Sarcoptic Mange – Causes, Symptoms and Treatment Options

The burrowing carnivorous mite Sarcoptes Scabiei is responsible for causing Sarcoptic Mange. It is sometimes known as the scabies mite or the itch mite.

These invisible mites burrow through the skin, creating a microscopic maze of tunnels, and causing severe itching.

Use these quick links to explore this page:

The Cause

Good to know:

  • Zoonotic – highly contagious to people & other pets
  • Fast, mobile & invasive. Penetrates in 25–30 minutes
  • Will infest homes, cars, yards, other pets & people
  • Every person & pet is potentially both a carrier and victim
  • Invisible flesh-eaters

Sarcoptic mites (sarcoptes scabiei) are flesh-eating mites that tunnel deeper and deeper as they chew through your dog. A fair comparison is a microscopic ant farm expanding beneath your dog’s skin.

Your dog just picked the contagious arachnids up somewhere. Innocently being in the wrong place at the wrong time where these parasites are can cause a world of misery. (It’s helpful if you can backtrack to determine where transmission happened so you can avoid returning to the scene of the crime. The last thing you want is more parasites keeping you & your pack company.)

Sarcoptic mange in dogs can be transmitted in two ways: directly and indirectly. Most people associate Sarcoptic mange with direct transmission. That’s when the mites are passed by casual contact with an infected host (pet, person, or even wildlife) in a physical setting. Indirect transmission happens in an environment with no host present. A dislodged mite can survive up to 5 days on its own. Merely visiting an area where an infested host has deposited a few mites can cause your dog to become a victim in no time.

Mites get hungry when they’re off of a host. These starving speed demons sense available food sources through heat and odor, so a nearby dog will likely be the parasites’ next meal.

All it takes is one fertile female to start the cycle. She will begin laying eggs within 2 hours of infesting the dog; which hatch in 2-4 days. After being fertilized just once, she will lay up to 90 eggs in her lifetime.


Sarcoptic mange almost always brings severe itching as the mites carve a maze of tunnels throughout the dogs epidermis.

Some degree of hair loss is almost always a given as well. Other possible symptoms include red and inflamed skin, crusty ear tips, and red pustules with yellow crusts. Commonly affected areas include elbows, ears, armpits, hocks, chest, and belly, as these mites usually prefer areas with less hair. As the mange worsens it can spread over the entire body.

More subtle signs may include lethargy, depression, loss of appetite, and weight loss. Intense discomfort can lead to nervous, restless or agitated behavior and possibly a habitual scratching habit.

If the infestation goes untreated or is mistakenly treated, the skin may darken due to the constant irritation, and the surrounding lymph nodes may become enlarged.

Sarcoptic Mange mites burrow into the skin.
Sarcoptic mange (magnified) sometimes shows dark lines of mite burrows.
Dark areas (sometimes visible with magnifying glass) indicate where the mites are burrowing.

Good to know:

  • Symptoms begin to appear about 10 days after exposure
  • Bite marks may be visible on the surface of the skin
  • Sleep deprivation is not uncommon due to nocturnal scratching
  • Itching may intensify in warm conditions
  • Unlike allergies, itching is non-seasonal
  • Self-injury or infection may result from heavy scratching and biting


Good to know:

  • A negative skin scraping does not rule out any type of mange. It only means no mites were captured at that time.
  • Some people are not affected by Sarcoptic mites. Their natural immunity actually means the mites don’t like their scent. 
  • A dog that has Sarcoptic mites will test positive for dust mites.
  • Owner diagnosis is common.
  • Please visit our SYMPTOM CHECKER  for symptom comparisons.

Sarcoptic mange is clinically diagnosed by examining skin scrapings under a microscope and identifying sarcoptes scabiei. Obtaining a definitive diagnosis is difficult with this method as they are fast and difficult to catch. Only 20% of cases have a positive scrape.

If the skin scraping is negative, that particular diagnosis is ruled out and a different treatment is prescribed for the next likely disorder.

The downside of this method is the dog continues to suffer, the mange worsens, and there is a risk of side effects from the unnecessary medications.

In addition to the symptoms above, a telltale sign that may help with self-diagnosis is that other people and/or pets in your house start itching. Symptoms begin to appear about 10 days after exposure.

A simple home test known as the pinna-pedal reflex test is reportedly about 85% accurate in detecting Sarcoptes mites. However, this test can be a red herring as dogs with ear, Demodectic or Cheyletiella mites may also respond with a scratching reflex.  The test is performed by vigorously rubbing one earflap, moving from the tip down to the base of the ear for at least five seconds. A positive result is indicated if the dog reacts with a scratching reflex with a hind leg moving as if to scratch the ear. Here is a video of one being performed.

