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Getting Rid of Dog Scabies: Veterinarian & Home Treatments

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veterinarian inspecting dog with skin issues

Scabies can be an extremely frustrating skin disease to treat in our canine friends. It causes significant discomfort and itching and is also potentially contagious to humans. Dogs with this disease are often miserable so action must be taken quickly to resolve the problem. 

This article will discuss options for owners of dogs with scabies, including how to alleviate their discomfort. 

What is Dog Scabies & How to Get Rid of Them

Scabies, or Sarcoptes scabiei, is a type of parasitic mite that leads to the disease called sarcoptic mange.  Sarcoptic mange causes significant clinical signs and is very contagious to dogs and humans. These mites are extremely small in size and unable to be visualized without a microscope. They are transmitted through close contact with other dogs or animals that have the parasite. 

scabies on a dog

What are the Symptoms Seen with Dog Scabies?

Scabies mites are invisible to the naked eye, but owners can see the havoc they wreck on their dog’s body. Dogs with this condition are incredibly itchy, to the point of not being able to be distracted and potentially wounding themselves. Dogs affected will lose fur and their skin will become crusty, irritated, and painful. 

symptoms of scabies on dog leg

5 Steps You Can Take at Home Now to Help Your Dog with Scabies

  1. Isolate your dog – Scabies is incredibly contagious so it is best to isolate them from people and other dogs to prevent disease transmission. 
  2. Cleaning the environment – Clean the bedding and any furniture your dog comes in contact with with a high heat wash. 
  3. Bathing – Bathe your dog with soothing anti-itch shampoos while treatment takes effect. This will alleviate some of the discomforts of skin irritation. 
  4. Dog clothes – Putting a t-shirt or sweater on your dog will help prevent them from scratching and damaging the skin. Change the clothing out daily and wash on high heat. 
  5. E-collar – Dogs that are licking and chewing must wear a cone to prevent trauma to the skin. 

Can Dog Scabies Go Away On Their Own?

Diagnosis of scabies does require a trip to a veterinarian. Skin scraping and microscopic evaluation of the debris will determine if scabies is present or not. Confirmation that the mite is present is very important before starting any treatment. Otherwise, we may treat dogs wrongfully and cause the underlying disease to become worse. 

Very mild cases of scabies may be able to be treated at home with lime-sulfur dips. These are sometimes available over the counter or for purchase online. More significant cases of mange absolutely require veterinary intervention for a proper treatment plan and prescription medication. 

When to Call Your Veterinarian 

If you have a dog at home that is incredibly itchy to the point of traumatizing its skin, you should call a veterinarian. Scabies is not only a disease that causes extreme discomfort, but it also is highly contagious to other dogs and people. Swift diagnosis will allow early treatment and the ability to have your dog feeling better ASAP. Calling a veterinarian is especially important if your dog appears systemically unwell (lethargic, not eating) or if you suspect a secondary skin infection. 

How Can the Vet Help with Dog Scabies? How Much Will It Cost?

Veterinarians are skilled detectives and trained rather extensively on various causes of skin disease. They will formulate a plan to get to the bottom of your dog’s itchiness. 


WATCH: 3 Important Tips To Care For an Old Dog [VET VIDEO]


Vet Diagnosis

Diagnosis of scabies is made by a technique called skin scraping. A veterinarian will use a small scalpel to scrape across the top layer of skin to exfoliate skin cells and debris. This will then be evaluated under a microscope to assess for evidence of mites or infection. Scabies mites like to burrow deep in the skin so a superficial skin scrape can sometimes miss the diagnosis. 

Vet Treatment

Medical treatment is required to eliminate scabies and treat any secondary disease. 

The most common medications to kill the mites include: 

  • selamectin (Revolution)
  • ivermectin – Should NOT be used in Collies or other collie breeds
  • milbemycin (Interceptor)
  • moxidectin
  • imidacloprid/moxidectin (Advantage Multi),
  • lime-sulfur dips
  • amitraz
  • fipronil (Frontline)
  • fluralaner (Bravecto)
  • afoxolaner (NexGard)
  • sarolaner (Simparica)

If your pet is diagnosed with a secondary fungal or bacterial infection, appropriate antibiotics or antifungal medications will also be prescribed. 

The average cost of diagnosis and treatment may range from $50-200. Dogs will often need to be treated for several weeks and need rechecks with their veterinarian. Most dogs will make a full recovery and go back to living normal lives. 

Environmental control will also help reduce the number of mites in the home. Bedding that dogs come in contact with should either be thrown away or washed and dried on extremely high heat settings. Carpets and sitting areas should be vacuumed frequently. Chemical treatment is often not necessary and scabies mites will die within 2-3 days off the host.

What you Should Know Before the Vet Visit

Be sure to always provide your veterinarian with a thorough history. If you know of another dog that could have had scabies, let your vet know. Also, make your veterinarian aware if your dog has traveled to places with lots of other dogs. 

Best Products to Treat Scabies

Frontline Plus

This product is affordable and a great option for the treatment of mange, fleas, and ticks. It is available OTC. 

Douxo Calm Shampoo 

I love this company and its skin care products. This shampoo is fantastic for soothing irritated skin. It will help relieve itching and discomfort. 

Revival Lime Sulfur Dip

Lime sulfur is a recommended treatment for mites. This product is highly reviewed and effective for the treatment of mites. 

Dog Scabies Treatment FAQs with the Vet

What Kills Dog Scabies Most Quickly?

Products like Revolution, Frontline, Nexgard, and Bravecto will kill mites quickly. Lime sulfur dips may also be used as a topical treatment while systemic treatment starts to work. 

How Long Does Dog Scabies take to Heal?

Scabies will take several weeks to months to resolve, meaning treatment may need to be repeated at least once or twice. 

What Shampoo is Best for Dog Scabies?

Douxo products are my absolute favorite for treating skin irritation and infections in dogs. A variety of these are available through your family veterinarian. 

Does Bathing Your Dog Get Rid of Scabies?

Unless you are using lime sulfur dip, bathing will not get rid of scabies. these mites burrow deep in the skin and will not be removed by cleaning the skin. 

How Many Times Should You Bathe a Dog with Scabies?

Dogs should be bathed as recommended by your veterinarian. If you are using a topical treatment like Frontline or Revolution, you should not bathe your dog for several days after the initial application. Dogs with secondary skin infections may need to be bathed several times a week. 

Should You Brush a Dog With Scabies?

Brushing dogs with Scabies is not necessary. Their skin is already inflamed and brushing may be painful. The mite is also highly contagious, so brushing may spread the mites. 

What Disinfectant Kills Dog Scabies?

Scabies will not survive off hosts for more than 2-3 days. Using high heat on bedding and furniture will kill the mites. Cleaning products that contain permethrin will kill mites in the environment, but it is not safe for use around cats due to it being highly toxic. 

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Author

  • Dr. Paula Simons, Emergency Vet

    Dr. Simons is an Emergency and Critical Care resident veterinarian at 'Cornell University Veterinary Specialists', a 24/7 Emergency and Critical Care Facility in Connecticut (Practice Profile). She graduated with a Doctorate in Veterinary Medicine (DVM) from the Ontario Veterinary College in 2019.

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