Can mange spread to humans?

What is Mange?

Mange is a highly contagious skin disease caused by mites. It affects many animals, including dogs, cats, foxes, coyotes, and bears. Mange mites burrow into the skin and cause intense itching, hair loss, and skin infections. There are several different types of mange mites that affect different species:

  • Sarcoptic mange – affects dogs, foxes, coyotes, wolves
  • Notoedric mange – affects cats, bobcats, lions
  • Chorioptic mange – affects horses, cattle, sheep, goats
  • Demodectic mange – affects dogs

Sarcoptic mange is caused by the Sarcoptes scabiei mite. This is the most common and contagious type of mange mite that can spread between animals and potentially to humans.

Can Humans Get Mange from Animals?

Mange is primarily a disease of animals, but humans can also become infected with mange mites, especially Sarcoptes scabiei which causes scabies in people. Scabies is an intensely itchy skin condition caused by female scabies mites burrowing into the skin to lay eggs.

Some key facts about human scabies:

  • Human scabies is contracted from direct, prolonged skin-to-skin contact with a person or animal infected with scabies mites.
  • Dogs and other animals with sarcoptic mange can transmit scabies mites to humans, but the mites do not reproduce well on human skin and quickly die.
  • Scabies mites rarely survive for more than 2-3 days off a host body.
  • Human scabies cannot be contracted from brief contact with infected animals.
  • Healthy people usually develop a protective immune response that kills newly introduced mites within several weeks.
  • Crusted scabies, a severe form, can occur in people with weakened immune systems. The mites rapidly reproduce and can be easily spread to others.

In summary, humans can contract a transient, mild form of scabies from animals with mange mites, but the mites cannot reproduce effectively or cause a true infection in most cases. Prolonged, direct skin contact is required.

Who is at Risk of Getting Scabies from Mange?

While scabies mite transmission from mange-infected animals to humans is possible, the actual risk is very low for most people. Those at higher risk include:

  • People in frequent, direct contact with animals who have untreated sarcoptic mange – such as veterinarians, shelter workers, breeders.
  • Owners of dogs, foxes, or other animals with active mange infestations.
  • People with weakened immune systems – such as HIV/AIDS patients, cancer patients on chemotherapy.
  • Elderly people in nursing homes.
  • Young children.

Healthy adults and older children can generally interact safely with dogs or cats with mange and not contract persistent scabies. Brief contact poses little risk. The mites may crawl onto human skin but will soon die without a suitable host.

However, people with weakened immune systems or the elderly are at higher risk for crusted scabies if exposed to mangy animals. They should avoid contact until the animal has been successfully treated.

Signs of Scabies from Mange in Humans

If a person does contract scabies mites from an animal with mange, symptoms typically appear 2-6 weeks after exposure. Signs and symptoms include:

  • Intense itching, especially at night and over pressure points like wrists, elbows, armpits.
  • A pimple-like itchy skin rash.
  • Thin, winding burrows visible on the skin, caused by female mites digging to lay eggs.
  • Sores and crusty skin from scratching.
  • Red, scaly skin patches.

In most healthy individuals, the mite infestation is short-lived and self-limiting. The itching and rash will subside without treatment within several weeks as the immune system kills the mites.

But in people with a weakened immune system, the mites can rapidly multiply into a highly contagious crusted scabies infection. This causes thick crusty skin that can crack and bleed from severe infestation. It spreads easily to close contacts.

Diagnosing Scabies from Mange

To confirm scabies transmitted from an animal with sarcoptic mange, a doctor will:

  • Ask about potential exposure to dogs, foxes or other animals with mange.
  • Look for signs of mite burrows or rashes suggestive of scabies.
  • Use a magnifying scope to identify mites, eggs, or fecal matter.
  • Take skin scrapings to identify mites under a microscope.

Doctors can easily mistake scabies for other itchy skin conditions like eczema, psoriasis, hives, or allergic rashes. A microscope confirmation is needed to differentiate scabies from other possibilities.

Treating Scabies from Mange

If scabies transmission from an animal with mange does occur, treatment focuses on killing the mites and providing relief from itching. Options include:

  • Prescription topical creams containing permethrin, ivermectin, crotamiton, or sulfur compounds: Kills mites and eggs.
  • Oral ivermectin: Systemic treatment for severe crusted scabies.
  • Antihistamines: Relieve itching.
  • Antibiotics: If skin infection develops.
  • Medicated baths: Soothe inflamed skin.

All close contacts should also be treated to prevent mite spread, even if no symptoms. Household disinfection of bedding, furniture, and clothes is also recommended.

With appropriate treatment, scabies contracted from a mangy animal usually resolves within 1-2 weeks. But the infected pet will need veterinary care and mange treatment as well to prevent re-exposure.

Prevention Tips

The risk of getting scabies from pets with mange is very low for healthy adults. But some basic precautions can provide added protection:

  • If your pet has signs of mange – itching, hair loss, crusty skin – get them veterinary care right away.
  • Isolate dogs or cats with untreated mange from close interaction with people until treated.
  • Wear gloves when handling animals with mange. Avoid skin-to-skin contact.
  • Bathe and treat animals with medicated shampoos to kill mites.
  • Use flea and tick prevention on pets to avoid skin parasite infestations.
  • Practice good hygiene – wash hands after touching animals.
  • Get prompt treatment if you develop an unexplained itchy rash after animal contact.

By protecting pets from mange and using common sense precautions, owners can enjoy their furry companions safely! Consult a veterinarian and doctor with any concerns about mange or scabies transmission between animals and humans.

Scabies vs Mange – Key Differences

Though both scabies and mange are caused by mite infestations, there are some important differences:

Comparison Scabies Mange
Cause Sarcoptes scabiei mite Multiple species of mange mites
Primary Host Humans Animals (dogs, foxes, etc.)
Severity in Natural Host Mild to moderate Potentially severe and fatal if untreated
Transmission Prolonged direct skin contact Contact with infected animals or environment
Location in Host Mostly on hands, wrists, folds of skin All over body and hair follicles
Symptoms Itching, rash, burrows Hair loss, thick crusty skin, severe itching

In summary, scabies and mange are related conditions but have important differences in hosts, transmission, severity, and symptoms. Mange cannot reproduce effectively on human skin unlike true scabies.


While humans can temporarily contract scabies from pets with sarcoptic mange, the risks are relatively low for healthy adults. Close physical contact with mangy animals is required for transmission. At highest risk are those with weakened immunity who can develop a highly contagious crusted scabies condition. By properly treating companion animals for mange and using common sense precautions, most people can safely interact with their pets without concern for scabies infection. Consult a doctor if persistent itching or skin irritation occurs after contact with a mangy animal. With vigilance and prompt treatment, the impact of mange mites can be minimized for both humans and animals alike.

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