Sarcoptic mange is clinically diagnosed by examining skin scrapings under a microscope and ident

Your Treatment Options

Natural Sarcoptic Mange Treatment

Treating mites naturally is absolutely the safest way to go and in our opinion, the kindest. Nature provides us with powerful substances to treat mange without further insulting an animal’s health.

Eliminating Sarcoptic mange with Mite Avenge gets your dog out of misery quickly. Most dogs feel remarkably better within a day or two and the entire process is complete in 2 weeks. Average cases require 3 treatments of Mite Avenge, once every 7 days. This breaks the sarcoptes scabiei life cycle far faster than chemicals.

Mite Avenge’s natural miticides are gentle, have nearly zero chance of reactions or side effects, are non-chemical, non-toxic, and mites cannot become immune to them. It’s the most effective natural mange cure you’ll find. It’s safe, highly effective and in the long run, generally more cost-effective all while being merciless on mites.

The Mite Avenge 3-bottle easy kit is appropriate for most single-dog situations. (Severe infestations and certain sizes of dogs may take slightly longer.) Other helpful but not mandatory supples are also listed on the Easy kit page.

With Mite Avenge, household decontamination is a key part of our short treatment cycle and is essential to avoiding reinfestation. Here’s a complete rundown of everything you need to do.

Someone feels better after their Mite Avenge!

Good to know:

  • With both chemical and natural treatments, all household dogs must be treated whether they are symptomatic or not. Mite Avenge cannot be used on cats.
  • Herding breeds like Collies, Shetland Sheepdogs, Old English Sheepdogs, and others are known to carry the MDR1 gene mutation should never be treated with chemicals Unless they’ve been tested for the gene mutation
  • Mite Avenge’s performance can be enhanced by using Flush & Kill Shampoo before a treatment but it is not required.
  • Reinfestation common without household decontamination
  • Avoid returning to areas where you suspect transmission occurred
  • No preventative measures for Sarcoptic mange.

Traditional Treatment – Is it right for your dog?

Commonly Prescribed Drugs
Systemic neurotoxic chemical pesticides (given orally) are often used for Sarcoptic, Demodectic, and Cheyletiella mange. Unfortunately, mites are quickly developing resistance to them.

Remain In Your Dog’s System
The drugs take 2 months or more to eliminate a Sarcoptes infestation, and they stay in a dog’s system well after treatment has stopped. After the poison has done its job it can take several more weeks for the itchiness (pruritis) to resolve.

Internal and External Protocols
Most chemicals do not kill on contact; the kill is delayed as the mites’ nervous system is slowly destroyed. The drugs systemically spread throughout the dog’s entire body even though only the upper layers of skin are affected. They come with long lists of potential side effects.

The dog is shaved and its largest organ, the skin, is drenched with one of the most noxious poisons used to treat mange. Because it is absorbed so fast and spread through capillary action, strong side effects can kick in quickly.

The same properties in chemicals that kill mites can also cause neurological and physiological reactions in dogs. The rate of side effects is high while their failure rate is roughly 30%.

Even though some dogs do just fine, as more information about chemical treatments is revealed, a greater number of responsible pet guardians are looking for an alternative.

Animal safety studies suggest some prescribed drugs may alter the animal’s ability to maintain homeostasis. Animals treated with drugs should not be subjected to stress or handled for a period of at least 24 hours post-treatment. 

Poisoning symptoms vary from central nervous system depression (drowsiness, coma, and convulsion), excessive dilation or constriction of the pupils, respiratory depression, slow heart rate, low or high blood pressure, abnormally low body temperature or fever, high blood sugar, excessive urination, vomiting, decreased gastrointestinal motility (17 different disorders), and intestinal distension. Other less serious side effects: allergic reaction (difficulty breathing; swelling of the lips, tongue, or face; hives), severe headache, restlessness, agitation, irritability, sweating, uncontrollable or irregular movements, dizziness, insomnia, mild confusion, anxiety, and dry mouth. Other side effects are also possible.

Good to know:

  • Traditional chemical treatments are neurotoxic poisons that kill by damaging the mites’ central nervous system. These same chemicals infiltrate all of the dog’s organs and cells, even where there are no mites.
  • Reactions and side effects occur, but due to sketchy reporting regulations, there is no accurate data.
  • Herding breeds such as Australian Shepherds, Border Collies, English Shepherds, and Collies do not tolerate chemical treatments well. Fatalities have occurred.
From: $98.95

Mite Avenge 3-Pack, plus options for recommended treatment items.


16 oz - Cleans and flushes hair follicles plus controls demodex, sarcoptic, and cheyletiella mites. Also important for use before Mite Avenge® drench, and other topical mange treatments.


Avoid cycles of contagious mite re-infestation! DE is ideal for decontaminating areas that can't be adequately cleared of Sarcoptic and Cheyletiella mites with cleaning. Natural and safe for people and animals.


Removes dander flakes and excess hair that add to the mites food supply. Promotes hair regrowth better than other brushes.