the host’s ability to fight off other infections, diseases, or parasites, which may eventually claim the animal’s life.
The good news is that this condition can be treated! However, at-home remedies are not recommended. To ensure that the mites are truly eradicated, it is recommended to seek veterinary care. Topical treatments are often prescribed, but there are also oral variants to help kill the mites, as well as medicated washes to help heal the skin and a thorough wash of any bedding material the animal may have used.
Animals most likely to be affected by canine scabies include (but are by no means limited to) wild animals like coyotes and foxes and domestic animals such as dogs and cats. Both foxes and coyotes have been known to behave erratically when suffering from Sarcoptes scabiei and may have little to no fear of humans. It is one of many reasons why we suggest to keep a safe distance between you and any wild animals you may encounter, for both your health and the health of your furry family members. However, they will often be non-aggressive and are simply looking for a safe place to hide. Chances are, if you see an animal that looks to visibly be suffering from mange, it is not going to last for much longer without treatment. In these cases, we do suggest contacting a location wildlife removal company (like us!) or a wildlife rehabilitator.