Dry Skin Could Be Mange
We have a new mixed breed puppy we call Brutus. Ever since we brought him home a few days ago, he has been scratching frantically. The poor fellow is losing the hair on his belly and his skin is very dry and red in some places. We know something is wrong and we know it isn't caused by fleas. Do you know what the problem might be?
Your description sounds like sarcoptic mites, also known as scabies. This is a relatively common mite which affects both puppies and adult dogs. A mite is a very small parasite which lives in layers of the skin and is so small we need a microscope to see it. Its victim scratches because of the irritation caused as the mites burrow into the skin. The mites first attack areas where there is little hair, such as the ears, elbows, and abdomen. As the disease spreads and hair is lost, large areas of the body become affected. Sarcoptic mites are very contagious to other dogs in the household. They also can attack cats, humans, and other aberrant hosts but they only cause itching for about seven days in animals other than dogs. This is due to the fact that they cannot complete their life cycle and can survive only a short time away from a dog. To verify the diagnosis of mites, we check a scraping of skin under the microscope. Some adult dogs suspected of having mites show nothing under the microscope. Sometimes this is because the mites have buried themselves so deeply into the layers of the skin. Or, if the dog has frequent baths, the mites on the surface of the skin may have washed off. Mites are easier to find on a puppy although sometimes they still can be elusive. If we suspect mites, we frequently will treat for them even if we don't see them. Scabies sounds like a bad condition, but it can be treated quite successfully. A dog should first be given a bath to clean the skin as thoroughly as possible. You should then work with your veterinarian on the best option for you and your pet. It is very important for you to throw away or at least wash any bedding, clothing or other items that have come in contact with Brutus. They could reinfect him. Once you eliminate all the mites, your dog will be much more comfortable -- and be a better pet.