Learning that your dog has mange can be unsettling. Of course, you're concerned for your dog, but it's natural to wonder if these nasty mites can harm your other pets, children, or even yourself. Unfortunately, some types of mange are highly contagious and can infect humans. It's important to take necessary precautions -- including quarantining your infected pets, vacuuming, and performing a deep cleaning and disinfecting of your home and surrounding environment -- to get rid of these mites for good.
Treating Your Home for Dog Mites
Disinfecting your home for mites is not as easy as vacuuming and washing your dog's bed. Mites can live in the environment for up to several days and may lay eggs in your carpet, upholstery, and clothing. In addition to performing a thorough cleaning, you need to separate your infected dog from the environment to prevent recontamination after you've finished cleaning. Consider these home remedies to decontaminate all surfaces.
- Wash all bedding, pillows, towels, clothes, and stuffed toys that your dog may have come into contact with within the last several days. Use hot water and dry all items on the highest/hottest dryer setting.
- Seal any items you cannot wash in a bag or container and keep these in a garage or similar area for at least five to seven days. You can also place the sealed container in the freezer for at least 12 to 24 hours.
- Soak any dog grooming tools in a diluted bleach solution for 10 minutes and rinse.
- Wash collars, leashes, and harnesses in hot, soapy water.
- Vacuum and wash floors and household surfaces with hot, soapy water or any standard disinfectant solution.
- Thoroughly vacuum all carpets, then use a steam cleaner set to 130 degrees Fahrenheit or higher.
- Vacuum and steam clean any upholstered furniture.
- Repeat this process weekly for at least two treatments to eradicate all mites.
How to Protect Yourself from Mange
Once your dog has been diagnosed with mange, your vet will develop a treatment plan for them. You might be required to apply ointment, give them baths, or take them to the vet office for treatments. Within a week of beginning treatment, any type of handling can expose you to the mites. Make sure to keep your infected dog away from areas you've cleaned as much as possible to prevent recontaminating your home, even as you are performing treatment. Protect yourself and other pets in the house with these measures.
- Wear gloves when handling your pet for at least five to seven days after starting treatment for the mites.
- Use protective clothing, such as shirts with long sleeves, then change and wash up immediately afterward.
- Wash your hands thoroughly after any handling or cleaning.
- Quarantine your pet in a separate room (a bathroom or room without carpet is usually best) for at least five to seven days following their first treatment.
- Keep other pets separated and monitor them for any signs of infection.
- Disinfect all bedding, grooming tools, toys, and apparel your dog has come into contact with.
- Decontaminate the interior of your home.
Types of Dog Mites
There are several types of mites that can affect dogs. While some are zoonotic, meaning they can spread to humans, others are dog-specific.
- Demodex mites. Demodex is a mite that naturally lives on the hair follicles of dogs in small numbers. However, when a dog's immune system is weak and unable to keep the number of Demodex in check, an overgrowth of Demodex can occur, leading to mange. Demodectic mange is not contagious to humans or even other pets. If you know for certain that this is the type of mange your dog has, it's not necessary to wear protective gear or disinfect your home, though it's never a bad idea to do so.
- Sarcoptes mites. Sarcoptic mange is highly contagious to people and animals and is spread through skin-to-skin contact or direct contact with contaminated surfaces. These mites burrow under the skin and cause severe itching. While humans are not the ideal host for the mite species, you can develop itchy, uncomfortable symptoms similar to scabies. Wear personal protective equipment while handling a pet with sarcoptic mange and treat your entire household and outside environment.
- Ear mites. Some dog mites, such as Otodectes cyntois, only inhabit the ears. These parasites can be transferred to other dogs, though it's unlikely for humans to get them. Still, ear mites can thrive in the environment for several days, so it's important to decontaminate your home to prevent reinfection and keep any other pets safe.
- Cheyletiella mites. Though less common than other types of mites, Cheyletiella yasguri, known as "walking dandruff," is very contagious to other mammals. Dogs with this parasite usually present with severely flakey, itchy skin. This mite can live off its host (your dog) and in the environment for several days, so you must treat your entire home and protect yourself from exposure.
Natural Remedies to Kill Mange in the Home
While several solutions can work to kill mites and mange in the home, many of these products can be harmful to animals. Fortunately, heat can kill mites. Wash all items in hot water and use a steam cleaner for upholstered furniture and carpets set to at least 130 degrees Fahrenheit.
Some owners find success using Borax and hydrogen peroxide solutions on surfaces, though Jennifer L. Betts, a professional cleaner and LoveToKnow writer, cautions to "be careful using it on colored fabrics." Always spot-check cleaning products on a portion of fabric or other surface you don't normally see, or don't mind messing up, to see how to surface reacts and to avoid discoloration.
Clean Up for the Win
With a veterinary-recommended treatment plan for your dog, adequate protection during handling, and careful cleaning, you can help keep mites out of your home. It is important to follow these protocols, because if you aren't careful, your dog may accidentally spread mites to other parts of your house, and you will have to start all over again. Stay vigilant and focus on prevention, and you should have your dog's skin condition beat in no time.