Mange in dogs causes bald spots, lesions and severe itching in dogs. And pet parents are searching for natural mange remedies to treat the unpleasant skin condition.
But are natural treatments an effective option for dealing with mange? We checked in with some holistic veterinarians to find out.
Understanding the Types of Mange in Dogs
“Demodectic mange is an inflammatory disease triggered by a microscopic mite that almost all dogs and people have in their skin,” says Christina Chambreau, DVM, CVH, of Sparks, Md. “It only becomes a problem when the immune system is weakened and the mites multiply.”
Demodectic mange, also known as “demodex” or sometimes “red mange” is the most common form of mange, and is often less severe than sarcoptic mange. It often causes hair loss, bald spots and sores. This type of mange is not contagious.
Also known as scabies, sarcoptic mange is a highly contagious disease caused by a mite which burrows into the skin creating a red, moist, inflamed and sometimes crusty appearance on a dog’s skin. Sarcoptic mange often causes intense itching in addition to hair loss, scabs and sores. It is spread through contact with animals and places that are infested.
“In order to diagnose if sarcoptic mange is present, veterinarians do a skin scraping and look under the microscope. In some cases, a biopsy may be required,” says holistic veterinarian Dr. Patrick Mahaney, who is based out of Los Angeles.
Sarcoptic mange generally is more complicated and can take longer to heal than demodectic mange because it doesn’t just live on the skin. It is a highly contagious infestation, and often invades the entire house, like fleas. If one animal in your home has mange, talk to your veterinarian about the need to treat other animals that share household space (bedding, crates, etc.)
How to Manage Mange in Dogs Naturally
“The initial goal is to soothe the itch,” says Chambreau. “Holistic veterinarians use a variety of flower essences, essential oils, herbs, Chinese and Western herbs because they naturally reduce inflammation, relieve the itch and calm the skin.”
Western herbs include Valerian, Chamomile, St John’s Wort and Kava Kava. Although these natural products are available over-the-counter, Chambreau strongly recommends working with a holistic veterinarian so that mange does not reoccur and your dog remains in optimal health.
Other holistic treatment options include Reiki massage and acupuncture which lower anxiety and calm distressed animals, which can help alleviate excessive itching. Acupuncture is believed to release hormones including endorphins and cortisol, which make dogs feel good.
To manage the itching, Mahaney recommends bathing dogs with a benzoyl peroxideshampoo, which has an antibacterial effect. This can be done at home or by a professional groomer.
When Natural Treatments Aren’t Enough
Most severe cases of mange, especially sarcoptic mange, will not be made better without prescribed medication from a veterinarian.
When sarcoptic mange cannot be controlled by natural treatments, Mahaney prescribes Ivermectin, an anti-parasitic drug in liquid form. “The owner gives the medication to the dog orally every day until the veterinarian confirms two negative skin scrapes, seven to fourteen days apart.”
The Importance of Diet in Managing Mange in Dogs
Mahaney stresses the connection between mange and diet. “Most pet food is designated ‘feed-grade,’ unfit for human consumption. It contains higher allowable level of toxins like mold-produced mycotoxin than ‘human-grade’ food that can cause inflammation, weaken the immune system, and can be carcinogenic.”
He strongly recommends a whole-food diet containing only human-grade food.
Chambreau also emphasizes the importance of restoring a dog’s weakened immune system by making dietary improvements. “People know that healthy food is local, fresh and has lots of variety,” she says. “These same rules apply to your dog’s diet. By making changes in diet, the dog’s own immune system will kick back in and the mange may disappear.”
Before making any dietary changes for your dog, it’s important to consult with your veterinarian or a board-certified dietician to ensure you’re feeding a well-rounded diet to your pet.