✔️Article written by a veterinarian, and reviewed by Dr. Whittenburg, Hospital Director.
Has your dog ever experienced skin disease with itching and scratching? Have you started to feel itchy too? Most of the time this is just a psychological response to watching our dogs itch, but some skin diseases can become transferred to humans. Scabies is one of them.
Scabies is a type of microscopic parasitic mite that has a predilection for our canine friends. What many owners do not know is that it is contagious to humans. This article will discuss scabies in depth and how it is transmitted, diagnosed, and treated in humans.
What is Dog Scabies?
Scabies, or Sarcoptes scabiei, is a type of mite that leads to the disease called sarcoptic mange. Scabies mites are invisible to the naked eye. Dogs with this condition are incredibly itchy, to the point of potentially wounding themselves by scratching and biting. Dogs affected will lose fur and their skin will become crusty, irritated, and painful. The disease is transmitted by close contact with other affected dogs or animals.
Dog Scabies is Contagious to Humans
Scabies is a zoonotic disease, meaning that it is transmissible to humans. Pet owners that have dogs with scabies can be exposed by close contact with their pet where the mite will be transferred from the dog’s skin to the human’s. Luckily, the mites cannot live for a long time on humans and the infection will resolve on its own.
What are the Symptoms Seen with Dog Scabies?
Let’s review symptoms in dogs and in humans:
1. Scabies Symptoms in Dogs
Dogs with scabies have characteristic clinical signs which include:
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– Intense itching to the point of causing self-trauma
– Hair loss in patches
– Dry, crusting skin
– Thickened, red skin
– Secondary skin infections
– Foul smelling discharge from the skin
2. Scabies Symptoms in Humans
Humans with scabies have clinical signs which include:
- Reddened skin
- Intense itching
- Rash and small blisters – worse in skin folds
- Areas affected often include arms, thighs, chest, and abdomen
Is Dog Scabies Serious in Humans?
Dog scabies is unlikely to cause serious illness in humans but you should consult with your doctor if you believe that you are at risk for scabies. In most cases, the disease is generally self-limiting and will resolve once the dog is treated. Clinical signs will improve over several days to weeks.
Doctor Diagnosis of Dog Scabies in Humans
Diagnosis requires skin scrapings and observation of mites, eggs, or mite eggshells. Finding mites can be challenging so fluorescence microscopy can also be used as the chitin in the mite will glow.
What are the Treatments for Dog Scabies in Humans?
As long as the dog in the home is treated and the environment is disinfected, treatment is often not necessary. Understandably, most humans are unwilling to wait for the clinical signs to pass because the itching is intense.
Common treatments include topical scabicides. The product most often used is permethrin. Other topical scabicides include lindane and crotamiton. Refractory cases may require the addition of ivermectin. Symptomatic treatment for itching involves topical corticosteroids.
Important: You need to consult with your doctor with any health-related concerns or questions about scabies in humans.
At Home Remedies for Dog Scabies
A potential remedy to improve the itching from dog scabies is to use a topical product with the ingredients camphor and menthol. Tea tree oil will help alleviate itching but should not be applied to any area with an open wound or damage to the skin.
Typical Recovery Time
Patients treated with scabicides will have an average clinical improvement in 4 days. Without treatment, clinical signs improve in an average of 18 days.
Prognosis for Dog Scabies in Humans
The prognosis for humans with dog scabies is excellent for most individuals. The mite cannot complete its life cycle in humans and therefore clinical signs will resolve without intervention.
Dog Scabies in Humans FAQs with the Vet
Are Dog and Human Scabies the Same?
No. Dog scabies is caused by the organism Sarcoptes scabiei var canis and human scabies is caused by Sarcoptes scabiei var. hominis. Each species of scabies has a preference for the specific host species.
How Long Is Dog Scabies Contagious to Humans?
Dog scabies is contagious to humans until the dog is treated and clinical signs/skin lesions have resolved. This may take weeks to 2-3 months.
Can Dog Scabies Live on Furniture?
Dog scabies can be shed into the environment, but mites will die after 2-3 days off of the dog.
What Happens if You Touch a Dog with Scabies?
Touching a dog with scabies puts humans at risk for the transfer of the mite. You may experience intense itching and a skin rash a few days after touching an affected dog.
How Do You Rid Your House of Dog Scabies?
Chemical disinfection is not necessary, but instead, carpet and upholstered surfaces should be cleaned thoroughly with a rug shampooer or steam cleaner to kill the mites.
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