Our itchy answer: Sarcoptes scabiei var canis

  • …otherwise known as sarcoptic mange. (But don't say the word "mange" to my husband, who has never understood that a basenji's place is under the bedcovers.) The four humans of the household have been mildly itchy, too, but the wonderful news is that Sarcoptes scabiei var canis only transiently infects humans; once Mystic is cured, we should be fine.

    I never thought I'd be glad to hear my dog only has mange--I mean "canine scabies." Mystic has been suffering since last summer while I tried diet changes, and dream coat and cbiotic and fish oil supplements, and skin scrapings, and flea baths, and benadryl, and antifungals, and prednisone. The family vacillated between being sorry for her to being exasperated by her constant tearing at herself. She was such a beautiful red and white, and now she is scrawny and scabby and, well, --cover my husband's ears--"mangy." I was afraid the only way out of her misery was to have her put down.

    So this morning's last ditch effort was a visit to UC Davis Vet Med School Small Animal Clinic--they diagnosed her from a deep skin scraping. The techs invited me to look through the microscope. I saw a flat horror movie bug: its legs wriggling and its cluster of eggs ripening nearby. Lots of students came in to look at the sarcoptes, made me perversely proud of Mystic and her instructional value.

    The Small Animal Clinic was definitely worth the price of admission. I talked to someone who leaves her boxer off once a week for chemo. Lots of cats and dogs, of course, but also little covered boxes that made squeaking noises. An anxious looking man showed up with an industrial strength clear plastic bag full of water, and the receptionist confirmed, "You must be bringing the koi." As we wound our way through the corridors after Mystic's appointment, we passed a room where large dogs were getting dialysis. Nifty!

    So, ivermectin once a week for six weeks, a month of cephalexin for the secondary infection of cocci, chlorhexidine bath every other week for the 1+ malassezia, and tapering the prednisone.

    Oddly, Mystic is not around any other dogs, ever. She is a "free range" basenji--we live semi-rural on fifteen acres surrounded by properties that are even bigger. She rarely gets out of sight of the house in her sniffings and excursions, probably because she has been chased by everything from wild turkeys to enraged deer to hungry coyotes. The vet insists that Sarcoptes scabiei var canis, while highly contagious, can only be caught from other dogs, or foxes, or uh-oh, coyotes. Maybe an infested coyote's been sleeping in her outdoor bed?

    Well, hopefully she gets over this quickly and her golden locks grow back soon. Sorry for the long post, but I'm just giddy with relief.

  • Sounds like you had a positive experience at UC Davis. I loved your writing style!

    Just curious - did they mention treating with Revolution? That's what we use here, and quite often when we have an itchy dog that is not responding to other treatment, even if scrapings are negative (the sarcoptes mite tends to burrow very deeply and can be difficult to find, as I'm sure they've told you), we will try treating with Revolution. Easy, and relatively inexpensive, and since the dog needs heartworm prevention anyway, there's generally no reason not to try it.

  • So happy to hear that your experience with UC Davis was such a good one, and that Mystic is on the road to recovery.

  • Canine scabes will also infect cats. They also say that your dog does not have to come in direct contact to get them. And because it is so highly contagious they should be isolated from other animals and their bedding. Places they have occupied must be thoroughly cleaned

  • Aha! Another mystery solved. In retrospect, Mystic's visit was like a race car pit stop. We walked into the room, and folks swarmed all over her, plucking hairs, listening with a stethoscope, asking each other questions, scraping skin samples, popping them under the microscrope, and then grabbing more scrapings. The tone completely changed when Master Teacher Vet arrived. Silence fell. Like "Grey's Anatomy," my student vet gave a very impressive synopsis of Mystic's complaint. Then Master Teacher Vet began to grill her, "Well, what do you think this is? How would you treat it? And what do you think this means? Would you use azoles?" Student vet was every bit as articulate as Ellen Pompeo. One of the techs, a woman of exquisite taste (she owns several basenjis), asked about Revolution, and there commenced a lengthy round robin comparing ivermectin and this other med in cost, benefit, dose, route and off-label-ness. I asked Mystic later if she remembered what medication they had been chatting about, but no, she'd been too busy biting her back leg. And I, of course, had been distracted, floofing up my hair in case the rest of the cast of "Grey's Anatomy" were on set. So yes, they did discuss Revolution, and they decided against it, perhaps because they thought I'd be too cheap to spring for it. I certainly will suggest to my local vet the "Revolution Just In Case" approach; it would have spared us much anguish.

  • Pat, thanks for the information on cats, and on cleaning places Mystic has occupied. It's very good to know, just in case I felt sorry for her a coupla times and happened to sneak her under the covers to keep her quiet at night.

  • Once again your writing style completely cracked me up. "Floofing up my hair"!! 😃 Are you a professional writer perchance?
    It has occured to me that perhaps Revo is off-label for Sarcoptes in the US. Sometimes label claims will vary from one country to the next. But it's not all THAT expensive - yes, it's our most expensive hwmed, but you wouldn't need an entire season's worth of doses, only a couple of months. That being said, the ivermectin will work, just a bit more of a hassle than an easy topical treatment.
    Hope Mystic's feeling better. Did they tell you that as the mites are dying she can experience even more intense itching for a while? Just to forewarn you, lest you think the treatment's not working.

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